Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Attack in Iraq.

Yesterday we learned that an attack hit a mess tent full of soldiers in Mosul, Iraq, killing 22 and wounding at least 66 more. I'm sure the details will change over the next few days. They aren't even saying whether it was a rocket or something that exploded from inside the tent. It is a sad day for many American families and one of the worst attacks on American forces in over a year.

This morning, a common response seems to be along the lines of: the war was a huge mistake, but this attack proves we have to stay the course in Iraq. This is so familiar -- it is exactly what was said about Vietnam. And it's also why I find arguments made based on flooding the U.S. public with the truth about the horrors of war ultimately fail.

These war supporters aren't stupid. They understand the horrors of war. No list of horrors, no casualty figures, no amount of disabled veterans will ever convince these people to change their minds about the war. They are willing to pay the price. Of course, the price is paid in the blood and misery of others. But that isn't the point I'm trying to make. I believe these people would make personal sacrifices willingly -- they probably have made donations to soldiers and their families -- to continue a war they know was a mistake from the start.

Because at some point, "staying the course" becomes a code of honor. The discussion moves from realities on the ground, to a belief in something mythological. One part of that myth is the belief that leaving Iraq now would dishonor those who died in the effort so far. It is an idea that should have been put to rest after Vietnam. But that lesson will have to be learned again. But the myth is broader than that. It contains the belief that any presence of Americans in Iraq must be better for the Iraqi people than no American presence in Iraq.

I constantly hear the refrain that removing the U.S. presence in Iraq would lead to chaos. Well, they've got that already, haven't they?

For 30 years, the Iraqis never knew of a world without Saddam Hussein in power and for that they have paid dearly. But Iraqis have also paid dearly at the hands of the U.S. military -- through two wars and 12 years of sanctions. Being free of Hussein was a start in rebuilding Iraq. True rebuilding, as well as real democracy, will not return to Iraq until the Iraqi people are also free of U.S. military occupation as well.


Today we had a potluck at work. Lots of fun food and good conversation with people. For the first time in over a week I feel as if I'm getting caught up at work and actually have time to do some of my long-term projects.

I'm still reading "Mystic River". I can already tell that the book would have been a much more enjoyable experience if I didn't know the ending. Lehane is doing a great job of keeping several possibilities open and I'm pretty sure I would still be wondering "who done it" if I didn't already know.


I've been meaning to post about the tendencies of some Christians to believe there is a massive war out to make American a non-Christian nation, ever since I heard that mentioned during an interview on Fresh Air last week. But James Woolcott beat me to it with this great commentary on a recent discussion about whether one should say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays":

This "fear of Christmas" is a phantom menace conjured every year so that certain crybaby Christians can adopt victim status and model a pained expression over the sad fact that not everyone around them isn't carrying on like the Cratchits. This thin-skinned grievance-collecting gives birth to all sorts of urban legends and rumors about big institutions being hostile to Christ's birthday, such as the one that swirled on WOR radio last week about how Macy's employees had been instructed not to say "Merry Christmas!" to shoppers. A fiction that was put to rest when the host hit Macy's website and saw its "Merry Christmas" greeting, and Macy's employees chimed in over the phones to say there was no such policy. To read conservative pundits, you'd think everybody was wishing each other Happy Kwanzaa! and averting their eyes from oh so gauche Nativity scenes. I've got news: Even here on the godless, liberal Upper West Side, people wish each other Merry Christmas without staggering three steps backward, thunderstruck and covered with chagrin.


I read a great poem this morning that has meaning -- for solstice and for a problem I am dealing with personally. It's from a wonderful book called "Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspiration for Becoming Mindful" by Diane Mariechild. The author is Buddhist, but the readings come from a variety of spiritual sources. Today's reading started with a poem by my favorite author, Marge Piercy:

I was trained to be numb, I was born to be numbered and pegged,
I was bred and conditioned to passivity, like a milk cow.
Waking is the sharpest pain I have ever known.
Every barrier that goes down takes part of my flesh
Leaving me bloody. How can I live wide open?

Very soon I will be leaving an online community that has been my home for many years. In addition, I will be opening this blog up to a wider audience. It is both frightening and exhilarating. The combination of solstice and the New Year should give me the strength to take this step soon.