'In other words, you have a war launched by a country whose people, in a personal sense, can hardly know that it's going on and it's being fought in a country that has been taken apart and ravaged more or less down to the last citizen. Or think of it this way: the forgotten rural American dead are the Iraqis of the American war. I leave you to wonder about what the Iraqi dead are.'
The Forgotten American Dead - Rural America Pays the President's Price in Iraq by Tom Engelhardt at www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?emx=x&pid=160190
The Stars and Stripes article on the court-martial proceedings of Army medic Agustin Aguayo at www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=43077
. Aguayo served a year in Iraq. He has applied for and is still seeking conscientious objector status and has refused to serve a second tour in Iraq.
Robert Scheer writes in The World Agrees: Stop Him:
President Bush has accomplished what Osama bin Laden only dreamed of by disgracing the model of American democracy in the eyes of the world. According to an exhaustive BBC poll, nearly three-quarters of those polled in 25 countries oppose the Bush policy on Iraq, and more than two-thirds believe the US presence in the Middle East destabilizes the region.
'The thing that comes up repeatedly is not just anger about Iraq,' according to Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. 'The common theme is hypocrisy. The reaction tends to be: You were a champion of a certain set of rules. Now you are breaking your own rules, so you are being hypocritical.'www.commondreams.org/views07/0124-28.htm
The Great Disconnect now taking place is a country untouched by the rages and wrath of war alone decides --- mainly for political reasons, even worse for a President's legacy --- whether to stay the course or get out, while far too little attention is being paid to those who are suffering daily. There are exceptions. The LA Times leads today with Mideast Shaking Its Head.
'....to many on the ground in the Mideast, (Bush's) speech spoke volumes of a gaping disconnect between high-flown US promises and a deadly, turbulent reality. ....Rather than sowing political progress the US presence in Iraq has poisoned the mood so thoroughly that secular and moderate activists now stay silent for fear of being tarred as American agents.
...... If the US really wanted to boost stability, many Arabs say, the Bush administration would aggressively seek a cure for the regional sore spot of Israeli-Palestinian violence.'www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-neighbors12jan12,0,6744781.story?coll=la-home-headlines
What About the Iraqis? by Christian Caryl in The New York Review of Books provides good insight into Baghdad Burning, the online diary of a young Baghdad woman who uses the pen name Riverbend as well as discussing books on Iraq by two US journalists who actually speak Arabic.
'Americans, by now, can be forgiven for believing that we know something about the situation in Iraq; we hear about it, after all, every day, in what seems like benumbing detail. And yet, in reality, what we know about the lives of individual Iraqis rarely goes beyond the fleeting opinion quote or the civilian casualty statistics. We have little impression of Iraqis as people trying to live lives that are larger and more complex than the war that engulfs them, and more often than not we end up viewing them merely as appendages of conflict. The language of foreign policy abstraction and a misplaced sense of decorum on the part of the press and television also conspire to sanitize the fantastically disgusting realities of everyday death.
.....Considerable attention has been paid within the United States to the Bush administration's failure, before the invasion, to understand the true state of Saddam's programs for the development of weapons of mass destruction. Yet there has been far less in-depth analysis of the government's equally scandalous inability to form a clear picture of Iraqi public opinion, and its reluctance to study the history and culture of the country where it was about to embark on the most ambitious nation-building experiment since World War II.'www.nybooks.com/articles/19793
It's a novelty having shops open on Sundays here. On both the 24th and 31st of last month not only were the local bakeries open for the goodies one has to have --- on the 31st it's jelly doughnuts that people line up for, but our new Turkish fruit and vegetable shop applied for permission to open till noon. Though it was doing good business, the general conversation drifted to just how much Sunday shopping does one want and need. The very well-heeled lady who owns that building (as well as a grand hotel and a chain of restaurants) was convinced that whether we like it or not, the American way of Sunday shopping would soon be taken for granted.
Severely regulated shopping times which became law in the 50s fell several years ago when shops were allowed to be open to 8pm six days a week. This year such laws are now decided locally and shop owners and unions can decide how long to stay open, except for Sunday and holidays. It's a move in the right direction, but does society need 24/7 or is having a day off from commercialism good for the collective soul?
America the Overfull by Paul Theroux in the IHT remembers another time in America:
'I grew up in a country of sudden and consoling lulls, which gave life a kind of pattern and punctuation, unknown now. It was typified by the somnolence of Sundays, when no stores were open. There were empty parts of the day, of the week, of the year; times when there were no people on the sidewalks, no traffic in the streets, no audible human voices, now and then no sound at all. .....Late at night, in most places I knew, there was almost no traffic and driving, a meditative activity, could cast a spell. Behind the wheel, gliding along, I was keenly aware of being an American in America, on a road that was also metaphorical, making my way through life, unhindered, developing ideas, making decisions, liberated by the flight through this darkness and silence. With less pollution, the night sky was different, too --- starrier, more daunting, more beautiful. I have not seen roads or night skies like that for many years.'www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/02/opinion/edtheroux.php
The last time we enjoyed driving like Theroux describes in America, and on the East Coast no less, was 1982. Imagine leisurely driving down to New York from Boston today. The most enjoyable days of the year in cities here: December 26th, the Mondays after Easter and Whitsun, May 1 and other assorted holidays where there are no shops open. There is far less traffic, less general tension and stress, most of all, less noise. Days for taking walks, sitting in cafes, biking, just taking it easy. The autobahn, of course, is the exception. Driving the autobahn has never been a 'meditative' activity, discipline is the name of the game. The only positive thing to be said about it, besides the fact that it usually is in good condition is that one hardly ever passes others on the right.
Theroux closes his article with thoughts on manners and politeness. He talks about how other societies 'manage to live in overpopulated cities because they have not abandoned their traditional modes of politeness.' An interesting point worth looking into.