Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Iraq is still there

Photo courtesy of Zoriah.net
"A bit obscene that we can bury so many people in the earth and know so little about them"
Poet/soldier Brian Turner

By mistake it's been an 'Iraq day' - a series of coincidences of what I have read and listened to over the last 24 hours that has meant I've spent more time thinking about a place I've never been to than is normal, or least healthy. This used to happen more often; I would see a link to a blog, a smart-arse U.S. soldier or some Iraqi civilian who writes better English than I can - either of whom should have been a 'proper' writers in better times, and I would spend hours reading it, clicking links, reading other blogs and news reports not doing the work I should have been and that seemed so less important. Articles by Nir Rosen or George Packer would have the same effect. I could always excuse spending mornings doing this as I am a political scientist and this is the most important political event of my generation, but the truth is more probably somewhere between a sense of feeling the need to bear witness and a very uncouth morbid fascination.

Last night as I rode home I was listening to a pretty tragic story of an Iraq vet, now jailed for attacking his partner and family, on This American Life. His reoccurring dreams are a curse not to wish on anyone, and made more sense of this photo that I saw this morning:

Photo courtesy of Zoriah.net

I found Zoriah's site via a link after happening to look at the Guardian Online for the first time in weeks and reading this piece about attempts by the U.S. military to manage the images coming out of the war in Iraq. Then this evening on the bus home I was listening to an edition of Fresh Air on NPR from last week which included interviews with two clearly exceptional American soldiers, theorist John Nagl and poet Brian Turner. Terms such as warrior-philosopher and warrior-poet are rather trite and overwrought, but if anyone one deserves such accolades I suspect these two gentlemen do.

Iraq is a fading from the news to a great extent, at least as anything other than an issue between McCain and Obama, but the slaughter goes on just not at such high rates anymore. It is easy to ignore, or simply to miss, but Iraq is still there.

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