Thursday, February 19, 2004


Please slow down...this is today's absolutely required reading. And the whole thing, very much worth your time, is here.
Later that night, I went down to dinner in my hotel restaurant, sitting by chance beside a table of Christian activists from America and Canada.

As if to make clear anti-occupation sentiments clear, they were loudly snickering at the behavior of U.S. troops—specifically, the GIs’ tendency to wear sunglasses when on patrol. Why, everyone knows the Arabs value eye contact, the Christians sneered. How stupid, how culturally insensitive, how American can you be? And these are the people who want to bring democracy to the Middle East?

I wondered if these God-fearing war protestors had expended similar energy condemning the murderers who packed a Toyota pick-up truck with explosives and sent it into the Baghdad streets—but something told me they had not.

In my two trips to Iraq, I’ve come to dread these kinds of leftists. You run into them everywhere—in teahouses, restaurants, hotel lobbies, anyplace where Westerners gather. Their ranks include NGO workers, European journalists, religious pacifists, Canadians of every stripe—disparate groups united by their sense of moral superiority, opposition to the war in Iraq and their disdain for the United States.

Together, they form a kind of humanitarian chorus which decries Coalition abuses of Iraqi citizens—yet falls silent before Ba’athist crimes, or the horror of suicide bombing.

“I refuse to use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe those who resist the U.S. occupation,” a Baghdad-based member of a Canadian Mennonite group once told me. “Those are terms used by the American government.”

There’s a place for activists in Iraq, of course. If democracy is to take root here, the country needs to experience the full spectrum of civic life, from voting booths and private enterprise, to labor unions, environmentalists, feminists and civil rights lawyers...

Too often, though, the main interest of leftists is not Iraq, but the perceived faults of the U.S. Take, for example, the foreign press. When I visited last fall, numerous Baghdadis complained to me how European journalists frequently ignored the joy Iraqis felt with the fall of Saddam; instead, they sought mainly to report on (or in some cases, manufacture) anti-American sentiment. “The French were the worst,” groused sculptor Haider Wady. “They keep trying to get us to say bad things about the war and the Americans.”

Nowadays, one sees in Iraq a newer, more subtle form of anti-Americanism...Recently, I met the members of CODEPINK—a self-described “grassroots peace and social justice movement”—which specializes in taking women on week-long excursions among the city’s most wretched inhabitants: homeless people, traumatized children, families destroyed by trigger-happy U.S. soldiers. “Robin Williams has asked us to find a children’s hospital he can donate money to,” co-founder Jodie Evans informed me.

No one wants to begrudge such altruism, of course. Still, the selective concerns of CODEPINK and other do-gooders trouble me...

Demonstrating the narrowness of her experiences in Iraq, a woman traveling with CODEPINK asked me, “How bad was Saddam really?” As for the victims of terrorist bombings, no one ever mentions them; they are not a stop of the leftist’s pity circuit.

No comments: