America: Society Iraq War Journal


My apologies to everyone who reads these pages, for my long absence. I just moved to a new place (albeit temporary housing for now) and started a new job at a university. The whole start has been so harrowing and busy that I had no time for even my own thoughts, let alone writing here in the blog. I would probably have ended up writing about all my complaints about the absolutely antediluvian (and feudal) Japanese university system. Since I want to keep this blog as sane and contemplative as possible from now on, I decided to wait until my heart had settled down into the new lifestyle before I wrote about what’s happening. I want to start a new section called “Compass Walks”, in which I start out in a new landscape and try to learn about its natural personality, but since I haven’t had a moment to myself yet and haven’t even taken one walk yet beyond an evening run one time, I still don’t feel I can write an honest assessment of the new place I have arrived in since I haven’t had a chance to really concentrate on using my senses there yet. So allow me, for now, this bit of a commentary below, however distasteful it might be to some.

Today, after a more-or-less media-slanted series of so-called “fair trials”, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death. I am no fan of the death penalty, believing it to be little more than an emotional reaction of revenge that has no place in a justice system, in which people’s personal feelings toward an accused person should have no bearing on the outcome of a verdict, and so personally the verdict seems meaningless, in that nothing was learned, nothing bettered, nothing gained for society, Iraq or the world. I have no affection for Hussein either, however, and so feel ambiguous about the retribution that Iraqis rightfully claim for his punishment. He has done some awful things to which he should be held accountable. His passing will leave no hole in the landscape of human morality.

But from what dubious beginnings Hussein’s downfall precipitated. Like Robert Fisk I feel that all the justifications that the United States and Britain used to attack Iraq neither make right having attacked a sovereign, non-threatening country in the first place nor excuse the disgraceful way in which Hussein was dragged through media and used as Bush’s scapegoat. By America’s own too-oft-touted standard of “innocent before proven guilty”, Hussein should at least have been given the benefit of the doubt in his own trial and, considering that he was supposedly tried for crimes against his own people and not against a single American citizen and therefore only the Iraqi judicial system should have been involved, the American government should have had absolutely no say in what went on in the trial. That so often during the trial the Americans were consulted and their ultimatums heeded made the entire affair a grand farce, a public hanging in the town square of American media discrimination.

If the standards used for condemning Hussein are to be considered just and inevitable, then America and Britain and any other country which falsely accused and then went ahead and attacked Iraq against the wishes of the majority of nations in the world, then it stands to reason that Bush and Blair and all other ministers involved should also be standing trial for “crimes against humanity”. Nearly every accusation used against Hussein to bring him to trial apply directly to Bush and Blair, most especially Bush with his Hitler-like railing against the United Nations during the lead-up to the Iraq War. Not to mention the scale at which Bush committed his crimes.

And yet, Bush is getting off scott free, no one able to lay a finger on him, the American media protecting his image as if it were above reproach. The Iraq War is now openly and almost universally recognized as having been wrong, hundreds of thousands of people have “needlessly” died, and now the Americans are talking about pulling out, leaving Iraq in a truly dismal state, much worse than anything under Hussein. Why is it that there are no universal calls for Bush’s answering to his crimes against humanity? Why is it that my writing something like this conjures up fear as I write it, echoing the same repression that Hussein used against any of his detractors? Can anyone explain to me exactly how Bush is any different from Hussein? Or how Blair is any different from Wormtongue?

These last few years have turned me into a reluctant cynic. I trust very few people now, even some people whom I formerly called friends. The tragedy of New York, but much more so the crimes of the Afghan and Iraq Wars have given me glimpses into the human heart that I never really believed before. In some of the ensuing arguments about going to war, arguments with people, every one of them American, whom I would before have counted to always be there no matter what, people with whom I made precious memories during my years in the States, suddenly the divisions in belief left rents that, even after three years have never healed. I saw the ugliness in people, of what war claims of people’s hearts and minds, of the aftermath of rhetoric and media propaganda, how people can become so committed to their idea of the truth that they become blinded to the bonds of friendship and love that once had crossed borders unheeded (and I’m including myself here). I am bitter with having lost friends, people who had meant more to me than the justifications for war would ever match. The lies and deception that brought on the shaky world view we live with now, though they seem distant and unrelated to our personal lives, have in fact affected each of us very deeply, in ways from which we may never be able to extricate ourselves within our lifetimes.

If for nothing else, I condemn Bush for having taken from me the trust and loyalty of friends, for having sown the seeds of doubt and fear. I condemn him for having brought to the world a sense that there is more evil in the human heart than goodness and beauty, for having made the word “terrorist” a part of our daily vocabulary. I condemn him for having forced so many of my very close Arab and Moslem friends to live by looking over their shoulders. And for, though all my life before I have never carried any kind of hate within me, towards anyone, for the blinding, wordless fury that erupts through me every time Bush’s face appears on the television or in a magazine, a face now so repugnant and so associated with war, hypocrisy, intolerance, irresponsibility, and destruction that I have to turn off the TV the moment the visage appears before I lose my cool.

Hussein has been condemned to death, but nothing at all has changed, except a greater sense of world weariness and sadness.

America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

The Ugly Little Man in the Closet

American tortureI had to remind myself today why it is that Bush cuts so deeply into my soul. It felt as if I had almost forgotten. The zoetrope of news images, flickering by so quickly that one outrage blends into another cause the colors to mash into a sickly brown that no longer has any distinction. If you look back on the last four years, though, you have to ask how it is possible that so many American people could have systematically and so quickly forgotten something as stark and irrefutable (yes, I know nothing is irrefutable in political spin) as the torture in Abu Ghraib. It is as if nothing happened. No one of any consequence was held accountable. Like oily slivers of rope the leaders most responsible slipped away into forgetfulness, like so many other things they slipped out of. If you are at all a decent human being and sincerely believe in all the hype about American ideals and greatness how can you possibly turn your eyes away from this, or to even let it sink into oblivion, and then smugly go ahead and vote for the people most responsible for it?

I visited The Memory Hole again and sat for a long, long time whispering prayers to myself and for the victims in the pictures. I couldn’t turn on the news for fear of being presented with those images of Bush and his wife strolling about like royalty. I wanted to be sure that I was grounded in the reality of my outrage for Bush and to keep reminding myself why I can’t loosen my grip on the armrest. So many people tell me to relax and not let these things bother me, because there is nothing I can do about it. I just wish there had been someone there to tell that to people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, or Aung San Suu Kyi, or even Jesus Christ.

As a non-American living far away on the other side of the world the elections were more of a sticker shock value than a potential reordering of the universe. It was sobering and enlightening to report to work earlier this evening and have not one of my Japanese co-workers so much as mention the elections. It was sobering because the true place that America has in the world and in the hearts of people around the world was made abundantly clear: America figures not much in most people’s lives and the elections were nothing more than an enormous fiasco of people blathering to themselves. My sense, in the Japanese silence, was that Americans tend to take themselves entirely too seriously, raising themselves upon media pedestals all out of proportion to the honest reception that most people in the world are willing to give them. “Yeah? So what is new,” could have been the reaction here. It was simply perplexing to see this glittering pageant, like some kind of coronation, over-running the airwaves. Let no one say that the Americans have abandoned the monarchy or subservience to the overlord.

Perhaps it is the very desire to find conflict in every little discussion or statement that twirls Americans around with such contention. Even blogs, like this one, seem to survive on contrasts, and little stories behind the back. The entire Bush strategy resides within a bubble of inflated fear and controversy. In this climate it will always remain impossible for communities to flourish and nurture one another, or for diversity to strew an odd mix of seeds among the roots.

Let no one forget Abu Ghraib. Let no one render it merely an anecdote or a behavioral anomaly. When you find yourself wavering in the effort to nurture peace and understanding, or grow weary of the unrelenting madness of Bush, go back to the pictures of the tortures and remember how it all started. That should jump start the old cables and fire up that engine again.

America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

Shaking My Head

All I can say about all the collapsing of American pipe dreams in Iraq is that this is what I stated from the very start, before the descent into the Afghan war, would happen; what all the people who shouted for deliberation and tolerance before losing our minds to stupidity and knee jerk reactions, were trying to tell everyone? It is truly bitter to see all the worst of my fears coming true (not that I’m surprised any more). And I have to ask, why is it that people like me can see all this coming, while so many others can’t? Why does it take the deaths of thousands and the flashes of horror to remind everyone, over and over and over and over again, that war is ugly and that it has never, ever left its participants with satisfactory and morally acceptable results? Why does war awaken nightmares? I lost friends because I stated, the day after the New York tragedy (an event that I REFUSE to reduce to some media slogan by referring to it with the trite name of “9/11” as if it were a football game) that the American reaction would lead to war without reflection. I stated that the New York tragedy was an opportune moment for Americans to once and for all examine their place in the world and what their unrestrained power and arrogance has done to others. But no… they had to react in the predictable and immature way, by going to war. A bully punching out bystanders because he can’t find the culprit. Really I shouldn’t be concerned about how Americans feel or what image the US has in the eyes of the world, but in fact I deeply care about the States and many people there, and would hope it would learn to grow up.

Charley Reese ponders why it is that the Iraqis have treated their captives with respect and dignity, whereas the American occupiers haven’t. I feel the very question arises out of naivete and disrespect, making an assumption that somehow Iraqis ought to be less civilized than Americans. But all evidence points to America as a nation that loves violence, cares little for people outside its borders (and even for its own citizens within), sets the military upon this unrealistic and ridiculous pedestal ( went to the video store last night to look for a movie… I was very disturbed by just how many war movies and movies about murder and destruction there were… almost all of which were American… I decided to rent the French documentary “Le Peuple Migratoir”, a beautifully filmed account of birds migrating around the world), and absolutely adores war (as long as it doesn’t touch its own borders). How many times have I heard an American tell me that their joining the military made them into a better, more mature person? I always guessed that meant that people who don’t, and don’t want to, join the military are somehow not mature or are “lesser” people. Reese talks of “dishonoring the uniform”. Exactly why is it that the military deserves such a cult status? It is a job that those in it joined of their own free will. Why is this idiotic “giving their lives for freedom” dogma followed, instead of giving priority to learning how to talk with other people to achieve peace and understanding before needlessly throwing away such a valuable gift as a life. “Dying for one’s country” is treated as if it’s the epitome of all that should be aspired to in life.

So many questions of “why” that I have to ask. I’m not so much angry any more so much as stumped for sense. I feel like I am witnessing a prison yard full of blindfolded murderers all fumbling about and beating each other because they refuse to take off the blindfolds. I have turned off the TV. I don’t think I can stand watching Rumsfeld or Bush tell another face saving lie.

Meanwhile, while the Iraqi deaths soar outside the baseball stadium’s wall, unseen, the media tallies up the numbers of Americans dying like counting home runs. There are no screams, no entrails spilled in the street, no charred meat, or clouds of flies. No death. Deaths. Dead. Dying. The “Ultimate” debt, a finality that cannot be paid, and which never had a price.

Iraq War Japan: Society Journal Society

Remorse, Heroism, and Shame

Last night, while taking a break from design work, I turned on the TV to watch the news. Japan’s prime minister Koizumi had just stepped into a press conference to make a statement about the recently returned hostages. In essence this is what he said:

“Well, it’s good to know that they have returned home safely. Now I think they should take the time to reflect on the great effort that went into [saving] them.”

It is a seemingly innocent statement, but according to the mores of Japanese understatement Koizumi was actually publicly reprimanding the hostages for causing both “meiwaku” (being inconsiderate of others… something that carries great weight in Japan) and “haji” (shame, loss of face) to the world. That he took the time to actually say this on TV means great humiliation for the hostages, both publicly and privately. For three individuals to have caused an entire nation unused to public displays of emotion to stumble into a heated debate about the legitimacy of the present government’s policies and actions, nearly toppling Koizumi from power, leaves a bitter aftertaste for many people here, and the consequences for the hostages has been harsh. According to the therapist who examined them upon return, their stress levels now are higher than when they were being threatened with death in Iraq. In addition, each hostage must pay ¥600,000 (nearly $6,000) in reparations to the government.

Koizumi wasn’t going to let go of this opportunity to punish those who nearly cost him his leadership of the country.

I’ve been fuming about the backlash against the hostages since I first started hearing the news bash them. (I first got wind of this news through Setsunai’s post at On Gaien Higashi Dori) But since it was only on the news that I heard all this, I decided to wait and talk to some people. In my English class this evening I asked my group of four students what they thought. I was shocked that basically they all agreed with Koizumi and the press, saying that all the hostages had been warned before they left for Iraq that Iraq was dangerous. The students felt that the hostages had only thought about themselves and had disregarded the feelings of their families, the awkward positions that they had put Japanese diplomats and politicians in, and the reasons why the Self Defense Force had been sent to Iraq in the first place. Most of them agreed that the intentions of the hostages were in themselves good, but misguided.

I pointed out to them that Koizumi was the one who had put Japanese people in Iraq in danger by presuming to send the Self Defense Force in the first place (against the wishes of nearly 90% of the populace) and thus angering the Iraqi people. I reasoned that the one who had been inconsiderate and caused loss of face for the Japanese people was therefore Koizumi, not the hostages.

My students met me halfway and I tried to meet them halfway, too, but I still cannot quite fathom the reasoning. I feel it reflects much of the Japanese reluctance to truly take responsibility for anything or any one other than themselves, often in public here, and more than often on the international stage. To me the shame they profess reflects a kind of selfishness stoked by a constant desire to always look good in the eyes of others, lashing out when their image is distorted. It is the same thing that caused the Japanese government to refuse the entry of the Doctors Without Frontiers rescue organization during the Kobe earthquake and the help of the American air force when a commercial jet crashed in a remote area of the mountains about ten years ago.

Susan of A Line Cast, A Hope Followed wrote me this e-mail:

I wanted to ask you to help me understand and be more compassionate about something going on in Japan right now.  I don’t see how it really is, I just read a news story here and there, and have no perspective, but it really disturbs me.
It sounds like the Japanese captives in Iraq who were released and returned home are the victims of terrible scorn there.  To an American pacifist, it appears that their very compassionate and courageous actions are viewed as a huge disgrace to Japanese people and that they’ve been accused of being selfish and disrespectful.  I guess that to me, the basic human desire to help those in need seems totally the opposite.  On the other hand, I was the first to condemn the young Seattle father who died some years back on Everest, putting his own needs over those of his family.  I guess in general, I’m perplexed and worried, that those four people have been through hell, and yet seem to be returning to a hell worse than the one they left. 
Do you have any thoughts you can share that would put this into a different light for me?  Am I on the right track with the climber analogy?  What will happen over time with these folks?  Will they be ostracized?  Eventually reintegrated?  Or is this another media exaggeration?
Thanks so much. 
Your fellow former Eugenian, Susan-san

It seems the news of the treatment of the hostages has gone worldwide. And without understanding how Japanese society works their treatment must seem bizarre and cruel. I’m not sure it is out of cruelty that the Japanese are reacting this way… in great part it is a reaction to having been exposed so starkly in the international media (Japanese are a people who in general shun the limelight) and to the sense of anger that people anywhere often feel after having been greatly frightened. If the hostages had actually been killed, I don’t know what would have happened in Japan. Something unspoken would have snapped.

I’m sure the hostages will be fine, especially after the ravenous Japanese media settles down.

There have been other reactions to the wars right now that have bothered me, too. Denny, from Book of Life and Beth at Cassandra Pages, both of whom I respect deeply and whose blogs I read religiously every day, recently wrote about the death of the American soldier Pat Tilman. I very much sympathize with and understand the sorrow and pain people feel over his death. Like Beth I protest against war not because of the ridiculous politics involved but because people are killed. Whether those people are soldiers or little children or arrogant leaders, every death that war brings is a sorrow that cannot be unmade. And Pat Tilman’s death is an utter tragedy.

But so many of the stories from the news are cloaked, as always, in the myths of “heroism” and “doing great deeds for country” and the “selflessness of the young men and women who serve our country”. I’ve read and reread the words over and over again, trying to find in myself the empathy for such abstract and fervent emotions, but, perhaps because I am not an American citizen (though culturally, family-wise, and in spirit I am in great part American), I just can’t look at the photo of Pat Tilman and feel that he is anything other than a young man whose death will cause suffering for those who knew him and further paints the picture of the war in Afghanistan as nothing more than an arrogant and empty fiasco that the American government has all but forgotten. I cannot find it in myself to see him as a hero. I cannot see it in myself to see anyone as a “hero”.

Why do we never see photos of the selfless deeds of volunteers who risk their lives to save victims in wars, without weapons? Why do we not see photos and hear grief and praise for Palestinians who blow themselves up in the name of saving their land from invaders? After all, their slogans and songs of patriotism sound exactly like the support for Pat Tilman from above. Both are a little blind, both see violence and revenge and bloodshed as legitimate means to righting a wrong. And neither is aware of how one-sided their dogma appears to those who stand outside their sphere of dialogue.

This Iraq war is going to get worse, much worse, though I wish to mercy that I am wrong. If we don’t all start to introspect and rearrange our views of both ourselves and those with whom we share this one little world, learn to stop going blind at our borders, one day the whole stack of blocks will lose equilibrium. There are those who would say I am an alarmist, that the world is still going in spite of doom sayers, but already we have had two world wars. I listened to the stories my German grandfather and grandmother told me of what happened. Who’s to say it couldn’t happen again? The resemblance to the rising of the Nazis is chilling. But no, WE aren’t like that. WE would never do anything so evil. NEVER.

Update: The Independant: Japan’s hostages tell how they came home to scorn and shame. It’s a well-written article, though, with its comparison to American nationalism, I think it doesn’t portray the general atmosphere here. Few Japanese are speaking in terms of “support our boys”. They want the troops to come home.

America: Society Iraq War Journal

Hussein’s Capture

I just find this whole thing disgusting: the American government and media gloating (and purposefully portraying him unkempt and looking like a criminal) over the capture of Saddam Hussein. While the Iraqis have every right to hate him and bring him to trial, the Americans have no right whatsoever to judge him or try him. To this day Hussein has done nothing to the Americans and is not guilty of any of the crimes that the Americans excused themselves into going to war over. Things being the way they are, the American government is going to drag him around like some ragged dishtowel and declare their “victory”, but still not address the central issue of the illegality of their being in Iraq in the first place.

What stirs my ire most is this recent establishment of an “international tribunal” within Iraq, to “try war criminals”. Naturally the war criminals are going to be Iraqis and other Arabs and Muslims, not the Americans themselves. Of course, the Americans ignore the fact that an International Court has already been established, precisely for the purpose of trying war criminals.

Seeing Hussein’s countenance shown in such a mean-spirited and childish manner, painting him as guilty even before given a fair trial, listening to the glee in the American speeches, not to say having to watch as they stick their fingers into something that is none of their business make me immeasurably sad. I believe deeply in “innocent before guilty” and in the establishment of a fair court. The Americans are making a sham of these principles and will probably get away with it.

It is hard not to sink into cynicism and fury.

Although I did see a Daurian Redstart singing atop the magnolia tree outside my apartment this morning. “Tee-eet, tee-eet..tac, tac!”. Birds have such wonderful names…

America: Society Iraq War Japan: Living Journal

Japan Joins the Insanity

Add another madman to the soup: Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan is now close to having his way of sending troops to Iraq, in spite of almost all Japanese citizens being against the move. If the Japanese think that the distant news of war is scary now, just wait until the troops start coming home in bodybags. The people’s silence until now will be too late then.

Kenzaburo Oe, the Nobel Prize winner for literature, writes: “I am an Angry Man”.

The Iraqi response to the Japanese government’s announcement about sending troops: Stay out!

Will this anger that I feel never lose nourishment? Why must there be a new source of stupidity and foolishness crawling out of the woodwork each and every day? Are there no leaders with wisdom and courage? Will there ever be a sense of people not letting things get so completely out of control?

Perhaps we all deserve this. When there is such a discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots, really we shouldn’t expect anything less than what is happening today. Serves us all right.

America: Society Ecopoesie Iraq War Journal Nature

The New Tide

Seaweed Gatherers
Fisherfolk gathering seaweed, southern coast of Boso Peninsula, Chiba, Japan, 1977.

So many roiling emotions and thoughts lately about identity and the direction we need to take in the world today. The thoughts are rough and fleeting, like a cloud of bees, clarity alighting here and there, then flitting away into obfuscation, so that writing comes heavily and plodding. Several days ago I read the poem post by Madame Butterfly at Nehanda Dreams about the world’s tribes declaring pride and love in who they are, and then later her comment on my “Thunder” post, questioning the idea of race. It was a question that every non-white in the world, when subjected to the white world or other homogenous group, daily thinks about, in constant comparison to some amorphous image of perfection hovering over the psychic world.

Yesterday, as if on cue, I just happened to come across Barbara Kingsolver’s selection of essays “Small Wonder: Essays”, a last copy hidden in the corner of the bottom shelf of the tiny nature section of the Kinokuniya bookstore in downtown Tokyo. I thought the book was mainly about nature, since that is Kingsolver’s domain, but upon starting it, it became clear that this was her response to the New York tragedy, and, over time, an effort to comprehend what is happening in the world today. In the opening lines, her wounds are very fresh from the New York attack and still raw with grief and anger. I have to remind myself that her book appeared before much of what the United States is doing now took place, and that through the examples of her earlier work, I must remember that her mind is open to the minds of people in other places.

Then, today, I was watching yet another Discovery Channel documentary of one of our world’s smaller tribes, this time the Tauduram hunter gatherers of Palawan, the Philippines. In the last scene the narrator Phil Borges compares a shaman’s inability to heal a tribe member’s liver disease he had never encountered before, with the surrounding destruction of the forest. Borges wonders about the spiritual effect on these people, who until recently lived in intimate relationship with the mountain forests, of having suddenly to switch to a slash and burn economy and destroy the very forests that constituted the spirits of their ancestors.

It got me thinking about why it is that so many Native Americans lost the desire to live after the Indian Wars, and so many of them gave up after Wounded Knee, with alcoholism and domestic violence reaching epidemic proportions. I understood the sense of despair, but I couldn’t personally compare it to anything that I could empathize with. Until I thought of the New York tragedy and how Americans, and people all over the world, reacted to it. How the sense of the world coming to an end engulfed us all and wrought shock and despair. That must be how it felt, and still feels, to the Native Americans, their world toppled by an abrupt (if seen from their 10,000 or more years of history) and violent attack.

In addition the values that the Europeans brought with them, the very de-personification of the Land, of killing the spirits and gods as if the Land could be anything without them, must have shattered the foundations of what constituted their understanding of the world. What the Europeans brought forced them to adopt a world view in direct opposition to all that was true and right, in comparison almost as if a Christian were coerced into accepting the Antichrist as their god.

Madame Butterfly’s exclamation of “amandhla!” perhaps provides a glimmer of hope, a tiny first step for people around the world reclaiming their heritage and standing up to put the Christian god back in its place, as one among many in the pantheon. With her question of how we might understand race, I claim that we are now delving into something new. The old adages and proclamations need to be redefined, and a new understanding of what the human race is and how it needs to name itself demands discussion. People are mixing among themselves all around the world… the distances are foreshortened. It no longer means everything to claim you are American or I am German or she is Japanese or he is Nigerian. The borders are blurred.

So we are something new. The inability to clearly enunciate what this is illustrates just how new the changes are. Many people deny it and those who do recognize that all aspects of our relationship to ourselves, to each other, and to the planet are evolving, often react with anger and violence, out of fear.

But we are changing. And we must adapt. We must clear our minds of cobwebs and address the mounting problems that are overtaking the world. And we must learn to redefine what we are, once and for all ridding ourselves of the ignorance and intolerance that have plagued our history since we first formed societies. This is the new and fearsome frontier, blessed with peace and prosperity if we can truly learn from our mistakes.


America: Society Iraq War Journal


Not a good way to start a day when the sky is filled with the sound of American fighter jets thundering overhead, again and again. It’s a sound that invades even the deepest core of your dwelling. Luckily I don’t have to stay here all day; I’ll be leaving in a few minutes. But it didn’t make the grey air taste any sweeter…


Here is well-written and detailed look at what is happening here in Japan (and, by association, all over the world) concerning the bases. It provides a very good outline for one reason why so many people around the world are infuriated with America.

America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

Moment of Silence

Nova Scotia Skiff
Moored skiff in a cove near Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1990.

I came across a post by Thomas of Pacific Tides about the state of the world today. While there have been thousands of posts concerning the war and the dying, something about Thomas’ post left me numb and so grieved that I almost broke down weeping. He sums up in such succinct and simple words the stupidity, futility, and sorrow of all that is going on that I couldn’t help but feel the weight of the last two years bearing down upon me. Thomas links to the Washington Post’s photo catalogue of American soldiers who have so far died in the ongoing war (what crassness to announce the war is over!). I took some time to gaze at a few close-ups of those mostly young faces and for many moments I felt lost and overwhelmed. Looking at them up close, with their smiles or brave seriousness, all the possibilities and reasons for being alive swept through my heart. They will never come back. They will never again feel the kisses of their loved ones. They will never more know the wind on their faces or the taste of a peach. They will never more hear their mother or father laugh, never sing a song or lie on a beach watching the stars. And what for? What for? There were Bush and Blair laughing ( laughing! ) while soldiers and civilians are dying. What the ……. for?

I put on David Wilcox’s Frozen In the Snow to try and ease the pain in my heart. Like waves on a quiet shore, the song rolling back over and over again, the sad words repeating. The memories of those I have never known bobbing like flowers in the wind. A lullaby to the dying and the dead.

I have always been fundamentally against militaries of any sort, anywhere. They represent to me the worst of human endeavors and the epitome of failed communication and thoughtlessness. People talk of violence and injustice toward women, but why do they turn away from the violence and injustice toward (mostly) young men? Why is it all right that young men are recruited, taught how to murder, and then sent out to be anonymously slaughtered? If, in the course of the nightmare, they come to feel that they must take their lives into their own hands and attempt to leave, they are chastised for being “cowards” and “dishonorable”. The law is set up to punish them, often with death. What is the difference from slavery? Always there is talk of “patriotism” and “for the homeland”, accompanied by strong emotions about who they are and what they are defending. And when they come home in body bags empty phrases repeated without any way to truly compensate for the loss. Mothers nodding to themselves that their sons died valorous in battle. Valorous.

And what of the “Enemy”? The countless thousands, who are painted as non-entities, mere shadows to release your weapons at. Where are the photo galleries of the Iraqis murdered? Will anyone ever take a moment for them? Give them faces? Comfort their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters?

They will never come back. Let us take a moment to let that sink in.

America: Society Iraq War Journal

Renewed Roar

Coup de Vent of London and the North will be attending a women’s silent vigil tomorrow night, in protest of Bush’s visit to Britain. After several months of disorientation and almost despair, the widening of the cracks in the American government’s confidence and the vindication of all the warnings and opposition to what Bush tried to force feed the world, it is both heartening and relieving to see. Those of us who argued against going to war, spelling out that what is happening now would happen, can really do nothing but shake our heads and mourn the loss of all those lives. In the case of Bush (and Blair) I hope world anger will rise like a tidal wave and utterly demolish him as a citizen anywhere. The world needs legitimacy and strength for the International Court… where, it would be hoped, Bush will be tried for crimes against humanity (but I have little hope of that).

For now, my heart and hopes hover among the people of Britain who oppose the war. They have, in spite of the waste and ludicrousness of Bush’s visit ( Privaleges and Priorities ) this unprecedented opportunity to finally help drive a stake into the heart of the awful state of affairs of these last three years. The anti-war voices may finally be rising above the noise. And there is no more need to scrape for the right words to counter those who frothed on about the need for war. The truth dragon wants out and there is no denying it when it shakes the earth.

May peace find its way into all our hearts and dwell in the very air we all breathe. Good will and good medicine.