This leads to a news segment by CBS News that was never broadcast, although it is, for now, available on their Web site. It's very hard to reconcile the noises that anyone makes on the pro-escalation side of the argument, especially at its far end with Cheney's recent comments about how swell things are going, with the bleak picture painted by this piece. To even think that we're talking about our inability to control a majority traffic artery less than two miles from the seat of the Iraqi government and the nexus of American interests and that government...
To even have to consider that we can accomplish that seemingly simple task should make anyone wonder how we can trust any judgment that this administration and its ideological backers and justifiers have in regard to how we should carry out and terminate this conflict.
For another interesting perspective on Iraq, here’s a video of a Humvee driving thru Baghdad traffic. It’s of surprisingly good quality.
This confirms my suspicion that nothing could be more depressing and terrifying than being a soldier in Iraq. I mean, I think for the most part American soldiers in Vietnam had it better. At least there were colors besides, whatever that is, sand color, I guess, in Vietnam.
Some people I know have been shocked at the brusqueness and aggressiveness of the driving of the American soldiers in the Humvee. "They won a lot of hearts and minds," someone said. And I’m sure it pisses people off in the general Baghdad population, too, it can’t but piss you off.
But I was actually surprised at how casually people took it. Yes, it would suck if you lived in that neighborhood, but if the general perception of the Baghdadi population were abject fear and panic at the approach of the American menace, then I really would not have expected those guys walking along the median as the Humvee shot by to be so damned casual. There were guys right next to the truck in the median as it went by, not panicking at all, maybe smoking a cigarette or something. To me, that indicates that they feel that the behavior of the Humvee is adequately predictable and assimilable into their regular view of the world. It sucks and causes resentment, sure, but it’s also not the semi-random careening violence that it appears to someone not familiar with it. It is, instead, sadly routine. People there pull to the side of the road just as they do here when an ambulance screams by.
I'm not sure which is more damning, overall. Is it that our soldiers are regularly so aggressive as they drive through the civilian population (and in spite of the inarguable insurgent danger there, most of the people on the city streets are innocents)? Or is it that everyone simply accepts that aggressiveness as the required mode in which everyone has to live because the overall situation is so savage and dehumanizing?
In the end, I can't help but sympathize with the guys driving the Humvee, doubly damned. Once in their immediate environment by those who seethe against and hate them for their role in bringing such death and chaos down upon the Iraqi people. And twice for being in the position that they're in, to have to cause such chaos simply as the price of making it out of there alive. Not accomplishing their mission, where sometimes an unfortunate but unavoidable sacrifice has to be made. But just making it out alive, with no idea of what their mission is and no clear connection between what they do each day and how what they do will somehow contribute to making the tragedy end. It may be OK to take part in tragedy to avoid a greater tragedy. I think even amongst the warriors in Iraq that it's becoming clear that we're veering into the greater tragedy now.