Friday, August 17, 2007

The Reality Community Speaks Up

Yesterday I encountered a contradiction which I thought much about. First, over breakfast I read conservative American figure William 'Bill' Kristol commentary Inside Iraq in Time magazine. It is Krsitol makes several major claims as to the situation in Iraq and the future for the political system in the USA. These include:

"That the soldiers who have done well in Iraq will be major figures in American life for the next couple of decades. These men and women are no less suited to national leadership than are entrepreneurs, lawyers or local community leaders. In fact, they've had to show more courage, they've had to operate in a more fluid and volatile environment--and they've risked their lives for their country."


"In fact, in most civilian communities there appears to be pretty unambiguous admiration for the military."


"After the ceremony, the young man returned to his dorm room in full dress uniform and received a spontaneous round of applause from classmates. A campus police officer took him aside to shake his hand. The young man's father observed, "It was like something out of a movie."

Out of a World War II--era movie, to be precise."

Pretty wacky stuff really. The commentary of Kristol was put into perspective for me when I was cooking dinner in the evening and listening to the radio. In a segment on sverige's radio P1 Studio Ett (Studio one) program a phone interview was conducted with a young woman who is a resident of Baghdad and blogs under the name Chikitita (the bi line of her blog reads; "They say there are hardly any bright sides in Iraq. That's not true, I managed to see some.... Now I'm running out of hope."). I dont think Chakitita is a member of of the "liberal élites" which Kristol claims are infecting the Iraq situation with "mistrust, resentment and misunderstanding". You can listen to the broadcast with Chakitita HERE (she speaks English but there is a Swedish translation dubbed over, both come through fine).

Chakitita's situation is bad. She says in the interview she has not been able to go out and meet friends and relax since 2003. The house next door was taken over by an Iraqi Army Battalion recently so Chakitita and her family can no longer sleep on their roof, something that is necessary when the day temperature is 47 degrees in the shade and there is no electricity. Because they have a military installation next door the neighbourhood is now a target for bombing. There is a curfew in Baghdad so when one of Chikitita's friends went into labor with her child she and her husband had to sneak to the hospital to give birth and she almost died as a result. There is little available in the way of food in the street markets.

What does it mean for the USA if, to quote Kristol, "the Iraq vets will have every chance to rise to the top of American public life". The type of society that is functioning in Iraq under American occupation is not the sort of society I would ask anyone to live in. According to the Huffington Post:

At least one-in-three Iraq veterans and one-in-nine Afghanistan veterans will face a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). About 25% of those who committed suicide [99 soldiers last year] had "a history of at least one psychiatric disorder."

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