FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hope and Hostility at the Ancient Crossings

The Christian Science Monitor yesterday [July 15, 2004] has an optimistic report from its reporter in Iraq whose driver found him a wildcat, watermelon festival on a Baghdad avenue: “Cars were parked two deep. The traffic crawled, while people leaned out their windows to haggle over the enormous watermelons that have come into season.” Then came news of “1,000 pounds of explosives” going off near Fort Negroponte, and the assassination of the governor of Mosul.

While correspondent Dan Murphy was pleased at the sight of the street festival, he decided to stay in the car. Optimism among Baghdad “Westerners” is a subjective thing, something felt but not exercised in movement-a feeling that says more about what “Westerners” want, than about what Iraqis are actually getting. How many months now before Baghdad returns to its legendary heritage as home of the streets where the whole world walks?

“I walked freely through the streets of Baghdad,” said activist photographer Alan Pogue shortly before the war. “But if we bomb Iraq, Westerners will not be able to do that.” And today we can apply Murphy’s Test to Pogue’s Prediction: Are you afraid to get out of the car? How many months do you think it will be? At the rate things are going, how long before you will walk in “liberated” Baghdad? Answers to these questions would help to put a practical value on optimism. Is the “expected length of time” growing, or shrinking, and why?

Murphy’s Test can have many uses outside Baghdad, too. Everyone get out their local street map and mark the ones that pass Murphy’s Test. In many cases, just like Baghdad, the places you don’t want to walk are the places that have been bombed out by people like you. In other cases, the places you don’t want to visit are places like Fort Negroponte, built thick to keep you out. I am reminded of teenagers who report they are afraid to walk onto a college campus.

It is crucial to never forget how our correspondents in Iraq do not go door to door in the local economy. They are fort people. I grew up as a fort person. In fact the President was kind enough to visit Ft. Lewis during the week of my birthday in late June, so that I could get a glimpse of where I was born. Thanks George. At any rate, the “Western” perspective on Iraq is a fort perspective. Negroponte, by all accounts, is master of Fort management.

Forts are impressive communist experiments in community organization. On forts there are no homeless, for instance. No unemployment whatsoever. Everyone has health care. When I was growing up, prices were so low at fort grocery stores that you’d have been a snob to go off-fort for food. And always there were movie theaters, cafeterias, craft shops, record stores. Sometimes there were horse stables or sail boats for rent. I firmly believe that we would have fewer forts in the world if more of the world were more fort-like in these respects. Which sounds communist of me, I know.

On the other hand, you don’t find a lot of fashion variety in the clothing worn by fort people. So many uniforms and suits. And you are fingerprinted at age twelve, photographed, and filed away. I don’t know if they do this anymore at forts either, but at five o’clock, everyone stops what they’re doing, faces the fort flagpole and waits for the flag to come down as the bugle calls.

Still, on a fort, you don’t worry too much about the economy or the elections. And, you don’t sweat the housing market. You just take care of stuff and talk with your neighbors about other forts. As you can see, all this fort life is different from life off-post, so it would be foolish if all reporters lived on forts. Yet in Iraq “Western” reporters are fort reporters by and large. So we see Iraq as fort people do.

I scour the blogs and lists these days, looking for reports not filed by fort people. The name Ewa Jasciewicz, for example returns a great list of readings from the Google search. But she has returned to England. When peace witness Ed Kinane filed web reports last October, he noted the concrete blocks, cemented oil drums, and cement walls that fortified Baghdad and Palestine alike. Said the Guardian’s Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax: “I have never seen concrete blocks so big.” In fact, some Iraqis are adding up the cost of concrete blocks in Baghdad, in order to argue that money is being wasted. Will their protests be covered by fort people?

If anyone wants to solve the problem of wall-to-wall fort reporting, it can be handled. There are millions of Iraqis who do live there–drivers, workers with kids in school, former soldiers with language skills, or women fresh out of college–who could gather and file un-bunkered reports.

Women’s centers in Baghdad. Union halls. Railway stations. Schools. Cinemas. Various denominations of faith. Party headquarters. Orchards, farms, and oil fields, for sure. All these sites of human activity now belong to the enormous karma-debt that “Western” warmongering media are now obliged to pay.

In closing, Murphy reports that AK 47 ammo is now up to $450 per box. All the political parties, he says, are arming up for the elections. And who could blame the parties? What would reporters tell us about them if they didn’t buy guns in the first place?

[Note: If you’re wondering how many times I used fort. The answer is, unfortunately, 28.]

GREG MOSES writes for the Texas Civil Rights Review. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net

More articles by:

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail