EnglishFrenchGermanItalianSpanish

Archive | Commentary

Opinion and analysis pieces

On Staying Sane in a Suicidal Culture

It was February 2005, and after several months of front-line reporting from Iraq, I’d returned to the US a human time bomb of rage, my temper ticking shorter each day.

Walking through morgues in Baghdad left scenes in my mind I remember even now. I can still smell the decaying bodies as I type this, nearly a decade later. Watching young Iraqi children bleed to death on operating tables after they had been shot by US military snipers has left an equally deep and lasting imprint.

My rage towards those responsible in the Bush administration bled outwards to engulf all of those participating in the military and anyone who supported the ongoing atrocity that was the US occupation of Iraq. My solution was to fantasize about hanging all of the aforementioned from the nearest group of light poles.

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

Full Circle

Free tea is served to Shiite Muslim pilgrims on the road from Baghdad to Karbala, Iraq on February 8, 2009. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Free tea is served to Shiite Muslim pilgrims on the road from Baghdad to Karbala, Iraq on February 8, 2009. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Among things that have not changed in Iraq is one that I hope never changes. After a four-year-long absence, each of my meetings here with former friends and fresh acquaintances seems to suggest that adversity has taken its toll on everything except Iraqi hospitality and Iraqi generosity. I am awestruck to find the warmth of the Iraqi people miraculously undiminished through grief, loss and chaos.

I first met A (name withheld) in 2004 during my second trip to Iraq. He had accompanied Sheikh Adnan, a mutual friend, when the latter came to visit me in Baghdad. Several visits had followed. The two men would come to my hotel laden with delicious home-cooked meals, of which the first morsel had to be eaten by me, as per their custom. Their visits and the times we spent together brought me an experience of love and brotherhood, the type of which I had rarely known before. More significantly, those occasions had healed and sustained me as I grappled with the guilt and raw horrors of the occupation the government of my country had subjected their land to.

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

The Monstrosity of War

Civilian deaths increase as Israel moves deeper into Gaza. (Photo: Abid Katib / Getty Images Europe)

Civilian deaths increase as Israel moves deeper into Gaza. (Photo: Abid Katib / Getty Images)

“Foreseen for so many years: these evils, this monstrous violence, these massive agonies: no easier to bear.”
-Robinson Jeffers, American poet

Agence France-Presse reports that the first person killed when the Israeli military began to enter Gaza on Saturday was a Palestinian child.

On Sunday, a Palestinian woman and her four children were blown to pieces when Israeli warplanes bombed their home. They are among the 521 victims (at the time of this writing) of the ongoing air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip by a 9,000 strong force, which the Israeli government has launched on one of the most densely populated tracts of land in the world, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, half of them under 17 years of age.

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading

The Cost of Slumber

Iraqi civilians lie dying after US helicopters open fire on crowds celebrating around a burning US vehicle. Baghdad Iraq 2004. (Photo: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad)

Iraqi civilians lie dying after US helicopters open fire on crowds celebrating around a burning US vehicle. Baghdad Iraq 2004. (Photo: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad)

Long before I discovered the mysterious mix of pain and relief that writing from the heart brings, I was pursuing a Masters in English Literature at Central Washington University in the small town of Ellensburg, Washington.

I was broke, like most grad students, and supported myself by working for two individuals confined to assisted living situations. One of them, Larry, was completely paralyzed. He was unable to speak, and could only blink his eyes. He had been in prison when the ill effects of an operation he undertook there had gone wrong, and were then compounded by an error by the anesthesiologist. His sustenance came from gulping small spoonfuls of food blended with milk. Never in his life would he ever again “enjoy” a meal. He would never be experiencing the simple actions of walking, singing, dancing, swimming, driving, fishing, wandering …

He may have been unable to speak, but Larry had a lot to say. He communicated by blinking his eyes. I would sit beside his prone body on the gurney and slowly recite the alphabet until he blinked on a letter. “C?” I would ask. Another blink. C. Recite again,”A?” Another blink. A. Recite to N, another blink. I would ask, “Can?” Another blink, “Yes.” “Can” would eventually become, “Can I have a drink?” I would get him some juice, or water, depending on what he would spell next.

It was laborious to communicate with him and it took patience and stamina. He lacked neither, for he had a book to write. We would spend three hours to produce half a page of text.

Continue Reading →

Continue Reading