I thought I would take a moment to talk about a theme in my recent articles--that theme being that the acts of terror are not representative of the general sentiment in Iraq. For those who do not know me or my work, it might be good to know up front that I am not, nor have I ever been mistaken for, Little Mary Sunshine. Caustic and ascerbic are terms that friends have used to describe my literary inclinations. And whether I live up to those descriptives, my articles are generally aimed to shedding light and casting scorn on the failings of a theory or a candidate.
Why then, you may ask, the optimistic perspective in articles covering horrific acts? The answer is that it is something which has been foisted upon me by the people here. The Iraqis literally will seek you out to tell their stories, and they tell stories of hope for the future and rejection of the tyranny of the past. The soldiers, while at times more reluctant to talk to reporters, will tell you their stories, and they tell stories which reveal character and resolve. On some of the worst days in Iraq, I have been privy to some the best of humanity.
Why then, do other reporters not say the same? Here I can only speculate, but I think there are likely many reasons. First, I am fairly sure that some simply do not want to see it. I have written about this before, so I will not belabor the point. But for others, I think they do not report the good because it is difficult. It is difficult to recognize the good when you are in an area that is not safe, or when the events of the day show you the worst that human nature has to offer. It is easier then to side with the taxi drivers who decry that "Baghdad is lost" every time there is a street closing.
So for those of you who were worrying that I have lost my cynical edge--don’t fear, it is still there. It is just that the Iraqis and the men and women in uniform will not allow me to indulge it.
A friend who was in the Marines in Japan during the occupation told me a story of how they first set up camp at a base high in the mountains. The locals had not seen Marines before, only a few Army trucks. There was a local Japanese man who worked on the
base who boasted of having killed dozens of Americans during the war.
One night, he was found chained to the furnace at the baths, burned alive.
After that, there was great respect for the Americans, and no further incidents of agression.
What I wonder is why something similar cannot be done in Fallujah. We have the pictures of demonstrators and it would be a simple matter to make an example of
some of these trouble-makers. If the safety of hundreds of contractors and civil workers depends on it, I dont think we ought to be squeamish about taking some direct and universally understandable action to scare the Iraqis into being less bold about their attacks on the occupation forces.
I agree completely that we must make a strong response to these acts. However, I believe that we can not allow ourselves to go down to their level of barbarity. Our response must be calculated, effective, and leave no doubt as to whether or not someone would like to do this type of act again. As in Somalia, my knee jerk reaction was to "mount some heads on poles in the streets". But, now that the blood has cooled I realize we must exact retribution, but it must not carry the air of cruelty, even evil, that was seen yesterday.