March 25, 2003


NOTES ON THE WAR: This blog is not now, nor has it ever been, a pure "warblog." By contrast, I cover all sorts of cultural absurdity, from sports to "The Real World" to transsexual rabbis to pro wrestling. While I do write quite a bit on politics, current events, and "the situation," I'm not writing with any type of ideological axe to grind- and while I'm pretty solidly in the pro-war camp, I'm just as aware of (and repulsed by) many of the actions of the pro-war side as of those on the anti-war side. I may have gagged at the excesses of Michael Moore last night, but he's not any more loathsome than your average caller to Michael Savage or Sean Hannity (or, for that matter, Savage and Hannity themselves). And while I don't question that what America is doing right now is the right thing, that doesn't mean I'm not nervous or uncertain about what the future holds. In the meantime, a few thoughts on the first week or so of the war in Iraq, from the homefront of Hoboken:
-The war, from what I've seen, seems to be going reasonably well, the last couple days of setbacks notwithstanding (if I see the word "quagmire" in the New York Times at any point before the war is a month old, I will march up to 43rd St. and personally bitchslap Howell Raines). Some of the Iraqi tactics have underscored, for anyone who doubted it, just how savage Saddam's regime is, from the shooting of POWs on camera to the surrender/ambush (the most underhanded, brutal doublecross since Beecher bit off part of Robson's manhood mid-BJ on "Oz"). The sight of Iraqis greeting American soldiers and tearing down the pictures of Saddam was beautiful, akin to Afghan women tearing off their burqas in 2001. That's more than just good PR- it's real liberation. And if this cache of chemical weapons we found is for real, it really says a lot that US troops found something in five days that Hans Blix missed for three months. Saddest of all, I think, was the GI who turned against his own men and tried to blow them up with a grenade. Not only does this show us that we can't necessarily trust our own men, but after this it doesn't look good for the chances of Muslims being able to enlist to defend their country in future wars
-My message to my colleagues in support of the US action is this: for God's sake, stop accusing people of being un-American! I could understand such sentiments being directed at someone who's burning the flag, or one who has literally denounced their country, but come on- when you're throwing such accusations at every other person, they start to lose power after awhile. Repeat after me: opposing the war is not opposing America. Opposing Bush is not opposing America. Not everyone who's against you is an evil sodomite. We have freedom of speech, and large amounts of people seem to be exercising it. Any lover of liberty should respect at least that much.
-It was reported on Sunday that Iraq is claiming a grand total of three (3) civilian casualties as a result of last week's Shock and Awe campaign. Not sure if that's correct, but if it is, it means that so far in 2003 more civilians have been as a result of fires in American nightclubs than by the war in Iraq.
-This war's being called "Gulf War II," which I think is a misnomer: Desert Storm was called "The Gulf War" because it was over Kuwait, whose entire eastern coast borders the Persian Gulf. Iraq, on the other hand, barely touches the Gulf at all. A better name might be "The Tigres/Euphrates War." Not only more accurate, but it gives the operation a certain much-needed biblical gravitas.
-In Manhattan for about 20 minutes on Saturday, I stumbled into the big antiwar march as it ambled through Herald Square. Now I have no doubt that the vast majority of those who oppose this war are honorable people who have good reasons for feeling the way they feel. But that's not what I saw on Saturday. It was more an anti-Bush rally than an anti-war one, and the people there seemed to have nothing less than a visceral, pathological hatred of George W. Bush that goes away beyond politics, a loathing that makes the right-wing revulsion of Bill Clinton look like a lovefest by comparison. I even saw Bush-as-Hitler signs, an eerie reminder of the "Rabin Hitler" era of Israeli politics (in 1995, the far right wing in Israel was so angry at Rabin over the peace process that they held rallies in which they held up posters of Rabin in a Nazi uniform and chanted "Rabin Hitler (Rabin is Hitler)" Rabin was of course assassinated by a fanatic in November of '95; this whole thing was chronicled in the somewhat shoddy 1997 documentary "The Road to Rabin Square," directed by Michael Karbin and nicknamed "The Rabin Hitler Movie.")
Saturday's New York anti-war rally was completely devoid of anti-Saddam signs, yet was not devoid of 70-year-old communists passing out copies of their newspaper, The Militant. The nadir of what I saw that day was when a New York City fire truck came barreling down Sixth Ave. with sirens blazing, running directly into the rally at 34th St. (where Sixth and Broadway cross). Showing that post-9/11 fireman fetishism lives on, the crowd rightly cheered the firemen, yet didn't get out of the way so they could go fight their fire. And bad, bad stuff happened all over the country too: Sullivan reports that people were literally defecating in the streets in San Francisco, and back at Brandeis a noted sociology professor, who is known worldwide for his theories in regards to the "Mutuality Paradigm," and has often declared that all humanity must join hands and get along in order to heed off the end of the world, got up at an anti-war rally and referred to the members of an undergraduate pro-war group as "freaks."
-I spent most of Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia, and while there's barely a city block in Manhattan that isn't covered with "Stop the War" and "Bush =Warmonger" signs, I noticed a near-complete lack of anti-war sentiment of any kind in any area of Center City, including the parts that are the counterparts of, say, the Upper West Side or Greenwich Village. I can't think of any sociological explanation for the difference, other than perhaps the presence in New York of an established community of radicals that Philadelphia doesn't have. The only exception was when I bought a bootleg of a 2001 U2 concert at Repo Records on South St., and the bootlegger had given the CD the imaginative title of "Kill George Bush Jr." Bono may be a big liberal, but I know he wouldn't approve.
-In all seriousness, my thoughts and prayers and those of so many others are with our troops in Iraq and elsewhere, bravely risking their lives for the causes of freedom and democracy worldwide. I can't describe how proud I am of them; come home soon, guys.

Posted by Stephen Silver at March 25, 2003 01:32 AM
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