It came about suddenly, but I wound up speaking on the BBC World Radio this morning to a girl named Lubna, a 21-year-old medical student in Iraq who is having her birthday today. Unfortunately, she doesn’t feel like celebrating much because two of her best friends were killed this month within 10 days of each other. (You can read a transcript of her heartbreaking call with the BBC producer on the WHYS blog.) By tomorrow, you should be able to hear how the call went and what I told her in encouragement to celebrate life — her life and the lives of those she loves.
She in turn told me some harrowing stories of barbarism in Iraq, totally in despair that democracy or anything like it could ever happen there. The “bad guys” as she calls them just want back into power again and they’re doing anything to get it. One father she knows has a daughter who was kidnapped and the kidnappers demanded one of his two sons in exchange for her. They are doing this — even holding dead bodies of loved ones hostage — in attempts to draw people out so that they can murder them. She asked me to imagine this kind of situation, to dream of what it must be like for that man who has to choose a son to sacrifice to get back his daughter. I couldn’t. I just stood there, my own horror choking me up.
What I also couldn’t tell her was about the swell of propaganda in our media, calling the insurgents “Quaeda fighters” when there hasn’t been a single report or analysis to confirm that suddenly all of the insurgents are now “Al Quaeda.” Glenn Greenwald talked about this in his well-referenced Salon article. It’s disgusting, this low swinging sort of manipulation in order to bolster support for an unpopular war. No wonder over 40% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in financing and planning 9/11. (Thanks to Brian for the links.) I know a lot of Americans feel deeply for Lubna, but a good percentage of them are so jacked in the head by propaganda that they don’t see what the real problem is.
On a personal note, I saw off The Frenchman to Vermont today. The dark conversations of the morning made the parting even more sore. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to Montreal for a quick visit in a few weeks.