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Who Wants to be an Imperial Occupier?
By Steve Gordon
What an underappreciated quagmire, this Iraq clusterfuck. It’s increasingly safe nowadays to say, without any substantial background statistics, that “[insert previous month] has been the most violent month since the war began.” Fortunately, the war is easier than ever to ignore, and a rising consensus of its overall retardedness as well as the slippery slope of waning newsworthiness are replacing genuine public concern. So for those of us who have been maintaining a proud indifference, here is a quick recap of Iraq-related news items that might have slid right by you (quantified for attention-grabbiness by way of the Ignorability Scoring Index).
NOW MORE SUBJECTIVE THAN HATE CRIMES!
Veritable Lee Ermey look-alike Gen. David Petraeus is expected to testify before Congress (if you are reading this after September 10th, pretend like it’s in past-tense) about the subterfuge of decreasing violence in Baghdad. Dick Durbin is expected to be mean to him in a largely meaningless and inconsequential exchange.
Petraeus is to report on the effect of recent security efforts in Baghdad and essentially sell them as, well, effective. The Bush-Petraeus report was called into question, however, based on its intrinsically misleading methodology. For instance, an Iraqi shot in the back of the head is counted as victim of sectarian violence. Shot in the face, though? Natural causes.
According to CNN, the U.S. military reported a mere 165 murders in Baghdad in August, or the emotional equivalent of about zero Americans. Iraqi Interior Ministry statistics put the number at 428, which, fortunately, is still the emotional equivalent of zero Americans.
This whole incident garners five Ignorability Points, because it really doesn’t affect you or the nice things you own.
MICROCREDIT: GOOD FOR EVERYONE, EXCLUDING MOST
The Trade Bank of Iraq has recently determined that Iraqis would be good enough at making late payments to justify the distribution of credit cards in the country.
Microfinance, a practice deemed “basically malicious” by everyone besides the filthy rich and the filthy, filthy poor, has been picking up momentum in Iraq as banks have been distributing plastic to a whole new market of people unable to “remit minimum payment immediately.”
Hotter than hot money, microcredit is a more direct way of funneling money away from struggling communities. And credit card companies are able to save money because they force borrowers to peer-pressure each other into paying the money back rather than having to make angry, long distance phone calls to cardholders every month.
While the card issuers have so far been reluctant to extend their services beyond pre-paid cards—what we know of as gift certificates, though likely more useless—the expedient growth of credit rating agencies in developing countries ensures a smooth transition into crippling debt.
This item warrants the maximum of ten Ignorability Points (because, let’s face it, who cares?) for every wily entrepreneur that cashes in big because his fruit stand was able to invest in an ’89 Macintosh, but loses three for every published, scholarly-reviewed critical theory article that contests the practice of microfinance.
…AND TAKING NAMES
After an apparent respite from colloquial faux pas in the media, Bush came back in full force when he told Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile that we are “kicking ass” in Iraq. This doesn’t warrant much discussion, but if every American had heard about the comment, we’d totally be “wicked pumped” about the war again. Only one point; this was a big deal.
WESTERN CONCEPTUAL SOUND ART INTRODUCED IN IRAQ
The very, very appropriately named Corporal Donald Payne recently became the first British soldier to be charged with a war crime. At all. Not too impressive, though, considering that the British helped set the rules for these things a half a millennium ago.
Payne was dismissed from the British army and sentenced to a year in jail for the mistreatment of prisoners at a detention center in Basra. According to the Guardian Unlimited, the soldier lined up detainees and struck them sequentially, creating a symphony of agonized screams and human misery. The resultant musical instrument was referred to as “The Choir.”
This messed-up, Mel Brooks-inspired war atrocity gets three points, four if not for the significant boost in the ratio of British war criminals to Iraqi war criminals.
YOU’D’VE DONE THE SAME THING
In an uplifting story from northern Iraq, a 17-year-old girl was viciously kicked and stoned to death for dating a boy who practiced a different religion. The girl, Du’a Khalil Aswad, allegedly converted from being Yazidi to the slightly less archaic religion of Islam. This set her family into a typically retarded religious fervor.
Du’a was dragged from her place of worship by nine male relatives and killed in the center of town as a large crowd of onlookers—including uniformed, armed, and indifferent Iraqi police—onlooked.
All of this occurred in the town of Bashika, which is near Mosul, an area quickly putting America’s worst projects and ghettos to shame in terms of indifferent police presence.
According to Tahsin Saeed Ali, head of the Supreme Yazidi Spiritual Council, “they brutally killed a young Yazidi girl in pursuit of out-of-date tribal rights.” No kidding. The truly stupefying part of this statement, however, is the phrase “out-of-date.” Apparently at some point in time, stoning a girl to death for switching religions was a reasonable course of action. And here’s Ali, shrugging his shoulders and admitting, “Well, I suppose we’re a little backwards sometimes.” No fucking kidding.
This story briefly scraped our collective attention spans back in April when the all-mighty YouTube started circulating the gruesome clip. I had the pleasure of catching it the day CNN deemed it marginally attention-grabbing; sitting on my couch, the footage of Du’a stoically accepting her fate passed my Faces of Death/rotten dot com-addled eyes without so much as a cringe in response.
But here’s the uplifting part of the story, and the part that made my internal LP screech to a cinematic halt as my lips formed a silent “Whaaaat?!” The YouTube clip was videotaped by family members with camera phones.
I didn’t know Iraq had books, let alone landlines. But cell phones, and camera phones nonetheless? “Things have really turned around in Iraq,” was among my first thoughts.
But no, cell phones and the tenacity of viral video have become such an integrated part of our culture that no one is left astounded when some ignorant zealot scumbag in northern Iraq is watching his sister get slaughtered in the sand and his only worry is, “I hope I get reception.” Tom Friedman must be ecstatic.
Speaking of Yazidis, who are considered devil-worshipers by their neighbors, over 400 of them got blown up in August by suicide bombers, a direct result of the Iraq-a-mole game we call the Surge.
This story is a bit stale, but it scores a whopping eight Ignorability Points, because you heard the story. And ten seconds later you forgot about it because it wasn’t about celebrities or sports.
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