Sunday, January 12, 2003

January 12, 2003
Baghdad (by way of Amman, Jordan)

Dear you,
This is a quick note letting you know I'm fine but
have been unable to communicate outside of Iraq for
some time because of the FUCKING Pentagon and their
email "attack" (the story broke Saturday morning on The whole Internet infrastructure in Iraq
was shut down because of it. We couriering stuff into
Amman, Jordan, to be sent out.

The situation in Iraq is the same, which is to say not
much. Those who can afford to prepare for a coming war
do, buying petrol and water parrifin for heat and
lighting. Those who cannot pay pray. The rest are busy
trying to get the international media's attention on
the plight of the Iraqi people and the devastation
another war will bring to this country. War
preparation is above all a class issue for me. There
are divisions between the upper, middle, and lower
classes in their perspectives on what can be done
about living through an invasion. Most of the upper
echelons of Iraqi society think that Baghdad will be
ablaze with street fighters beating back the
Americans. The middle class (if you can call it that)
have largely left it to the fates, having had little
to no history of political self-determination. The
poor of Iraq wants to see the invasion over with. The
sanctions have made their life already impossible, why
not a war to shake things up a bit: what's there to
lose? A young poor Iraqi teenage girl summed it up
nicely when she said that she can't wait for the
invasion so she can marry an American soldier.
Desperation and creativity doesn't make that strange
of bedfellows. Despite the differences on how one will
survive a war and how a war will be waged in the
country, they all agree that if there is a war, it
won't begin until AFTER the invasion. It is
incandescently clear that Iraq does not have the
capabilities to fight the American military
juggernaut. The real story of Iraq's survival will
begin after the Americans come (if they come, yes
there is still time and the means to stop the war,
there is always time because tomorrow is today) and
set up their puppet regime. A media escort and veteran
of the Iran/Iraq war said, "They will have an
occupation in hell."

I'm not ready to live in hell. And I assume the
wonderful people I've met here in Baghdad aren't ready
either, regardless of how many litres of petrol they
buy off the black market. I also assume that you
aren't ready for hell either, since by all accounts,
in Jordan, Syria, and Turkey the sentiment is that
there will be no way to contain the resentment an
unjust war will bring to the Middle East. The
resentment is beginning to build into a political
program that promises nothing short of mass political
insurrection, here and abroad, back home, where I live
and you too.

I have tried to make my work here with a certain
sensitivity and language to describe another kind of
Iraq existing in another kind of reality marred by
economic sanctions, the weight of war, and (American)
popular culture. But I can feel myself losing this
sensitivity. The fear is becoming overwhelming and the
space for describing the taste of lamb's head stew
made with food rations and trash is disappearing.

Perhaps the time and space will come again. In the
meantime (what a word) there is (still) a war to stop.
I am sure you've heard about the January 18th protests
(global by the way, since the German, Japanese, and
Italian delegations in Baghdad have informed us of
their country's intention of doing solidarity protests
on that date). I've been rereading Martin Luther King
Jr.'s moving speech against the Vietman war delivered
at New York's Riverside Church in 1967 and will try to
finish off one more piece of writing based on it
before I return to the States.

My return date is dicey at the moment but rest assured
I'm well taken care of. Support group I will contact
you first regarding my flight back. Let your media
contacts know that I'm returning and that I'll talk to
anyone about the work we've done here (can continue to
do, members of the Iraq peace team continue to come
into Baghdad and will do so throughout January and
February, war or no war).

This turned out not to be such a quick note. I'll see
you soon. Baghdad is tense and beautiful, as usual, by
the way.