Back from Holiday
Hello all– Finally back from a much-needed holiday in Beirut, which I can report exceeds all expectations as a warm, friendly place. It’s incredibly refreshing to exit Iraq and find the part of the Middle East that really is full of warm, welcoming and funny people. I didn’t have to lie about my nationality, and it felt good not to have to constantly be on guard for someone trying to abduct me. Plus, the food is fantastic. Beirut has really come back since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, and signs of rebuilding are everywhere. It’s a bustling, busy city. Avoid the Mayflower Hotel in Hamra, however. It’s a nice place, but it’s overpriced.
But enough of Beirut. Two days back in Iraq and things are oddly quiet — at least in Baghdad. No major bombings or insurgency attacks, such as those seen last week. Word is, however, that Samarra south of Tikrit is heating up. Two 13th Corps soldiers were killed, one wounded and a vehicle damaged by a roadside bomb (IED) near the city at about 6:30 p.m. yesterday. The hostage crisis, which I wrote about for TIME last week, continues to escalate, with seven more poor bastards caught in the net of the insurgency. Juan Cole, as usual, has an excellent round up of yesterday’s situation.
But I want to talk a little about “the insurgency.” There seems to be a bit of romanticism regarding these guys among well-meaning folks in the West. For instance, I saw Massive Attack at the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek last week while in Lebanon. One of the lead singers dedicated the concert to “the innocent child victims in Iraq, and to the heros of struggle!” I was completely with him on the first half of the sentiment; the innocent victims here, such as Ali Abbas, are heartbreaking. But to celebrate the people who kill the Ali Abbas’ of the world as members of La Resistance is just lunacy. Most of the Iraqi insurgency is made up of criminal gangs and mafias out for cash in a lawless environment, Islamist monsters looking to stop people from listing to music or dressing as they wish and Ba’athist thugs. A very small part of the insurgency can be said to be made up of Iraqi patriots. I don’t know what the percentage is. Most violence affects the Iraqis. They’re the ones who are still afraid to go out on the street or let their daughters go out past the gloaming.
Yes, one can argue that the occupation was unjust and cruel, illegal even (although the Security Council pretty much nixed the “it’s illegal” argument when they ratified the U.S. and Britain as occupying powers.) But don’t make heros out of cruel sons of bitches simply because you don’t think the U.S. troops belong in Iraq.
Anyway, I’m back, I’m rested and I hope to get some good stuff out in the next few weeks. August will be busy, and you’ll soon start seeing my work in the Boston Globe.
I hope to have the comments section fixed soon. At the moment, registration is still required to combat spam, but I hope when a new version of MT-Blacklist is made available from Jay Allen I can remove that burden. I want to keep the comments sections as lively and free-wheeling as possible.