Posts tagged ‘Iraq’

making history

Imagine my surprise. I’m sitting on my bed, at the Hotel Daibani in Aden, watching al Jazeera, and I hear, through the rapid jumble of Arabic words, ‘St. Paul, Minnesota’.

St. Paul. Al Jazeera. Did another bridge collapse? A voice of a correspondent crackled across a cell phone. Barack Obamaand Hillary Clinton…elections…votes…South Dakota…count…the economy…Obama…a speech.

Hot scoop: Obama gives a speech!

Why was this speech special? Why was an al Jazeera correspondent reporting from Keillor country? And what the hell was she talking about?

From what I could gather, the reporter was embedded in Obama’s convoy, which had brazenly entered the politically schizophrenic state, and set up camp at the Excel Center. It was a symbolic fort (also the home of the NHL’sMinnesota Wild) where Obama’s battle-hardened antagonist would soon accept the other party’s nomination.

The embedded journalist (or embed as we in the industry like to call it) was reporting Obama’s seeming victory over Clinton’s surprisingly resilient and resourceful insurgency. Obama’s speech sounded as if it might be premature. There were a few dead-enders who couldn’t quite accept our liberation from decades of tyrannical elected officials.

I laid down , trying to put the Arabic words together in my head. Obama, Hillary…speeches, change, freedom. I drifted towards another battle, closer to my room, which had seemed to vanish from the headlines even though it had caused of unimaginable human suffering.

Mission Accomplished?

The next day was quiet. The classes went smoothly, and I didn’t get stuck explaining some obscure English rule that no American has ever followed.

After my second class, one of my favorite students lingered. He frequently stayed after class, and we spent a lot of time talking about verb tenses and shoulds and coulds and runon sentences. He had seen the same al-Jazeera story.

‘It doesnt matter,’ he said, with a wry grin. ‘They…ah…they don’t care who win. Macain. Clinton. No problem. Obama. Ok. One wins and the other laughs. Its ok. They think same…ahhh…Palestine, Iraq, war. They all support…’ and he put his palms up as if there was nothing that could be done.

I said that I had hope for Obama, that he would change things. What things? Things. Then I asked him to write the Arabic word for change on the board.


‘He say ‘change, change’, but no.’

He said goodbye and left. 

I want to believe in change like I want to believe in hope. I want to believe in Obama, and so I’ll vote for him. Hopefully, he’ll win, and make history, as they say. But if he can’t steer our convoy away from the disastrous course it is taking in this region, how much will his achievements matter?



June 4, 2008 at 2:01 pm Leave a comment

Five Years in Iraq

Hi everybody,

 I haven’t really had time to write anything about Iraq lately. I’ve also had trouble making my thoughts coherent. There are a lot of dimensions to this war, and I often go back and forth on them.

 So rather than scribble something that will look and sound crazy, I’ll defer to two totally different perspectives on five years gone by.

First is a piece published yesterday in the Iraqi daily al-Zamaan (الزمان) by Fatih Abdusalam.

 Second is an editorial piece published in the Wall Street Journal on March 20th.

I think each article represents the prevalent ideas of its paper’s readership, and each seem to promote the predominant view of many in their respective country’s governments.

March 30, 2008 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

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