Monday, July 28, 2008

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LXXXIII

By Michael J.W. Stickings

For all the talk about "the conditions on the ground," as McCain put it the other day, about timetables, about how the situation there is not quite as bad as it was, say, a couple of years ago, and about whether the Surge has been a success or not, Iraq is still an incredibly violent and bloody place.

As we were reminded once again today:

Female bombers struck Kurdish political protesters in Kirkuk and Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad on Monday morning, leaving at least 48 people dead and 249 wounded in one of the bloodiest sequences of attacks in Iraq this year.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, at least 24 people were killed and 187 wounded, after a female suicide bomber blew herself up amid thousands of Kurdish demonstrators who had gathered near the provincial headquarters building...

In the attacks in Baghdad, three women used suicide vests and a bomb in a bag to make strikes just minutes apart, killing 24 people, all apparently Shiite pilgrims marching in a festival, according to an official at the Interior Ministry. The dead included at least four children, one of them an infant, and there were at least 62 other people wounded, according to police officials and witnesses.

While it may be true that the violence is down across the country, and while it is true that "the conditions on the ground" may have improved, and be improving, somewhat, it is disturbing how so much of the talk about Iraq is cleansed of bloody reality. Perhaps we have grown desensitized to it, perhaps the media don't care anymore (as it isn't sensational enough anymore, which is to say, it isn't enough of a story anymore), perhaps the narrative of steady improvement, however inaccurate, has taken over, or perhaps we just don't want to hear any more of it, eager for the war and occupation to be over and for the troops to come home, but, whatever the case, we need to be shaken from our slumber and to see things as they really are.

Unfortunately, it has reached the point where it takes horrific acts like these to arouse our attention. Which is not a reflection of how well things are going in Iraq (a violent act or two shattering an otherwise peaceful landscape), but of how badly things have gone (extremely violent acts looming up out of a violent landscape, overshadowing the everday violence that plagues the country, acts so horrific as to penetrate the numbness, our numbness, even as we have come to realize how badly things have gone).

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