Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Making Sense of Iraq: Start Changing Your Point-of-view

I’ve been traveling for the last few weeks so I’ve been unable to write any posts. But hopefully I’ll finish my work soon on the political and theological logic of the corps politique. In any case, I’d like pass on an interesting article from the Salon about its person of the year: Sgts. Omar Mora and Yance Gray. These were two soldiers killed in Iraq this last year (2 out of “892 American men and women who died so far this year serving in Iraq, or of the 3,895 who have died since the war’s inception or the 28,661 who have been wounded.”) These two soldiers were also two of the seven writers who published in the New York Times earlier this year their on-the-ground reflection from a soldier’s point of view on the U.S.’s strategy in Iraq.

This text represents a very complex communally-written first-person account. It attempts to make sense out of what is going on and out of our political and military actions in this densely-layered social, cultural, and historical context. Their words describe what they see and witness in the world and others around them. These are soldiers ordered to such and such tasks. Their tasks bring them into a specific world where they listen to the people, see a society’s reaction to this war, and attempt to explain what is going not-so-well. They speak of a lunar-like situation where security trumps food, where people are always afraid and much that was, in spite of its flaws, has been lost or taken away. They describe what it must mean for a society and all its people to lose ever so slowly their self-respect.

The voices of these witnessing soldiers attempt to bring us closer to Iraq through the voices of the people’s in Iraq. They—these soldiers as well as the Iraqi peoples—need to be listened to and more closely understood, because in spite of the virtual closeness brought to us by the internet and digital medial, we are still so very far away from the realities in Iraq. Solving the problems in Iraq can only be done through locally-adequate solutions, because ultimately all problems, even those so seemingly globalized crises, need to be solved locally and communally.

We have to change our perspective if we ever expect to get any truth or any world-bettering action. As a U.S. American living in France since Bush’s second election, I’ve come across too many “displaced” people from the Middle-East who tell me about what has happened and has been happening in Iraq to simply take the media’s or the government’s word for it. Geopolitical ideas can only work by properly understanding local, first-person perspectives. We’ve got a long way to go if we continuing telling the world through our actions and words that we alone know what’s going on and what must be done.

On this note, I wish all of you readers and friends a very Happy New Year!