View From Here
September 24, 2002
By Pamela Troy
couple of years ago I worked with a young Iranian woman. She
was a lesbian who had grown up during Khomeini's era, and
she had no great love for that country's theocratic regime.
Nor, as an Iranian who could remember the war with Saddam
Hussein, did she have any great love for Iraq. One afternoon
she made a comment that has haunted me for the past few weeks.
The exact context of the remark is lost - I believe she'd
overheard someone making a flippant remark about bombing Iraq
or some other Middle-Eastern country that had displeased us.
What I do remember is that when we were alone again in the
office, she shook her head. "Americans," she said sadly, "talk
about bombing people without having the slightest idea what
Unfortunately, that statement is as true now as it was then.
Oh, we've had a taste of it, certainly. On September 11,
2001, we learned about violent death coming out of the blue.
Suddenly the explosions, the rubble, the human loss of what
amounted to a bombing were not abstractions, not scenes in
a movie or news images from a foreign country, but a reality
affecting people who look like you and me, people who could
be our brothers and sisters, our parents, our children, our
friends - people who were our brothers and sisters, our parents,
our children, our friends.
If you want to understand what has been happening in the
Middle East for the past few decades, if you want some inkling
of the loathing and violence engendered there, examine the
fury that resulted here in the United States in the days after
September 11. Look at some of the rhetoric on the Internet
and elsewhere, the hatred and suspicion aimed at people who
either were or appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent. (Yes,
yes, I know. We've been patting ourselves on the back for
over a year now about our "restraint." Only a few people beaten
or killed because they looked like they might be Arabs, only
a little over a thousand rounded up and held incommunicado
for several months...)
Observe the enraged response to anyone who even slightly
demurred, the accusations of disloyalty and treason towards
those few brave souls who dared to suggest that we needed
to think before reacting, needed to consider the causes of
such a bloodthirsty act of terrorism. Remember the full throated,
angry calls for us to do something, anything, even if it meant
going after people who weren't directly responsible, but who
simply looked as though they might be.
Multiply this by ten, by twenty. Imagine not just watching
the horror unfold on television (which is how most Americans
experienced 9/11), but hearing it, seeing, it, experiencing
it. Imagine picking over the rubble afterwards in search of
your own friends and family. Imagine this happening not just
once in a great while, but often.
Then you might have some clue about the origin of the hatred
that prompted the September 11 massacre of several thousand
people who were "guilty" of nothing more than living in the
So now we are prepared to go to war with Iraq for no better
reason than that we dislike its leader. No convincing evidence
has been offered that this badly-weakened country poses a
threat to us. There is no evidence that Iraq had anything
to do with the 9/11 attack, and certainly no evidence that
Saddam Hussein even sympathizes with those widely considered
responsible for it.
On the contrary, Bin Laden, the man regarded as the attack's
mastermind, considers Hussein an apostate, and Hussein has
brutally suppressed Islamicists within his own country. But
there is oil involved, and an American election coming up
with embarrassing domestic issues that call for distractions.
And besides, we can't find Osama Bin Laden, and we have to
I've been told that most Americans support attacking Iraq,
though I'm not sure how true this is. Most of my friends are
progressives, liberals, artists and writers, not exactly a
representative sampling of what is considered the average
American, and a lot of the support I see comes through the
prism of a media I no longer consider reliable. But I'm afraid
that on the few occasions when I've spoken about the upcoming
war with Iraq with those outside my circle, I've heard only
confirmation of what my Iranian friend said two years ago.
A few nights ago at a party I got into a discussion about
the upcoming war with an acquaintance, a nice guy, a family
man. We began arguing about Bush's speech to the UN, and I
pointed out that in fact the United States has repeatedly
broken international law and defied the United Nations. If
Saddam Hussien's defiance of international law makes it all
right for us to attack Iraq, to bomb its cities and kill its
citizens, doesn't our own defiance make it all right for others
to attack us?
My acquaintance smiled at me. He sipped his drink and leaned
back in his seat while in the window behind him, the skyline
of the city where he and his wife and children live glowed
in the evening.
"They're welcome to try," he said, a comfortable resident
of the world's one remaining superpower, confident that his
own blue sky could never crack open into fire.