Friday, May 28, 2004

Optimists vs. Pessimists?

"You like THOSE Iraqi Bloggers because they say EXACTLY what you want to hear."

THOSE Iraqi Bloggers could be Riverbend and Faiza and Raed or THOSE Iraqi bloggers could be the ITM brothers, Zeyad, Alaa, Sam, Firas, and AYS.

This statement cuts both ways, both against those who opposed the war and against those who supported Bush's decision to go to war.

How much validity does this claim have?

The last few days, as I was sitting at the keyboard, my mind kept returning to one of Roger Simon's blogs from about a month ago. For me, that particular blog really summarized a lot of feelings and thoughts about all the contrasting reactions that had flared up around me in response to the Iraq War. So I dove back into his archives and located the entry that I had been thinking about. Here it is. Read it and tell me what you think.

Saturday, April 10, 2004
Riding the Whirlwind

Reading the blogs out of Iraq these days is like reading the memoirs of agony from inside the Gulag or similar cauldrons of history. After a litany of pain, Zeyad barely stops himself from giving up:

It is the most foolish and selfish thing to say "pull the troops out", or "replace them with the UN or NATO". Someone has to see us through this mess to the end. Only a deluded utopian (or an idiot peace activist) would believe that Iraqis would all cosily sit down and settle down their endless disputes without AK-47's, RPG's, or mortars in the event of coalition troops abandoning Iraq. Please please don't get me wrong, I am not in the least saying that I enjoy being occupied by a foreign force, I am not a dreamer who believes that the USA is here for altruistic reasons, I am not saying that I am happy with what my bleeding country is going through, believe me when I say it tears my heart every day to witness all the bloodshed, it pains me immensely to see that we have no leaders whomsoever with the interest and well-being of Iraq as their primary goal, it kills me to see how blind and ignorant we have all become. Iraqis are dying inside every day, and we are committing suicide over and over and over. Some people call me a traitor or a collaborator for all the above and for speaking the truth as opposed to rhetorical, fiery speeches which have been our downfall.

It seems scarcely worth trying to convince him that some Americans at least... and some segments of our government... are motivated by altruism, partly anyway. What is good for us is good for him and for his people--I really believe that. His bleak mood... the almost "bring it on" feeling about civil war... is so palpable I doubt he could hear my tiny voice of optimism. And I can't say I blame him.

But Omar over on Iraq the Model is singing a slightly different tune:

The strike -that the terrorists called for- didn't take place the way they desired; I wandered a lot in Baghdad today and I can assume that more than 50% of the shopkeepers refused to submit to the thugs' threats but in A'adhamiya, the situation is different, almost all the shops are closed today as there were intense clashes between the fedayeen and the coalition troops, heavy gunfire and explosions were heard in the morning.

The traffic activity in Baghdad is normal and the whole city is quiet except A'adhamiya, even that Ali and I today met a journalist and a photographer from the (USA today). We spent more than 3 hours together during which we had a lot of conversation; we had lunch in a restaurant in Karrada and they made an interview with us about the Iraqi blogs. Later we all went to an internet cafe' to show them more details about our blog work.

Of course, I want to believe Omar, but to believe either is to engage in The Politics of the Last Five Minutes, something I have mocked. But what I have noticed reflected in America and in Iraq (all over the world actually) is at this time of crisis what divides us is more personality than ideology. In an odd way, whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the future, whether you believe the course of history can be changed through concerted human action, is more apposite than whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist and on and on. That may be the greatest reason why so many traditional alliances have shattered recently.

I have always been an optimist and I try to remain one, even at the blackest moments. Pessimism has almost always seemed to me a self-fulfilling prophecy. But then I have never had anything remotely similar to the situation in the Middle East to deal with. Now, for the first time in my life I am wondering if that too may come to pass, that I will have to confront this all more personally.

Well, what do you think? Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Part of the mission of this blog will be to listen to the other Iraqi Bloggers. Like many of you out there, listening to views that conflict with my own is not easy, but perhaps we might learn something by setting our certainties aside for a day or two. What do you think?

UPDATE: On today's Comments Pages, Leap_frog re-tells a very good anecdote from Confucius:

Confucius met a man on the road, travelling from his home town to move to a new town. He asked Confucius, "How do you find the people there?". Confucius asked him, 'How do you find the people where you came from?". The man replied, "They are all no good, lie, cheat, steal and are lazy". Confucius replied, "Then I think you will find that the people in the new towm are much the same".

A little later another man travelling in the same direction as the first man for the same reasons stoped Confucius and asked the same question, again Confucius asked him how he found the people to be where he came from. He replied, "They are great, hard working, honest, loving people. Confucius answered, I think you will find them to be the same".

Thanks, Leap_frog.

ANOTHER UPDATE: As everyone can see, I've changed the range of this blog. Starting today, anything about Iraq and ALL the Iraqi Bloggers will be open for debate. Come one, come all. Let's see what we can learn BETWEEN THE RIVERS. Later, I'll make a formal announcement.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: I need help, people. All afternoon I was fiddling with the template to change the colors on this blog. I should swallow about half a bottle of Advil (Riverbend's Choice!!) right now. Anyway, I haven't had time to follow any of the news coming out of Iraq. So then, on the Comments Page Foydor brings up Raed's latest post. Shoot! I run over there and -- oh heck -- it looks like typical Raed. I need someone's help to make sense of this:

So yeah
Finally, we have a president and a prime minister
So “they” selected our president and prime minister in a small meeting,
But they couldn’t even announce the place of their meeting!!!
What a great strong authority!
Hiding in a dark smelly shelter someplace in the “green zone”, and announcing fake governments…

Can someone fill me in on today's events and let me know if Raed's interpretation is reasonable?

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