Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Steven Vincent Reports from Umm Qasr

Steven Vincent takes a ride to check out the port of Umm Qasr.
The plan is to contact a friend of Layla's named Mahmoud, a lifelong resident of Umm Qasr and someone with connections with the port. Everything goes smoothly. We hit UQ--like most Iraqi burgs, I arrive before realizing I'm at my destination, the beige brick hovels are so sparse and the dusty streets so empty they hardly qualify as city limits. We're a little early, so I ask Mahmoud to take me downtown and he shrugs and spreads his hands, palms up. This is it, amigo. Main Street, Umm Qasr.

Jesus. I mean, Jee-zus. Crumbling houses, muddy streets, broken down cars rotting in pools of motor oil, plastic bags--the scourge of the Iraqi environment--ensnared on coils of concertina wire...this is a booming port town? As the wind kicks up a mini-sand storm from a vacant lot, we park beside some nebk trees, before a weatherbeaten stucco building that seems to serve as some sort of city council hall.

Read the whole entry. Steven also includes a photo of downtown Umm Qasr. You have to see it to believe it.


What are you still doing here?

C'mon, get on over to Sandmonkey's Pad where Sam has a review of a recent article by John Tierney.


As a Democrat in academia, I had thought that my support for the Iraq War and its removal of a mass-murdering dictator would be a reasonable position to take. The vicious attacks on me from my colleagues sobered me up quickly. The fringe-left is deeply entrenched in academia and shows its ugly face to me every day on campus.

David Aaronovitch writes about his similar experiences as a journalist in Britain who supported the Iraq War.
Since I decided, in January 2003, that if Iraq was invaded I would not oppose it, I have had the almost astral experience of finding myself excommunicated from the movement, sometimes by fellow journalists who I know do not possess a political bone in their entire bodies.

All of a sudden I began to experience the left from the outside. And the first thing that struck me was its capacity for smug certainty and uniformity of response. Look at the cartoonists, whose work trumps debate. You may have Blair the poodle, Blair with blood-stained hands, Blair the liar, Bush the absurd chimp, but never, ever, Galloway the consort of tyrants or Kennedy the comforter of "insurgents". Look at the millionaire publisher Felix Dennis, who read out a poem on the Today programme in the middle of the election (a poem, incidentally, written more than a year earlier). "Why do they do it? Why do they do it? Why do they stand on their hind legs, Lying and lying and lying and lying?" This was, he explained, aimed mostly at Blair for having lied. He wasn't challenged.

It was beyond argument. Dennis, I'd guess, had never been challenged. Not by the researcher, the producer, the editor, his pals, not by anyone. Like a lot of middle-class anti-Blairites, I don't think he had ever heard the contrary case put. During the election people wrote to this newspaper saying that they hadn't met a single person who was voting Labour.


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