Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Korans and Toilets and Diets, Oh My!

Today was kind've cool.

I went into Tokyo for work today, and had a tour of the Japanese equivilant of the Library of Congress. Many of you might be saying, "wow, the significance of such a place would certainly be lost on you," and I whole-heartedly agree with you. I got a temporary membership card under the name "Eddie Vedder." After that we walked around the Japanese Diet building (Parliament, not Slim Fast) and headed back. I always like being around a country's Brain Bug. I call it Brain Bug because when I was back in DC for the first time since 4th grade a year and a half or so ago, I really felt like I was in some sort of mind fuck, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The monuments, the museums, etc... I guess the a Country's Capitol really reflects what's going on in the nation. Keep in mind, my only references are the USA, Japan, and Kabul. The walled fortress surrounding Karzai's Compound in Kabul, while the guards outside make snowmen and goof around on bicycles. America's grandeur, money, monuments, and museums, coexisting with poverty, illegal immigrants, and violence. And Japan - quiet, unassuming, low key; right next to the Imperial Palace, surrounded by hypermodern skyscrapers with PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL eblazoned on the uppermost stories. That might seem trite, but it's how it seems. I guess I've been to a few other Nation's Capitols, but I don't feel like I knew enough about the places or had spent enough time in them to really give an accurate (or horribly skewed) assessment on how it affected me.

So I've been following the Koran thing pretty closely. Q'uran, Quran, we'll call it Koran for this post, because I don't know Arabic. The lowdown, if you happen to be living in a wigwam or cast on a reality TV series, is Newsweek reported that interrogators at Gitmo flushed a Koran down the toilet to frazzle some detainees. My first reaction to this, as with 90% of the "atrocities" committed at prisons housing suspected Taliban and Al Qaida suspects, was "well duh." Having attended SERE school, not a whole lot that has hit the news has really surprised me. I haven't even heard anything about prisoners getting the shit slapped out of them or getting punched in the stomache, but that's neither here nor there.

In any case, I'm having mixed feelings about the whole thing. I guess I'd like to be mad at someone, but i don't really feel like expending emotional energy to decide who to be mad at, let alone be mad at someone who I don't even know. The bottom line for me is kind've obvious [trite], like most of the things that fly out of my mouth. Allow me to quote The Lord of the Rings:

"A WIZARD SHOULD KNOW BETTER" (the wizard, in this case, being an influencial periodical)

Information is power, and with power comes responsibility (oh look, I'm quoting Spiderman now. I'm officially lame.) You can't tell me that Newsweek wouldn't know the reprecussions of such an article. As you may have noticed, people in countries like Afghanistan and other middle eastern countries are often either on the verge of or in the middle of being outraged about something. When I see them on the news, all I can think of is "outrage." IM OUTRAGED! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! That's the gist of what they're feeling.

But can we blame them about being outraged when a magazine with the credibility and influence of Newsweek published that people are flushing their holiest of holies down the toilet in Cuba? Would many Americans be outraged if Newsweek published an article about the Cuban Government sponsoring a fieldtrip to Washington DC where everyone took a dump on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? That's a shitty example (excuse the pun) - I don't think most Americans can really relate to what the Koran is to many Muslims, particularly impoverished, fervent Muslims (I sure can't), so they just brush it off and wonder why they don't "chill the freak out."

Well, I can't really blame them. To me, the blame lies on Newsweek. Blaming the source of the information, credible or not, seems a little bit like blaming a gun dealer for selling a gun to an irresponsible person who they perceived to be responsible. Using information to incite violence is a time old tradition, and it would be a shame for popular magazines to be perceived as inciting violence against the USA to forward some fucked up political agenda. I'm not gonna jump out that window just yet, but thinking of power-brokers doing whatever they can, whatever the sacrifice of human life, to forward their personal or political agenda, is not too farfetched. I guess how people feel on it is dependent upon which team, if any, they're going for.

That's all for now--

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Paul,
I don't agree with everything you say, but your delivery is top notch. I love the concept of having an argument with one of my closet friends in a public forum. Kinda feels wrong. Anywho, Newsweek should have known better but they didn't 'cause' those deaths. The deaths were 'caused' by murderous individuals with nefarious rage, and complete lack of self contol. I believe that hodjies have a tough time telling the difference between fact and conjecture. If we want to state that newsweek is responsible for the deaths, it has to be secondary to the actual murderers. Thank you for listening, I got nothing but love for ya.
-Brando

1:43 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Cripes,
I can't disagree with you... I'd like to blame the individuals responsible for the deaths, and in most of the cases (unless I'm mistaken) it was cops shooting at demonstrators. But after spending some time over there and seeing how these people operate, what influences them, and how they react... I can't hold them to the same standards that I'd hold people in my own country, even hilljacks. That's my own personal preference though, however "sound" I actually thing it is . . . . (And let me say, that based on who I've seen training cops over there, it the only thing more surprising than that is that they didn't kill more people and Praise Jesus all the while.. But that's neither here nor there.)

If these people didn't have problems with myth and reality, I don't suppose they'd be too pious, would they? :)

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Cory said...

I'm glad you're back on the blog, Paul. Consider yourself bookmarked.

As for the Newsweek thing. Gen Meyers said on May 12th that the rioting was due to an on-going political reconciliation process going on in Afghanistan rather than "Koran abuse."

http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/
2005/tr20050512-secdef2761.html

(cut and paste -- it won't all fit. The quote's at the bottom, go to find->afghan)
In fact he said (referring to Elkenberry's analysis): "So that's -- that was his judgment today in an after- action of that violence. He didn't -- he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine."

That's a full 4 days before McClellan said 'Newsweek is the devil!' (those are 'air quotes', not real ones) when the idea finally hit the white house to discredit the media a little more (like they need it) after the weekend.

I can't pretend to know how the culture over there works other than what you and Brando tell me, but it sounds to me some people are using the newsweek article as an excuse for (or to) riot, rather than the actual reason.

In my opinion, the White House should be defending Newsweek from the assault from its news competitors (they love to eat their own), rather than joining in the feast.

2:04 AM  
Blogger That Guy said...

All fairness aside, I saw a guy on CNN who pointed out that while the Taliban were destroying the Buddhist Temples and Statues in "Adventurestan" (nice plug eh?) there was no rioting or mass protests at all. Why does violence have to be the answer for these people all the time?

I understand that America has fucked them over a bit, and understand they are unhappy with us. I don't think I could ever come close to truely understanding them, but I feel as if I have a better understanding of the situation than the average American.

Why violence? Ghandi achieved so much with peaceful resistance...that is the way to achieve your goals...not by bombing and killing innocent people...that's a two way street by the way.

America's wartime atrocities are well known to me...I am ashamed of some of the things my countrymen have done...but two wrongs don't make a right. I could drag this out all day but my main point was to point out what that guy on CNN said.

Neither myself, nor he, probably know what actually happened over there...we just make observations...

I haven't ranted online in a while...guess I had to get it all out.

You git my ball yet Paul?? haha.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I'm not sure what you're getting at with the CNN guy, or what the CNN guy was trying to say. Was he saying that they didn't protest the destruction of the Buddhas because they didn't care?

Most Afghans I talked to were cool with America, but they were probably saying that because they wanted me to buy chewing gum. As far as them not protesting about the Buddhas.. Under the Taliban regime, protesting would get you killed. Period. Bamiyan (where the Buddhas are) is inhabited by Hezarahs, which are remnants of Genghis Khan's legions (see the pictures page -> Bamiyan - they all look Mongolian), and are Shi'a Muslims. The Taliban was Poshtun, who are Sunni, and in Mazar-i-Sharif the Taliban actually said that it was OK to massacre Hezarahs because of their differences. My point is, protesting the destruction of the Buddhas would have meant a one-way ticket to the half-time execution show in Kabul at the local soccer stadium. Protesting on Bamiyan would have meant getting shot in the street.

Peaceful resistance works in certain contexts. In other situations, it means a visit in the middle of the night by a squad of gunman coming to kill your family. The people in Bamiyan are pissed about the destruction of the Buddhas, and they don't like Poshtuns coming in their area.

Anyway, that's all I gotta say about that I suppose...

2:48 PM  
Blogger That Guy said...

my point exactly...

neither myself, nor the guy on CNN know much about the whole deal over there...

it was just a contrasting point of view I overheard...

5:47 AM  

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