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Iraq? What a Buzzkill

07.17.2006 04:51 | DISPATCHES

Most Americans buy into the argument that if we leave Iraq anytime soon, it will once again confirm we're wimps to Islamic extremists, who will mount another attack like 9/11. Others believe it's wrong to abandon Iraq to civil war. When they hear the likes of Representative John Murtha call for withdrawal, they don't sit still long enough to learn he just means stepping back to the perimeter while retaining the option to return to the fray if needed.

Thus we labor under the misconception that our only choices are either abandoning Iraq or remaining bogged down there. We resign ourselves to limbo, where our paralysis extends to speech. On the train to Manhattan, one hears no talk of Iraq; on the street, nothing; at work, despite newspapers strewn across the lunchroom table, it's as if a moratorium has been declared on the subject.

While religion and politics are generally considered beyond the realm of polite conversation in America, opposition to our presence in Iraq has become widespread enough that bringing up the subject isn't likely to incite discord. It's worse than that: invoking Iraq has become a major buzzkill.

Well, yeah. An average of 40 bodies are showing up each day in the Baghdad morgue alone. The way the Defense Department has delegated dealing with sectarian violence to the under-trained, infiltrated Iraqi police and army makes a mockery of those Americans concerned with leaving the country in chaos.

If we'd at least acknowledge the suffering of the average Iraqi now and then, one could stomach the small talk and banter with which we fill our days. As it stands now, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that much of our conversation comprises increasingly frantic attempts to avoid the subject of Iraq (and now Israel and Palestine, North Korea, and Iran, as well).

But perhaps that's giving us too much credit -- speaking out on Iraq may be the last thing on our minds. At least those in denial of our responsibility for the suffering of Iraqis comprehend at some level that they're under assault by the truth. It's too our national shame, though, that many of us aren't even aware that the plight of the Iraqis is something with which we -- not just as Americans, but as members of the human race -- need be concerned.


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