Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sean Smith: Inside The Surge

It's easy to ignore a war that is happening in a far away place called Iraq. It's easy to not personalize the death and destruction of the lives of other human beings when we don't see it with our own eyes, when our ears aren't constantly ringing with the sounds of explosions, overhead helicopters, screaming men, children and old women. It's easy to be disinterested, or maybe only mildly interested, in a slow-down-and-gawk-at-an-accident sort of way, about people who speak a strange language and wear clothes that weren't purchased in a mall. People who wear sandals and walk upon dusty roads and who press their foreheads to the ground when they pray. In a world of split-second sound bytes, it's easy to lump millions of people into one or two words or phrases: terrorists, Islamist extremists, Muslims, insurgents, suicide bombers.

It's even easier when the American press doesn't adequately report the devastation of a people and a country.

The people of Iraq are your next-door neighbors. They are doctors, lawyers, shop keepers, teenagers, musicians, grandmothers, welders, bakers, reporters, film makers, teachers. Underneath burkas, women wear jeans and tank tops. They own pets. They fall in love. They get married. They have children. Some are Muslims. Some are Christians. Some dream of being dentists, of singing opera on a stage, of writing a novel. Most put off their dreams, as they wait for their country to be returned to them.

There are former doctors, nurses, librarians, school teachers who have lost everything. Their homes are either a pile of rubble, or they sit empty, or strangers have moved in. They have no belongings. They sit in a tent, these people who are just like you - as refugees - in places like Syria or Lebanon, and wait until they can return to their country. Some wonder if they ever will be able to, or if they even want to.

I know that there is at least one lone man, or one lone woman, or one lone child, who has no family members left. None.

In the documentary below, filmed by Guardian UK's Sean Smith, you will see a grandmother on a walker, with two frightened German shepherds pacing around and behind her, her home invaded two days in a row by American soldiers. She has a kitchen, and a kitchen table just like you do. She has a front porch, now stained with the blood of an innocent taxi driver who was shot by American soldiers because he wouldn't stop his car. As you watch her jabbering and crying in fear, think about your own grandmother, or some old lady that you know. Think about this happening in America. Think about the fact that she had no right to stop them from entering her home. She valiantly and impotently yelled at them, and then sat down and cried.

The taxi driver, it turns out, had been hired by the old lady's neighbors. I don't know about you, but if you were driving along in your taxi and a bunch of soldiers with machine guns ran out shouting a language you didn't understand, would you immediately stop, or try and drive away as fast as you can? I would like for you to try and make that decision, in your mind.

You will also listen to an American soldier say something along these lines: I would like to have the President or those people in Congress who have the minds of two year olds, come and do one tour of duty with me. I'll do 15 more months, with no extra pay, if they will come and do my tour of duty with me.

We, the American people, through our duly elected representatives, along with our allies - some of them strong-armed, some of them paid off, some of them willing - have done this to the Iraqi people. And, we continue to do this, every single day that we occupy that country.

We are responsible. No matter who we voted for in the past, as long as we remain idle and silent in the present, as long as we remain ignorant, as long as we hide from the reality of war instead of standing up and shouting at our government, we remain responsible.

As you sit in your comfortable bed, or on your soft couch, with your dog or cat sleeping soundly next to you, with your child safe in his or her bed, with your mother or grandmother in a retirement home, with food in your cupboard and refrigerator, please take a moment out of your day to watch the reality of war. Then, please get angry. Please shed tears. Register to vote. Hold your duly elected representatives' feet to the fire. Get loud. Protest for God's sake. Write letters. Talk to your friends and family. Get involved. Get organized. Please, American people. Be as great as our politicians say we are when they pander to us. Don't allow them to keep you ignorant and complacent. Rise up, people. Rise up.

Inside The Surge: Part One - (9min 56sec), Oct 20 2006

Inside The Surge: Part Two, The Provinces, Iraq - (6min 21sec), Sep 10 2007

End Game In Iraq - (16min 43sec), Sep 10 2008

There was no embed code, so click here to watch Sean Smith's latest video on YouTube.

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