This afternoon, I was suffering from a serious case of spring fever and was reading a book on all the places Frances Mayes has visited (her books formed the basis for the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun") when I saw that Richard Engels' "Iraq War Diary" was being replayed on MSNBC. I missed it the first time around because, well, it was on at ten, and I'm always asleep by then!
Anyway, it was riveting...a must-see if you want to get an idea of what the conflict really looks from a guy who has been there since "Shock & Awe" four years ago. If you've been put off because it's been advertised as very bloody, I'd submit that it really isn't that much worse than what we see on the news every night, or even on the desensitizingly gory CSI. In any event, we've unfortunately gotten so accustomed to blood and mutiliation in our living rooms that there's really nothing shocking here, just profoundly depressing. As bad as Engel has it-and it is pretty bad sometimes-he can leave whenever he wants. The disenfranchised Iraqis who are still caught in the mayhem are the ones who really grab your attention-waving bloody limbs, screaming in grief, knowing they've been utterly betrayed by the promise of what they thought the Americans were bringing. "I expected some security...I expected everything," says one bitter Iraqi man. Engel also blows the lid off some jealously guarded icons of the early days of the war, especially the picture of Saddam's statue falling amidst a group of cheering Iraqis. Even then, Engel says, the signs of sectarianism were there, as chants of "Moqtada! Moqtada!" arose from the crowd.
At the end, Richard Engel interviews some soldiers who express some anger at the war debate and protests that rage on over here in the US. It's bound to make those of you-who feel as deeply as I do that this war is illegal, immoral and has been terribly managed-flinch. To that I say to them: I'm sorry you feel that way. But this is about more than the anger of individual soldiers or even whole brigades. I hope some day those who are bitter about the country's response to this war can understand the rage and protest was done in part for them, the soldiers-so they are no longer called by a madman to die for a useless, contrived mission-but also in part for the Iraqi people and for our survival as a nation of laws and principles.
If you haven't seen it, you can download and watch it here.