As Iraq War Memory Fades, The Art Endures - 3/6/2011

First published in Huffington Post

The Guardian ran a story two weeks ago, in which Iraqi chemical engineering dilettante, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi -- codenamed "Curveball" by somebody in espionage with an obvious sense of humor -- admitted that everything he told German interrogators about WMD in Iraq was a fabrication, a whopper, a stinking lie.

The confabulist from Baghdad, a modern-day Scheherazade, delivered his technicolor version of One Thousand and One Nights to agents of the BND in Germany. Convinced that the unemployed chemical engineer was their own "Deep Throat," the spooks from Berlin plied him with money, asylum and eventual citizenship, and the epitome of fine German engineering -- a late model Mercedez Benz.

In his bedtime stories to the BND, Curveball included accounts of a fleet of bioweapons labs on wheels that could release biotoxins into the air. That was all it took apparently for Secretary of State Colin Powell, to stand before the UN and perform his ceremonial waving of a perfume bottle to illustrate biotoxin production in Iraq and Saddam Hussein's evil nature, and to rationalize the American invasion of Iraq. Nobody at any of our intelligence agencies interviewed Curveball directly; their German counterparts wouldn't offer him up for questions.

The story got a few plugs in media outlets this side of the pond, and then died a quick death. It was never a contender for the high-octane media coverage given to stories of boys flying away in balloons or kings overcoming stutters. Daniel R. Cobb writing in Digital Times may have nailed the reason the story didn't fill the 24-hour news hole: "This story is almost too disheartening, too disturbing to examine," he wrote.

There we have it. It is too disheartening and disturbing for the media to examine the reasons why our government violated international law and invaded a sovereign nation on a lie. It is not the first time that troubling events that mark and identify a nation, that form its history, become vulnerable to a collective memory lapse, a spontaneous national amnesia.

Fortunately, art endures as art always does, and many writers, musicians, and filmmakers have documented the Iraq War -- the hubris, the lust, the lies, the tragedy, the suffering, the crimes, the folly -- for posterity.

The following is a pick of what I consider the best literary and creative work about the Iraq War. If all media deleted their archives of news about the Iraq War, and only these works survived, we would still be able to remember the things we believed about ourselves during the march to war, our nationalistic impulses, our need for blood after 9/11, our willingness to be persuaded by those in power, our eagerness to suspend belief, and our easy embrace of war before peace.

Great Songs, Films and Books About the Iraq War

Chicago band, Clara May's song, "The Chosen" encapsulates the whole chicanery of the war and highlights the Orwellian lexicon sprouted by the administration to get us primed, juiced and ready for war.

Baghdad Burning, a book of blogs by Riverbend -- The Girl Blogger from Iraq. The Anne Frank's Diary of the Iraq War as chronicled by a 25 year old woman from Baghdad who went from Yuppie tech worker to refugee in Syria. Riverbend's fate is unknown as of Oct 22, 2007 when she posted her last blog from Syria.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City is an insightful book that will have American taxpayers reaching for the antacid as he follows suitcases filled with US dollar bills down the rabbit hole in Iraq. Very entertaining accounts about L. Paul Bremer, our first "Viceroy" in Iraq--head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

The War Tapes, film by Deborah Scranton. The Iraq War as seen through the eyes, literally, of members of the New Hampshire National Guard who were in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. 17 soldiers were given digital cameras which they used to shoot 800 hours of tape. The final award winning film documents the lives of 3 soldiers as filmed by each of them. Gives embedded reporting new meaning.

Iraq in Fragments. The consequences of war as experienced by Sunnis, Shites and Kurds and documented by American director, James Longley who spent two years filming in Iraq.

Here, Bullet -- a book of poems by soldier Brian Turner who served in Iraq. While some of us can imagine war well enough to write about it, this 7 year veteran lived on the frontlines of war.

Redacted, a chilling film written and directed by Brian De Palma, based on the premeditated gang rape of a 14 year old Iraqi girl, Abeer Hamza and the subsequent murder of the girl, her parents and her 6 year old sister by four American soldiers.

American Idiot the single by punk band, Green Day which articulated the climate of paranoia and use of propaganda to manufacture consent for the war.

Rendition starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon and Meryl Streep is about the rendition of an innocent man in a case of mistaken identity, loosely based on the actual wrongful rendition of Khalid El Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped in Macedonia in 2003, flown to Afghanistan, and interrogated and tortured by the CIA as part of the War on Terror.

War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning -- a stunning book by Chris Hedges, a veteran war reporter, about the appeal of war and how it makes us feel so good, so warm, so fuzzy.
Posted by Gail Vida Hamburg at 11:08


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