Tennis in Iraq

Here’s an item from Iraq, by way of the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle:

Iraqi Tennis Coach, Players Killed

“(05-27) 10:38 PDT BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — An Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were killed because they were wearing shorts, apparently in violation of a warning by Islamic extremists.

“Gunmen stopped the car in which the athletes were riding and asked them to step out before shooting them Wednesday, Manham Kubba, secretary general of the Iraqi Tennis Union, said Saturday. The coach, Hussein Ahmed Rashid, was Sunni, and the two players were Shiite, Kubba said.

“The athletes were in shorts when they were killed and police believe the attack was related to a warning by extremists against such attire, police Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq said. He said the warning was made in leaflets distributed in the Sadiyah neighborhood in southwest Baghdad a week before the attack. …”

First thought: Unbelievable barbarity; the people who did this are beyond understanding.

Second thought: Did this happen the way the authorities say it did? Were these guys killed for wearing shorts, or for being found (Sunni and Shiite) together, or for their car? Was the warning against shorts-wearing distributed in the neighborhood where the attack took place? You have to admit, this story is tailor-made to feed feelings of disgust and revulsion for those who oppose us over there.

Third thought: Without evidence to the contrary, I’m inclined to think this really did happen. And that brings me back to my first thought: This is beyond comprehension. But is it really? My tendency is to think that wars of the past — say against Japan or Germany or Korea or Vietnam or even the less direct conflict with the Soviet Union — are easy to understand, at least on a general level. Right on the surface, you find nationalism in one form or other, a battle for territory, and an effort to extinguish competing claims to land and resources. A little below the surface, you find a struggle to impose a particular point of view of the world and our place in it. I think this is more complicated than seeing wars as struggles between fascism and democracy, communism and capitalism, or evil-doers and the rest of us.

The people we’re fighting in Iraq don’t have an army, they don’t appear to be fighting for territory or resources, and they’ve unleashed a wanton, terrorizing violence on the people they live among. So on that surface level, they simply don’t make sense. On that next level, though — exercising violence to impose their will and their view of the world — what they’re doing is as logical as anything any military commander has ever devised.

The question is: How do you oppose it, and where? Our soldiers and weapons are the best, or so we constantly reassure ourselves. But does anyone believe that they have prevailed? Or will ever prevail by themselves?

4 Replies to “Tennis in Iraq”

  1. Yeah, I read that too…about the athletes. And after all we’ve seen from the various factions “over there” this would seem par for the course on whatever logic scale these guys follow in pursuit of their goals. I keep thinking about these guys in DC who are the authors of this screwed-up situation and ask what were *they* thinking when they kicked over that hornet nest of a country. Also, the more I look at Iraqi society and what they have come to, the more I think that Saddam and his thugs were a product of the society and not the other way around. A bunch of vengeful tribes living out an eye for an eye history that stretches back for as far as anyone can remember. 300 billion bucks for this. Not worth it. Barbarians? Well, if the shoe fits…
    Another percolating story is the one of the Marines in Haditha. As bad as it is, are they doing anything worse than Qaeda, Shiite, Sunni, Interior Ministry, Iraqi army or police death squads? I think not. That they would finally gravitate to committing atrocities is, under the circumstances, probably an inevitable outcome. Put people in a barbaric situations, don’t be surprised when they commit some barbaric acts. That, I reckon, is the truest nature of war.

  2. I really feel like I am always the odd man out when it comes to these issues, and I really don’t like to make trouble, but…
    “Also, the more I look at Iraqi society and what they have come to, the more I think that Saddam and his thugs were a product of the society and not the other way around.”
    “Barbarians? Well, if the shoe fits…”
    “That they would finally gravitate to committing atrocities is, under the circumstances, probably an inevitable outcome.”
    Come on! Have we forgotten slavery? Have we forgotten the near genocide that was carried out against Native Americans? Have we forgotten Jim Crow? Have we forgotten hate crimes in the United States (for example a black man being pulled to death behind a truck) that are in direct relation to these past racist systems? Just because we’ve come to the point in the United States where these events are rare doesn’t mean we aren’t of the same nature when stripped down. Look at the LA riots. Some people may feel like that reveals the character of black people. I think it is a sign of human character. To say it is inevitable that we would become barbaric in a barbaric land is the same justification that the Japanese used, and some still use, for their WWII attrocities (no, I am not insinuating American attrocities are numerically or in quality the same as those of Japan, just the logic being used here – however it could be argued that at least in quality Vietnam attrocities weren’t that far off the mark).
    There are many historical reasons why the majority of the western world became “civilized” and the middle east did not and I think it is really an easy way out to jsut say that it’s a barbaric culture.
    “A bunch of vengeful tribes living out an eye for an eye history that stretches back for as far as anyone can remember”
    What about Mesopotamia? From a humanist point of view isn’t that one of the great cradles of civilization? And as far as eye for an eye goes Europe and the US have not been any better historically. Iraq has a connection to 9-11? Isn’t that an eye for an eye taken out of context?
    I don’t know. I am only 26 and no expert. But within my limited knowledge and experience, this kind of attitude is one of the things I dread about going back to the United States. Even extremely smart people dismiss American behavior and focus on how the other side is wrong. Most Americans I hear don’t agree with the war say its because of the unnecessary dead AMERICANS. What about unnecessary dead PEOPLE. Yes it is better in general to have a government without Hussein but are the Iraqi people better off for it now?

  3. I am only looking at the truth in front of me. Saddmists, Qaeda, Taliban, what have you. These guys are flat out barbarians and I have no desire to understand them beyond that, the head-chopping, car-bombing, airplane-crashing soccer player murdering, shrine desroying lot of them. The first step to finding a cure for any malady is to recognize it for what it is. Is the west any better? Well,in somes respects no…there is plenty of blame–for the condition of the world–to go around. But these guys are really something very special and it is not an act of denial of my own nation’s ills, past sins, whatever–to recognize this. I think recognize a savage when I see one.
    Look, I could always see the utility of getting rid of Saddam, way back when, in 2003. I never really thought it was incumbent upon US to do the job. And I don’t favor sending someone else’s kid to do a job that I wouldn’t send my own son to do. That is (was) a job for the Iraqis. But the question of whether Saddam made Iraq what it is or the other way around is an interesting one. Saddam was–is a snapshot of his society–embodying the character of the place he ruled. Bush is the same–for the US. In my own unscientific opinion, it is no accident that people get the leaders they end up with. It is because people want them–to lead them to, well, somewhere. Sometimes they just end up in the ditch, which is what we have today.
    What to do about Iraq? Hell, I don’t know. I thought–back in the day–that the Bushies should have saved their energies for chasing Osama and trying to fix Afghanistan. One basketcase at time. All they managed to do is get two-fer in the basket state department. What does that leave for them to do? I suppose they could invade Somalia or Iran, breed some more extremists.

  4. Wow…sure are some typos in that last post………..”Frogive” me! Hope you are well…….
    Actually Dan. I am having a bit of trouble with the “preview” section of your site. Don’t know if it is at your end or mine. Later.

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