Tuesday, May 22, 2007

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Joshua Key went to Iraq prepared to follow orders. In A Deserter's Tale, he writes about life in the army with stoic humour. He found a niche for himself as the battalion's mechanical genius, and soldiered on, seeing some of the worst of the fighting in Fallujah. Key comes across as a quiet man of integrity and unshakeable honesty.
Over time, he began to ask questions about the raids on innocent Iraqi families, the casual, brutal violence the US army visited on ordinary civilians just because they could. He saw soldiers use the decapitated heads of dead Iraqis as footballs, he saw the army look the other way when women were threatened with rape. He began to question not just his immediate superiors, but the logic of the Iraq war. Back home on leave, he made the decision to desert. Key is now a fugitive whose application for refugee status in Canada has just been rejected; if he ever returns to the US, he will face a court martial, jail term and reprisals. But his story hits home in a way that other, more polished accounts do not.
"I am neither a coward nor a traitor," Key writes. "I owe one apology and one apology only, and that is to the people of Iraq." His story, blunt, unapologetic and defiant, may be the most unsettling indictment of the Iraq war to have emerged this far.

The above is from Nilanjana S Roy's "Jarheads, ragheads and deserters" (India's Business Standard). Score another strong review for Joshua Key's The Deserter's Tale. This really was an iffy book in the early days. It was published more from a belief that Key's story (told to Lawrence Hill) needed to be out there. There was hope that a few reviews would come in and, with that hope, the realization that, of that few, many might slam the book. Instead, The Deserter's Tale has turned into a surprisingly strong seller, has picked up more reviews than anyone could have ever guessed (and a great deal more than the imprint's books usually receive) and the reviews have been very, very positive. To repeat, that's across the political spectrum. The John Birch Society found things to enjoy the book. (The only review we didn't link to. We're a site for the left.) The current issue of The Progressive, on sale right now, contains a strong review of the book. Though the national newspapers (in the US) have ignored it (as has The Nation -- to no one's surprise), papers with strong regional presence across the country have reviewed it. If you haven't yet read The Deserter's Tale pick it up to discover what everyone is talking about (except at 33 Irving Place, NYC where they never talk war resistance and prefer to avoid the issue of Iraq as much as possible). This really was a case of putting out a book they enjoyed because they enjoyed it. The commercial success and critical reception were a pleasant surprise but a surprise none the less.

In the New York Times today, Edward Wong and Damien Cave's "Baghdad District Is a Model, but Only for Shiites" which takes a look at the allegedly 'free' Iraq Bully Boy has created:

Here on the volatile Sunni-dominated west bank of the Tigris River, religious Shiite leaders and their militias have unquestionably consolidated control, transforming Kadhimiya into what could be a model for much of Baghdad if the Shiites have their way.
"This experience in Kadhimiya, you might find it in the future in every neighborhood throughout Iraq," said Sheik Muhammad Bakr Khamis al-Suhail, the white-robed leader of the neighborhood council.
But the future that Kadhimiya points to may not be democratic, inclusive or just, at least by Western standards. Residents and American commanders describe the area as a nerve center for benign and malignant elements of Shiite power, the raw embodiment of the Shiite revival that has swept Iraq in the last four years.
It is a place, they say, where militia leaders, Iraqi politicians, criminals and clerics intersect and compete; a place where the Iraqi soldier protecting residents on Monday may be collecting bribes for a militia on Tuesday, praying at the mosque on Friday and firing at American troops over the weekend.
For the average Iraqi, the tradeoff for relative safety is living with a certain level of extortion, political corruption and religious militancy.

On Democracy Now! today, John R. MacArthur (Harper's) discusses the realities of trade and Democrats.

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