Blacksburg and Baghdad

April 17, 2007 by susan

by susan
Barbara wrote in the previous post:
"George W. Bush is a disgusting, callous, pathetic excuse for a man." You know, she's always looking for the best in the guy. I wish she'd say what she really feels.
The horror of the shooting in Blacksburg has us all reeling. Yet it also has me thinking about how similar massacres have become an almost daily occurance in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities under the American occupation. It's impossible to imagine such an existence.More.

How do you keep on, how do you raise your children, when bombs are shattering your daily life? And how do you govern when a bomb tears through your already fragmented legislature in the heavily protected US bubble known as the Green Zone? What would happen to us as a nation if we had a mass killing like this on a campus or shopping mall every day? How can the Iraqis have any hope?

Thirty two people dead on a college campus is a tragic and shocking thing and there are no words to soften the jolt. But today the nation is standing still in anguish, and even Alberto Gonzales got his day of reckoning postponed.

And yet, over 40 Americans have died so far this month in Iraq and god knows how many innocent Iraqis, due to the arrogance and incompetence of George W. Bush. And those 40 Americans will be quietly shipped home, buried by their bereft families, and all but forgotten by a nation that's been encouraged to look the other way.

This is not said to make light of the searing pain of the murders at Blacksburg, just to remind us that George W. Bush is a "disgusting, callous, pathetic excuse for a man" who will publicly mourn those brutally killed at Blacksburg, while turning his back on those who are every bit as dead from his bungled foray into Baghdad.
Post note. I'm hardly alone in this thought.
Here's Juan Cole.

7 US Troops Killed;
Iraq Has Two Virginia Techs Every Day;
Thousands Protest in Basra, Demand Governor's Resignation

I keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the "situation is improving" in Iraq. The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve for a lifetime.
But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg. We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?

I (Juan Cole) wrote on February 26,

' A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives. '

That isn't "slow progress" or just "progress," the way the weasels in Washington keep proclaiming. It is the most massive manmade human tragedy of the young century.

Juan Cole, Informed Comment

Posted in


Barbara aka Babs (not verified) | April 17, 2007 - 7:41am

You're spot on, of course. We seem to have the capacity to diddly-bop our way through years of ongoing carnage in Afghanistan and Iraq (and other places too numerous to name here). I can't figure out if it's denial, apathy, or conditioned response. But remember that George W. Bush's answer to how to deal with the twin towers tragedy was something along the lines of, "Just go shopping. Must. Not. Let. This. Disrupt. Our. Lives." Some would say we're too hard on Bush. I would say that the buck and the bodies stop on the Oval Office desk of the current occupant. He is not a nice person.


Poet (not verified) | April 17, 2007 - 8:06am

Thank you Susan for expressing exactly the first thought that came to my mind when i heard of the news--and that cartoon is just so right for the occasion--nicely done!


Perhansa (not verified) | April 17, 2007 - 9:30am

Meanrottennasty and right on...I thought the same thing this morning. Also, not only does this carnage and raw brutality occur daily in Iraq, but often, in multiple locations. I can hear the mantra already: Guns don't kill, IED's don't kill, bombs don't kill, or chemicals, or neglect, or ideology...people kill people, right? In this supposedly Christian nation why is it so hard to understand FOUR SIMPLE words: Thou Shalt NOT Kill. I don't recall the word, "Except" being anywhere in the commandment. I suppose it depends on what the meaning of the word, "Kill" is. I wonder how many of the slogan thumping gun toters will be arguing that conceal and carry could have minimized the carnage in WV? Why do I fear that the NRA will find a way to sell MORE guns and lift more bans on assault weapons specifically as a result of this?

Unfortunately, the daily embarrassment W brings on us is our own embarrassment at a political system, media, and populace that could install such a feeble-minded-silver-spooned-molly-coddled-playboy-turned-bible-thumper in the most influential job in the world today, TWICE!

The violence sends waves of shock and awe through our gentle bodies and psyches when something like this happens and it should. At the same time death is being writ large across the globe today and everyday. Just in the half hour it took me to read the posts and respond, about 500-600 humans have died around the world from unsafe drinking water and poverty related illness--mostly children. Weeping mothers and fathers and grandparents the world over. 25,000 - 30,00 a day, minimium. Not even counting the war dead, genocide dead, accidently dead. "Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs." (Lao Tzu)

Twenty of the developed nations signed on to the Millenium pledge to contribute 0.7% (that's ZERO point seven percent) annually of their country's GDP to help end the tragedy of poverty and unsafe water. Of those twenty countries, six are already making their pledge, eight have set target dates to start meeting the pledge, and the remaining six have yet to even set a target date to meet their pledge--the US is in this last category. No wonder Barbara wakes up every morning feeling sick at heart to start the day. The darkenss is all around us and there are far too few lights. And they hate us for our freedoms? We elected the Village Idiot and he hired a bunch of Sinister Magicians to pull the strings for him. Embarrassment is too soft a word. Humiliation. Shame. Guilt. Regret. Sorrow. Rage. Those are the things I find myself feeling when I see read the paper or see the news...


susan | April 17, 2007 - 10:11am

So, fellow depressives, I ask us all, what does keep us trudging along, enjoying the watery trill of the hum-drum robin or the eager first smile of a new baby? What do you say to your adult children when they wonder what sort of world we've handed off to them, and why they should feel any hope for their own children's future?

When I was around 3 years old I told my mother that I was happy, "even though I cry nearly every day." Now I cry nearly every day and I'm not that happy, though if you saw me (and didn't just read me) you'd be surprised at how upbeat I appear. I've talked about this before, how I resent George Bush for giving me such a bad case of BID, Bush-Induced-Depression. I like to think it will lift when the evil empire finishes its dream-dashing reign of terror in 2008, but given the breadth and depth of its idiocy and the destruction sown by its arrogant war-mongering, I'm not so sure.

So, what gives you hope? What vision of the future do you offer to your discouraged children, or the next generation? As a non-believer, discussions of god will not suffice.


Perhansa (not verified) | April 17, 2007 - 11:25am


I haven't reached the crying stage yet because I'm on Propranalol for tremors (which they're giving soldiers with PTSD to block out terrible mental stresses) and Prozac for chronic pain (from a form of Arthritis). My Mom's side of the family has some bad genes. My dad's family has great longevity genes so I expect to live a long, painful

That's a great question, Susan. I think it's the mental filters. R.D. Laing argued that crazy people aren't crazy they just have fewer filters than the rest of us. They're actually MORE sane. But more poorly adapted for survival in an evolutionary sense. We've evolved filters of self-deception in order to survive in an insane world. As you know, I'm an evolutionary materialist infidel, so don't take my word for it.

I also can't imagine not having had this ever-so-brief experience of the lights being turned on (consciousness) for a few seconds in eternity, though I believe it will all be gone (for me) the moment the lights are turned back off. But even as I say that I think its just plain dumb luck and chance. I haven't had a great deal of tragedy in my life. I wasn't born in Darfur, or the Dark Ages, black, gay, or a woman in a sexist, male-dominated society.. I wasn't born a native tribesman who had his/her population wiped out by the white settler's diseases. I've not been abused, tortured, imprisoned, starved, experimented on, suppressed, violated, mutilated, or other horrors. I wasn't in Hiroshima or Nagasaki nor were any of my relatives. I wasn't at the Camps, there's no Jewish lineage that I know of in my family. I wasn't pulled from family and put on a slave ship and sold into slavery. I haven't been trafficked in the sex trade industry. I could go on but I'm depressing myself...Camus said the most important question anyone has to answer is whether life is worth living (I think I'm being redundant here...). Is suicide the only real choice. I go on every day because I do hear the birds, and the feel the wind. My children aren't dying in Iraq or Afghanistan. No one close to me has been abducted or murdered. But mostly, I have good filters...and I feel a burning shame of self-smugness even saying any of this.

As a former Buddhist, of course, I learned to try and drop the beliefs I held, to sit and embrace the non-meaning, non-purpose, wheel of birth and death. I decided to drop the sitting and embracing too. As a former born-again Christian I heard and read all the Arguments for God, the Scriptures, the Theologians, C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. None of the arguments, rationalizations, explanations, etc. stood up in the face of needless endless suffering and the utter wastefulness of evolution. And I've yet to see god restore the limb of single amputee or pluck a baby out of the air before it falls on the point of a bayonet. Now THAT would be a miracle. Either the gods can't end the suffering, don't want to, or don't exist. The later is the most likely when you look at all the facts. I've heard people say, "god never gives you more than you can handle." My sister-in-law, says in response, the graveyards, hospitals and mental institutions are full of people who got more than they could handle. So far, I've been able to handle what I've got. Just plain luck. BIG CAVEAT!!(This is my PERSONAL opinion--and my wife always says, "Opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one.") And, I'd add, no one thinks theirs stinks.

We haven't done our job. We're going to be the first generation in a while to handoff a worse world than the one we inherited. I do have hope in many of the young people coming up. There are lots of decent, bright, caring kids in the generations to come. And they'll be more acclimated to racial diversity, sexuality, technology, and maybe more libertarian (unless they go to Jesus Camp). I think maybe the best thing we can do to bolster our hope is to help the upcoming generations be the better than we are. Raise ecologists, naturalists, scientists, peacemakers, stewards, statesman/women, ethicists. We can apologize. We can work with them. Listen to them. Help them define a vision for the world. There were lots of young people at Saturday's green rally. Idealistic and hopeful like we were at their age.

Blah blah bull****, right. It's the drugs and the filters and the s**t dumb luck. That's all I can tell you with any confidence. There, but for the luck of the draw, go I...

My sincere apologies to all the believers and theists that read Clothesline. Remember the analogy about opinions and a**holes. Someone said, religion is good for good people and bad for bad people. You could say the same about non-theists. But then, who gets to decide "good people" from "bad people". Damn, there goes that circle of endless reasoning again...JUDGE NOT LESS YOU BE JUDGED!! Excuse me while I go remove the log from my eye. Susan, did I cheer you up yet? Want some of my drugs?


susan | April 17, 2007 - 12:51pm

Bring 'em on. Oh, wait. There's that saphire blue bottle in my freezer, with its icy clear liquid pain relief at the ready. No law broken, no prescription necessary. That and the sense that over the millenia humans have had their dumb asses shoved up against the wall one way or another -- plague, famine, boils, ice ages, and endless wars -- and managed to limp through somehow to go on to bigger, dumber and greedier things. But who'd a thunk we'd still be having religious wars in the age of science -- which may be the only thing that can save us? And who'd a thunk we could take the whole planet down with us? But hey, we're the Boomers, and we're worth it. And damn, it was a helluva ride. (Sorry kids.)


Perhansa (not verified) | April 17, 2007 - 1:26pm

I think they call this a SKI trip (Spending the Kid's Inheritance). We're on the same side of the train on religion-science debate. Your question has settled on me like a koan. The Buddhists are right about one thing, there are teachers all around us if we only look. You've been my teacher today with this penetrating no-answer-question. I feel a post coming mind is bubbling up all kinds of detritus. It's been like a slap on the back of the head with a bamboo stick or the sound of one hand slapping one non-existent cheek. Stay tuned, there's more to follow on the topic of hope once I get my work done making a living. Damn work gets in the way.


Poet (not verified) | April 17, 2007 - 5:51pm

Susan wonders:

So, what gives you hope? What vision of the future do you offer to your discouraged children, or the next generation? As a non-believer, discussions of god will not suffice.

I find the weather and seasons a useful metaphor. I would stop here but just in case you got into that saphire blue bottle in the freezer here is another hint.

It's true! It's true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there's a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That's how conditions are.
The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.
The snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear.
In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Camelot.

Now let's just admit something, being in Camelot would be pretty nice, except not only will it not happen--it has never happened for anyone. Knowing that no matter what it is it will change gives me hope.



leftymn (not verified) | April 18, 2007 - 1:43pm

178 killed in four separate bombings in Baghdad today. Will MSNBC or the Star Tribune put the pictures and family details of any of these fathers, mothers, sons, daughters on their pages or webpages or monitors today?
I cannot but despair. is there some redemption somewhere?

"tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed,
for the countless confused, accused , misused , strung-out ones and worse,
And for every hung up person in the whole wide universe
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing."
Bob Dylan


susan | April 18, 2007 - 5:00pm

No. No back story. Just Iraqis killing fellow Iraqis, and they don't count. All because the neo-cons invaded a country they knew nothing about, the country they imagined, not the country that really is, as Maureen Dowd writes about today in the NYTimes.

And as counselors ponder what demons turned Cho Seung-Hui to a killer, and gobble up TV time with details of his disturbing behavior, our government is training whole squadrons of young people how to use their weapons to kill other people. I know, we need a strong defense and all that, but someone tell me, please, where does it stop?