Sunday, January 14

:: President Comma

Wars are fought with commas. They are essential. Here and there is a world leader who does not care about human life, but most do. The only way they can function is to plant commas around the misery they cause, to subordinate the loss of life to a supposedly greater cause.

Not too long ago, I embraced the commas myself. I favored this idiotic war because I thought that the deaths of some would improve -- even save -- the lives of many.
Richard Cohen writes today about the President’s characterization of the “present difficult period in Iraq as ‘just a comma,’” – a mere punctuation mark in a greater tale that will end, no doubt, in some kind of fantastic religious-political triumph that will place the name “Bush” alongside the likes of Alexander the Great and George Washington in the annals of history. Not.

That “comma” was described in a horrifying story in the Guardian. Its exactly what some people – mainly, but not exclusively, the women’s rights and human rights communities – said might happen in Iraq, and yet much, much worse because instead of being a prediction, it is real and happening right now. These are key paragraphs from that lengthy article:
[There] is a violence that would not be possible without a wider, permissive brutalising of women's lives: one that permeates the 'new Iraq' in its entirety. For it is not only the religious militias that have turned women's lives into a living hell - it is, in some measure, the government itself, which has allowed ministries run by religious parties to segregate staff by gender. Some public offices, including ministries, insist on women staff wearing a headscarf at all times. Most serious of all are the death threats women receive for simply working, even in government offices. Zainub - not her real name - works for a ministry in Baghdad. One morning, she said, she arrived at work to find that a letter had been sent to all the women. 'When I opened up the note it said, "You will die. You will die".'

The situation has been exacerbated by the undermining of Iraq's old Family Code, established in 1958, which guaranteed women a large measure of equality in key areas such as divorce and inheritance. The new constitution has allowed the Family Code to be superseded by the power of the clerics and new religious courts, with the result that it is largely discriminatory against women. The clerics have permitted the creeping re-emergence of men contracting multiple marriages, formerly discouraged by the old code. It is these clerics, too, who have permitted a sharp escalation in the 'pleasure marriages'. And it is the same clerics overseeing the rapid transformation of a once secular society - in which women held high office and worked as professors, doctors, engineers and economists - into one where women have been forced back under the veil and into the home. The result is mapped out every day on Iraq's streets and in its country lanes in individual acts of intimidation and physical brutality that build into an awful whole.
So that is life between the commas. I suspect we will be paying for what we've done to these people for a long, long time.

No comments: