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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Critical Thinking


The aerial photo lay on the table like a deceased dinosaur thrown out of its habitat by some primary force.

I listened to the last bars of the Mahler symphony playing from a radiogram extension in the warm bedroom.

I had locked myself into a golden prison that only postponed the day of reckoning.

The violence resumed despite a four-day Muslim holiday.

A pregnant woman died in a house made of iron sheets after a mortar hit where she was sleeping. Broken limbs, broken jaws, a body raked from end to end, lungs pierced through and through, entrails torn and protruding.

Television pictures of the latest carnage were soon being beamed into living rooms around the world.

There was blood everywhere. There were pieces of flesh floating in the air.

I called my commander. He is an emissary of pity, and science, and progress, and devil knows what else. He said Whatever the company might lack in scale and scope, it has gained in speed and timing. Instead of issuing constant warnings, we must project stoicism and resolve.

But the violence continued despite a four-day Muslim holiday.

I often found dozens of corpses a night dumped in the capital, many of them tortured by Shiite death squads using power tools.

Debris and clothing mannequins would be scattered in thick pools of blood on the floors of warehouse-type buildings while men tossed plastic chairs onto piles.

On television, violent scenes would air continuously, the most brutal often repeated with the most frequency.

Like the old god Proteus, they were endless in the forms they took and filled with the information of realized Nature.

There was blood everywhere. There were pieces of flesh floating in the air.

I called my commander. He had synthesized the behavioral research done by contract academics in a manual spelling out a revolutionary two-phase form of torture that relied on sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain. I said We're turning craters into bigger craters and rubble into smaller pieces of rubble. He said
If we apply critical thinking, we may have a chance of formalizing the subversive.

But the violence continued despite a four-day Muslim holiday.

Before long, militants were taking positions in almost every building--they had positions in the basement, on the stairs.

Gunmen popped up on rooftops and in alleys, engaging us in crackling gunfights shouting Our warband is invincible. We may chatter like barbarians, but at sunrise our horses will drink blood and the vultures will eat flesh.

Once a car bomb exploded, killing at least 28 people with a blast that touched off raging fires and a blizzard of bloodstained paper from a popular book market.

But now it was a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side complete bodies, on that side halves; and everywhere body parts.

The charred body of a child lay motionless on a stretcher. A river of blood oozed from beneath another's long tangled hair.

There were pieces of flesh floating in the air.

I called my commander. He said The score is 60-0, but we don't know what quarter we're in. I said Both sides accuse each other of violations. He shouted angrily We already had our Vietnam!

Sometimes I wonder how I will feel when I see self-centered and soft Americans instead of the hardened, swaggering Marines who ask for nothing more than a chance to kill some bad guys and make a difference.

But why rack your brain when it's going to be plastered over a tree trunk at any second?



1. Shimon Naveh, “Between the Striated and the Smooth,” Cabinet, Summer 2006.
2. J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition, ReSearch, San Francisco, 1990.
3. Peter Bernstein, The Power of Gold, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 2000.
4. Associated Press, “Violence Resumes in Gaza as Rivals Clash,” Baltimore Sun, 1/2/07, 7A

1. Guled Mohamed and Sahal Abdulle, “Mortar blasts rock Mogadishu,”
2. Winston Churchill, My African Journey, Easton Press, Norwalk, 1992.
3. Philip Stevens, Tony Blair, Viking, New York, 2004.
4. Guled Mohamed and Sahal Abdulle. Ibid
5.Witness, “Suicide Bomber Kills 3 MPs at Iraq Parliament,”

1. Generic
2. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, The Easton Press, Norwalk, 1980, p. 36.
3. Dan Steinbock, The Nokia Revolution, Amacom, New York, 2001, p. 127.
4. Brian Michael Jenkins, “Unconquerable Nation,” Rand Corporation, Santa Monica. 2006.

1. Ibid

1. Jason, “Update from Ramadi,” 4/24/07,
2. Bushra Juhi, “Bombs Strike Baghdad Markets, Kill at Least 71,” Associated Press, 2/12/2007
3. Rachel Bronson, Thicker Than Oil, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, p. 234.
4. Edward Wilson, The Diversity of Life, Norton, New York, 1999, p. 80.
5. Ibid
6. Ibid

1. Generic
2. Alfred McCoy, A Question of Torture, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2006, p. 50.
3. General Charles Guthrie, qu. by Philip Stevens, Tony Blair, Viking, New York, 2004, p. 164.
4. Shimon Naveh, ibid

1. Ibid

1. Major-General Waheed Arshad, qu. by Zeeshan Haider, “Pakistani Troops Storm Mosque,” 7/10/2007,
2. Alexandra Zavis and Julian Barnes, “U.S. launches Iraq offensive,” Baltimore Sun 6/20/07
3-4. Bugul, quoted by Lidwien Kapteijns, Mahdist Faith and Sudanist Tradition, KPI Ltd., London, 1985, p. 179.
5. Lauren Frayer, “Car Bomb Kills 28 at Baghdad Market,”
6-7. unknown Iraqi woman, qu. by Mark Danner, “Words in a Time of War,”
8. unknown “37 Die as Car Bomb Hits Near Iraq Shrine,”
9. Tina Susman, “Fallout from Girl's Stoning Embodies Iraq’s Discord” May 21, 2007,
10. Ibid.

2. General Charles Horner, qu. by Time-Life Books, Air Strike, Alexandria, VA
3. Skye Wheeler, “Uganda rebels to return to talks mediator,”
4. Harry Kleiner, Sheldon Lettich, & Sylvester Stallone, Rambo III, Tri Star Pictures

1. Chris Lozano, “The Last Quarter,”

1. Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder, The Cloud Garden, Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2003.

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