Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Breakfast At Bolstaðarhlið 8

Staying in a guesthouse is a win/lose proposition. Win: you get a nice homey place to stay (sometimes) and can meet a variety of people over breakfast. Lose: The variety of people are usually tourists. I had been out late the night before so I didn't have any idea with whom I would be eating. I soon found out; it was a group of grad students in education from Michigan, in Iceland to do some comparative studies. It was a package deal, they were led by a weary faculty adviser who had evidently done this thing one too many times before. There were three women and one man, John. John didn't want to be here either. His steady stream of complaints about the strangeness of things here was instantly annoying. The breakfast table was spread with a wide variety of things, breads, crackers, cheeses, fish, granola, skyr and other dairy products. The food was all wholesome and natural. John would have none of it. He rummaged through his back-pack and came up with a jar of Jif peanut butter. He grabbed the whitest bread he could find and slathered it with the sweetened, hydrogenated goo. That's all I ever saw him eat.

The table talk turned to the Iraq invasion and occupation. It had been ongoing for less than a year at the time, before the Abu Ghraib prison photos, and when things there weren't nearly so dire. John thought the US was completely justified, and couldn't understand why the Iraqis hadn't been more helpful to the cause of democracy.

I posted my objections to his reasoning- "Their country is occupied by a foreign army. It doesn't matter what political system the US is offering, we're occupying their homeland, that is why they want us out."

"I think the US should be able to go anywhere and do anything when it comes to their own best interests." John countered. A look of apprehension passed over our landlady's face.

"John, you might want to consider tempering your comments, seeing as Iceland is also a country occupied by the US military." The conversation came to a halt.

That was over three years ago. It's fairly certain that John's views haven't changed much. The US role in Iraq has changed, and not for the better. One thing has changed- there is no longer a United States military garrison stationed in Iceland. In a way, it may be a result of the Iraq occupation. The US armed forces are spread thin and even our spendthrift president has had to make cutbacks somewhere.

And so, on this, the fifth Memorial Day since the invasion of Iraq, (its occupation has lasted longer than the US involvement in World War II) there is still almost no public discourse in the media about the morality of the US occupying a sovereign foreign nation without any prior military provocation. There has been no meaningful action toward the end of the US involvement. None of the presidential candidates wants the war to end until after they are elected (can you say "Nobel Peace prize?") The real name of the game is "cut your losses" but Dubya is going to continue playing "Texas Hold 'em" until he's busted.

By Professor Batty



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