Here in the States, we have the dubious luxury of being able to forget that our country is at war. We are reminded when we turn on the news or by the occasional question during the presidential debates. Discussions about what we should or shouldn't have done, and about what we should or shouldn't do now are largely being carried out on bumper stickers and comedy shows. A common excuse for having sent troops into Iraq even points to this luxury of forgetfulness, the refrain "I'd rather fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them here" seems to tell us that the decision to go to war was not ours - that we merely chose the location of the front.
Not surprisingly, Iraq citizens see the war a bit differently. They do not have the luxury of being able to forget about the violence for long hours each day, they live in it. They also do not see the war as having been an inevitability. Our luxury of forgetting must seem like apathy to them, and our ignorance about what the impact of the war has been on their lives likely looks like evidence of the callousness of the American people.
Yet, with the propaganda machine so well-oiled and so little information reaching us about what Iraq really looks like after five years of war, how can we become more informed?
Reporters from The New York Times living in Baghdad are trying to give us a way, attempting to show us what the war has meant for those actually living in view of the battles, and their Baghdad Bureau Blog should be mandatory reading for those of us who are sheltered from the direct consequences of war. Go read, yet be warned that not all the stories posted there have happy endings.
Of course, in posting this I know that I will receive some complaint, either online or off, that the war in Iraq is "not a feminist issue." This is my preemptive response:
1) This war is not just affecting Iraqi women whose sons and husbands are injured or killed. Fighting is taking place in the city streets, troops are entering their homes, and they run as many risks as men, yet they usually face all threats unarmed.
2) Women speaking out about world issues is an inherently feminist act, for it asserts that we too can be part of the solution - or part of the problem. By staying informed and speaking out, women claim for themselves a role in society to which they were long denied.
3) For those still wanting a more overt feminist angle, Baghdad Bureau Blog is looking to ask and answer questions about how women have been affected by the war. You can submit questions that reporters will ask here.