Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Insurgent's Tale

by Tom Downey
from The Best American Nonrequired Reading

In the beginning, I thought this was a fictional piece. No one, I assumed, could tell an actual Iraqi insurgent's story in such detail without making it up. Apparently, I was wrong. "The Insurgent's Tale" is the actual life story of an actual Jihadist. Needless to say, it was engrossing reading. It's always enlightening, I think, to hear the story of someone from the "other" side tell their story honestly. It helps to remember that the people fighting on the other side of the war in Iraq are just as human as the warriors that hail from America. It helps to remember that Jihadists are more than the evil, robotic suicide bombers that the Bush regime would have you to believe. In the words of Downey, ""To hear a polite and thoughtful man talk casually about his friends in Al Qaeda is to have the whole enterprise reduced to a more fragile, human scale."

"The Insurgent's Tale" does just that. It reminds us that the "War on Terrorism" is "not a mythic struggle between our supermen and their ghosts." It serves as a perfect juxtaposition to Military Blog excerpt by Zachary Scott-Singley (unreviewed by me) included earlier in the compilation. Yet, it also confuses me, or rather, it doesn't enlighten me as much as I would like to be enlightened. It shows me how a Jihadist is born - in this case, through anger inspired by a video showing Muslims being slaughtered in Afghanistan - but it doesn't really take me inside the insurgent's heart, which is where I really want to be. It doesn't tell me how Khalid, the insurgent, feels living peacefully among Londoners who trust him more than they do their own children one month, and fighting those same Londoner's children in Iraq the next. Is there ever a conflict of emotions; is there ever a moment of hesitation, of self-doubt? What is his actual stance on the American forces in Iraq? Does he have a position, or does he simply go where he's needed, questions un-asked?

I don't assume I know the answers to any of these questions but it would have been nice to see those questions answered in "The Insurgent's Tale." Again, my problem seems to be that I simply want this piece to be longer than what it was. Maybe if it was as long as this war is turning out to be, I'd be satisfied. Maybe.