Friday, March 21, 2003

i already can not stand looking at the telly anymore. it leaves me too upset.

i hated those guessed "news" we had until tonight, the speculations, the "experts", the pictures of the sky over baghdad. above all, i hate those flashy animations all channels seem to like so much because they don't have any real footage. - little computer made movies, interactive maps, featuring low flying helicopters, that drop little soldiers carrying rifles in oil refineries, or low flying missiles that hit underground bunkers.
all tv channels also seem to love touch screen maps, everywhere i switch to, anchor(wo)men and experts, are widly circling and arrowing touch screens and satellite maps. "they could go there, or there/they are definitely going to go this way or that way/what we see there are the burning oil fields/these are troop movements/they will go there, and there and then in three days they will be in baghdad"

these images of war that we got to see until tonight, they were strange. - sky over houses in baghdad, light flashes, tanks in the desert, surrounded by dusk, journalists who all seem to be standing at the same street in baghdad, tanned and dressed up with kyftas, iraqi soldiers seemingly surrendering to us forces, walking in a line, hands above their heads.
to me, it all seems very removed, and that echoes what it was like 12 years ago. - just that 12 years ago, the image quality was even lower, and there were no "embedded" journalists, no videophones, no satelltite phones.

and now, since half an hour, they are there, the images of a real war: baghdad, burning. clouds of smoke, lightened red by more expolisions, in the city centre.
seeing those images has been even worse. i can't help but wonder whether (and hope that) these damn missiles are as accurate as the us military claims they are. i hope they indeed just hit public buildings and palaces and whatever else, but i doubt it.
they scare me, these images, the thoght of what it muse be like to sit in a house in baghdad now. i wonder and worry about civilians, what are thy doing now? where are they hiding? what must it feel like when the earth shakes and the bombers fly overhead and drop more of these bombs.
i also worry about what kind of reaction these images might provoke in some parts of the world. - will they make someone hate the us even more and go out on a street with a bomb tied to his stomach?

i wonder whether only a country like the us, that has never experienced a bombing war against it's civilians on it's own soil can start attacks like those they are currently carrying out on baghdad.
i am well aware this idea is flawed, as the uk, obviously, had its share of bombings at home during wwii, and is involved in this, too. but still - doing this must come easier when you don't know what it is like from the other side.

round here in germany, the images of bombed down and burned out cities are still very present, memories of what it is like when the sirens wail and the bombers come are still in our collective memory. it's been 60 years since many of our cities were bombed. - people still remember, buildings still have marks. in the back of our cathedral, a picture shows how much of my city was destroyed, and that the only thing intact was the cathedral. - and that was purely accidental, geography (a hill in the city centre) made it impossible for british planes to fly low enough to bomb it, too. where my house stands today, everything was bombed out, burned down.

no worries, i am not going to dispute wwii - i see may 8th 1945 (as all germans i know) as the day we were liberated, indeed. the way there, however, with bombings specically aimed at bombing civilians into surrendering, is something i have trouble dealing with and that i do not believe to have been the only way there. did you know that cities with middle-age city centres were specifically picked because they'd burn well? how much culturally important buildings were specifically targeted? have you seen pictuers of dresden?

last weekend, my dad and i talked about war, discussing a book on the allied bombings on germany in wwii, his memories of it, and my grandparents memories of the war. - my dad was born in 1941, and has some memories, the sort of faint, hazy childhood memories one has, singular images, feelings.

one of these singled out images is a tank in the backyard of the house where my grandma, my uncle and he lived (my grandfather was on the eastern front, where he was wounded, twice, but returned from in one piece, after being a pow, in late 1947). it must have been in early spring 1945, he thinks: it was a british tank, and he remembers a bag with dead chicken the british soldiers had taken (bits of them sticking out of the bag), hanging from it.

for some weeks, the front being just kilometres away (the village where my dad has lived all his life, and where i grew up, too, is very close to the rhine, in an industrial area, and was hence strategically important, and under constant bombings, too, because of steel mills and coal mines and weapon companies - some of the cities around where among the most seriously destroyed in germany, with more than 90% of the city centres destroyed), my grandmother could only sneak out once a day to get water from the well on the other side of the street for herself and her two boys. - my dad's brother g√ľnther died during the war, at 8 months, because he suffered from a gastro-intestinal disorder, and neither special food nor the medical care needed were available.

my dad also remembers sitting in the cellar with his brother and grandma and the local priest when the bombings happened, he remembers the alarms and the noises. - the priest would stay all night and day, and sneak to the next neighbour at dusk, to stay there for a whole day, too. walking along the street during the day was too dangerous.

in the us, there is no such memory of war and destruction at home.
no one who had to experience living in a cellar for fear of bombings in a war against a regime they never supported. no one there had to fear being shot on the way to the well, like my grandma.
lucky them, indeed, that they never had a regime on their own soil. never a war. never sirens wailing at night.

i wonder also, how someone can see these images of tonight, and believe this is bringing can setting the sky alight do this? how can someone see these images, and not be shaken by sadness and concern for civilians. it's beyond my imagination what it must be like - but i wonder: where is the compassion for them, concern about what this is doing to everyone experiencing it? bombings do not teach people democracy, but instead you can bomb a society into collective post traumatic stress, and deeply install a culture of hate and violence and revenge in those who experience this.

i'm upset and sad.