Sunday, May 16, 2004

You Couldn't Have Done It Without Us
They had a celebration in Baghdad yesterday for Iraq's national soccer team, a surprise qualifier for the Summer Olympics earlier in the week. The team was there; officials including Paul Bremer gave speeches; only one thing was missing--fans. Citing security concerns, American officials did not admit one single Iraqi fan into the stadium. This story is being covered practically nowhere this morning. NPR's Peter Kenyon filed a report yesterday, but a Google News search turns up no other mention of it. Kenyon's report included descriptions of heartbroken young fans being turned away at the gates and the players' disappointment at being props in a Coalition photo op. You can't listen to it without feeling a deep sense of outrage at our presumptuousness. Who the hell do we think we are?

We can talk all we want about geopolitical realities and post-Cold War power arrangements, but the war in Iraq is about American egotism, too. We like standing astride the world with a sock stuffed in the crotch of our flight suit, showing how big and bad we are. So yesterday's Baghdad ceremony, which should have been an opportunity for the Iraqi people to feel good about themselves, such opportunities being damn rare over there, turned into another American ego show. In effect, we took credit for the team's victory. And in another small way, we displayed our utter contempt for the people we are supposedly liberating.

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