Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hand signals

Yesterday I went to a talk by Seymour M. Hersh, the investigative journalist that exposed, among other things, the My Lai massacre and cover-up in Vietnam, to uncovering the brutal treatment of people in Abu Ghraib. He was the typical old man with a meandering telling of the things he's seen. Unlike the local old-timer sitting on the park bench, he wasn't talking about the year that they planted all the new elm trees after the locust infestation, or how the Corner Cafe used to be called "Karmen's." Instead, he was talking about the fragility of our democracy, the biggest American mistake otherwise known as the war in Iraq, and how being a journalist has become a tough and lonely job.

He also talked about questioning the credibility of the news about the war Iraq. As a paranoid liberal, I tend to believe that everything in the news is an incredible spin of something that probably happened, but is reported mostly to distract the public from the topics that actually matter. I was visiting my elderly neighbor today, and we talked as FOX NEWS blared in the background. For the entire two hours of my visit, I watched about 2 minutes of repeating footage about the cessna which had flown within 3 miles of the White House. At least 10 times, I was assured that the Son of a Bush was out safely riding his bike and that everyone that mattered was safe. During the broadcast, I said to myself, "It's probably a stupid rich white guy who screwed up his flight plan." I was wrong. It was two stupid rich white guys. What a waste of two hours of satellite bandwidth.

In a snippet of today's news in the Washington Post:
The military also said that Marines at a checkpoint had killed a woman and a child who were passengers in a car that, despite warnings, refused to stop as it approached a checkpoint. The statement said the marines thought the car was a suicide bomb and were "unaware of the gender of the passenger or that there was a child in the vehicle.
There is something here that isn't being said. In America, how do we gesture to someone to stop? We hold our hand up, palm facing the addressee. Despite what you may think, this is not the universal hand gesture for "stop." In Iraq, to gesture to someone to stop, you hold your fist in the air. How conceivable is it that this woman didn't even realize that they were telling her driver to stop and that a language barrier is what killed her and the child? Certainly, it may not be the case in this particular incident, but interviews from American journalists who have been in Iraq have reported this hand-signal confusion contributes to the casualties at checkpoints. I don't blame the Marines for shooting, since car bombs are a serious threat to their survival. I don't blame the driver for not stopping. All I'm saying is, "What a stupid loss."


shannon said...

Wow, that is a stupid loss. You would have hoped that the military would have been told of the difference of gestures in the country they have invaded...

makes my stomach turn a bit.

JP said...

You know, what bothers me more about that is the statement about there being a women and child, "We didn't know there was a women in the car." I dunno... does that mean that women can't be suicide bombers? I suppose its probably true in Iraq, but still... is the gender of the drive a determinate of the security of the situation?

shannon said...

I don't think it's true in Iraq that women can't be bombers. I think I heard somewhere about a woman being one. They are least suspected to be the bombers because we just don't "see" them as being heartless and stupid.

FemaleCSGradStudent said...

I think it's the combination of woman and child that suggests that it wasn't a suicide bomber, not the woman alone.

Since the first known female suicide bomber in Lebanon in 1985, there have been an increasing number of women participating in these acts of violence. In Sri Lanka, for example, almost 40% of suicide acts are performed by women. There are many factors that contribute to this increase.

First, the cultures in which we see female suicide bombers are those in which the women are generally bound to the home. In an effort to combat the gender inequity and prove themselves as worthy in battle as men, women volunteer for suicide bombing missions since their physical performance cannot equal that of a male's.

Second, women can get away with it more because of social prejudices. They are not subject as often to security checks as men, especially when disguised as pregnant women.

Other women become suicide bombers because they cannot have children and are thereby "worthless" in their society. In many cases in Sri Lanka, the women had been raped and therefore their status as women nullified. They can't redeem their status, but they can die for a good cause. This is so much the case that even families encourage their raped daughters to join the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

In some cases, women volunteer within the organization. In others, the women are selected soon after being established as a member of the organization because they are deemed not good for much else by thge leaders of the organization.

Women can be suicide bombers just as much as men. Unfortunately, many of the reasons that they are becoming suicide bombers are due to the same gender inequity issues that already exist in their societies. I don't think that we should lament that people assume she wasn't a suicide bomber.