Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Just Like Being in Baghdad"

We're seeing news reports about widespread looting, carjackings, and other bad behavior along the Gulf Coast. Of course, some people are thugs even under normal conditions, and conditions are certainly far from "normal" in places like New Orleans. It's flooded, it's hot, there's no electricity, there's no clean water to drink; none of the "little things" we all take for granted are available. Buildings are devastated, wreckage and debris are lying around everywhere. It is, perhaps, not surprising that many, many people -- over and above the small number whom you would classify as your "regular" thugs -- are behaving thuggishly.

I heard -- read, actually, in closed-captioning while exercising this morning -- one of the teevee news talkers saying, "It's like being in Baghdad." It got me to thinking.

There are the obvious parallels: widespread devastation, lack of basic amenities such as running water and electrical power, massive dislocation from anything that could be thought of as "normal" life. But let's suppose that the people of New Orleans were experiencing their city in this sort of condition not as a result of the impersonal forces of nature, but because of military action: massive bombardment from the air and invasion over the land. Now let's suppose that instead of police officers on the streets, these Southern Louisianans found soldiers of the same invading power who'd done the deed in the first place. Let's further suppose that these soldiers were conducting house-to-house searches for rebellious natives, and might burst into any remaining home at any time, throw the occupants down to the floor, hold them there, and handcuff them with those oversized plastic cable ties, screaming curses at them all the while. All official news sources would be making happy-talk about how the invaders were actually liberators, there to plant the seeds of some unfamiliar form of government -- let's call it "syndicalist mercantilism" or some such -- but in real life, all these Louisianans would see were more checkpoints, more arbitrary arrests and indefinite detentions, more ordinary civilians being machine-gunned at checkpoints in alleged "accidents," and so on.

We could go on, and add grinding poverty even before the invasion as a result of a decade-and-a-half of a crippling "sanctions" regime and so forth, but you get the idea.

My question, O American Reader: if you were a resident of that New Orleans under those conditions, is there any chance that you might become an "insurgent?" Any chance you might sneak out and plant an IED beside the invaders' military convoy routes? D'you think?

"Like being in Baghdad," indeed.

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