Tuesday, March 08, 2005

So I wonder if that "scummy little book" Nicholson Baker published last year was ever translated into Italian. I think it might seem sort of timely in Italy right now.

The book was a novel in the form of a two-character conversation. The title was Checkpoint.

...JAY: It was that thing I read on the Net, the news story. I was so awful.

BEN: About what?

JAY: It was in the
Sydney Morning Herald.

BEN: Sydney, Australia?

JAY: Yes.

BEN: What was the story?

JAY: Oh, it was about this checkpoint, and, um. I don't want to -- oh, it was a thing that happened, that nobody would have ever wanted to happen. But it happened, and it made me so mad. So mad at him.

BEN: Why don't you tell me.

JAY: It was just an event. Well. Okay. There were a bunch of Army guys there and this Land Rover drove toward them. It was filled with a family, they were fleeing. Many children. Everybody was jammed into this car, and they were trying to get out of the war zone.

BEN: Okay.

JAY: And they waved, and somebody at the checkpoint misinterpreted the wave, and so there was a huge blast of fire, and one of the women in the car, the mother, she said, "I saw the --" Sorry.

BEN: It's okay.

JAY: She said, "I saw the heads --" Pull myself together.

BEN: It's all right.

JAY: She said, "I saw the heads of my two little girls come off." That's what she fucking said. I'm not kidding you, man. "My two little girls." That's what she fucking said. Can you imagine it? You're just trying to get your family out of a war zone? Your farm's already been blasted by helicopters, and then a bunch of guys in Kevlar open fire on your kids, and you see that happen? Ho, God.

BEN: That's bad.

JAY: Liberators. Such bullshit. It's just one event. The grandfather was killed, too. You know what he had on? He was wearing a pin-striped suit so that he would look more American. Ho, man. Ho, man. And that
creep, that fucking Texas punk, who can't even talk, with his drugged-out eyes, he brought us to this point, to this war, and for nothing, for not one red fucking thing....

Here's the Sydney Morning Herald story Jay talks about. (If you can't get it to load, you can probably get it via this Google search; it's the first result.) The story's from April 2003. Now, Rowan Scarborough insists in today's Washington Times that

Mistaken shootings of civilians resulted in "few deadly incidents" since the U.S. started checkpoints in March 2003, according to [an internal Pentagon] memo.

However, William Langewiesche, writing in the November 2004 Atlantic, begs to differ:

If there was one remaining road rule in Iraq, it was to stay well behind [U.S. military] patrols, because of the understandable tendency of American soldiers to fire back indiscriminately when attacked. There are many stories, glossed over in official reports, of innocent Iraqis who were shredded in their cars because they happened to drive too close to a patrol that had been bombed or fired upon. Sometimes entire families died that way.

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