Battlepanda: The Melanin advantage


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Melanin advantage

"The melanine advantage" is what American journalist Nir Rosen calls his ability to pass for Iraqi (his father is Iranian) with dark humor:
Americans, led to believe that their soldiers and Marines would be welcomed as liberators by the Iraqi people, have no idea what the occupation is really like from the perspective of Iraqis who endure it. Although I am American, born and raised in New York City, I came closer to experiencing what it might feel like to be Iraqi than many of my colleagues. I often say that the secret to my success in Iraq as a journalist is my melanin advantage. I inherited my Iranian father’s Middle Eastern features, which allowed me to go unnoticed in Iraq, blend into crowds, march in demonstrations, sit in mosques, walk through Falluja’s worst neighborhoods.

My skin color and language skills allowed me to relate to the American occupier in a different way, for he looked at me as if I were just another haji, the “gook” of the war in Iraq. I first realized my advantage in April 2003, when I was sitting with a group of American soldiers and another soldier walked up and wondered what this haji (me) had done to get arrested by them. Later that summer I walked in the direction of an American tank and heard one soldier say about me, “That’s the biggest fuckin’ Iraqi (pronounced eye-raki) I ever saw.” A soldier by the gun said, “I don’t care how big he is, if he doesn’t stop movin’ I’m gonna shoot him.”

I was lucky enough to have an American passport in my pocket, which I promptly took out and waved, shouting: “Don’t shoot! I’m an American!” It was my first encounter with hostile American checkpoints but hardly my last, and I grew to fear the unpredictable American military, which could kill me for looking like an Iraqi male of fighting age. Countless Iraqis were not lucky enough to speak American English or carry a U.S. passport, and often entire families were killed in their cars when they approached American checkpoints.
There's five pages of this stuff, and the bad shit unrolls like a nightmare -- midnight raids, indiscriminate arrests, inhumane treatment of prisoners and a pervasive attitude that the Iraqis need to be terrorized into compliance, an attitude fed by fear and miscommunication.

How do I even react to this stuff anymore? I can't say that I'm shocked, because that would imply an element of surprise. I can't say that I'm saddened, because that does not encompass the swelling rage I feel that these injustices are being prepertrated in my name. I hope the right-wingers who constantly berate liberal bloggers like me for lacking in patriotism are happy, because today, they're absolutely right. It'll take a special kind of mind to read Rosen's article and react with an hearty "America, fuck yeah!"

I'm not sure any right-wingers, certainly not any raging wingnuts, read my blog regularly. But some surf through occasionally, and I'll save them the trouble of typing out (or perhaps copying and pasting) their rabid little comments -- don't you dare suggest, that because I blog about American brutality, that I am somehow disloyal or on the side of the insurgents. Let me just say this once -- it's a big deal because we're supposed to be the good guys. The Right is always excoriating liberals for "moral relativism", but it seems that moral relativism comes quite naturally to them when it comes to excusing our behavior. American soldiers behaving badly, you say? Not when you compare their behavior relative to the insurgents. Iraqis not happy with living under the thumb of the American military? Well, we saved them from having to live under the thumb of Saddam Hussein, the Most Evilest Man in the World (tm), so they should just shut the fuck up.