March 21, 2003

A Beautiful Morning for a War

The story of a woman on the morning of a war/
Tell me if you could exactly what we're fighting for

– The Red Hot Chili Peppers

This morning I woke up real early and practiced my minimal wu shu. It promised to be a beautiful day the urban rooster gang was already crowing, the sun was crawling across my floor and the breeze lifted the smell of the city out and away. I strolled quickly down the street and smiled to myself as, for once, the sun seemed to be able to fend off the fog and pollution and find its way to the streets.

I noticed people were outside in chairs sipping tea and chatting to themselves. Everybody had a paper in hand or a TV propped up in the doorway of whichever store it is they happen to run. The neighborhood sidewalk doctors were out on the curb smoking and reading the paper.

As I walked passed the second or third group of people, I realized that more than just sunlight had brought the people out into the streets. The radios proclaimed it, the televisions showed footage of it and the papers heralded its coming.

The war had begun.

On the bus ride to the office, the locals stared at me as they always do. Perhaps more than usual, perhaps not.

On the taxi ride to the Public Security Bureau to drop off my visa extension application, I heard Bush's speech as it was being translated word for word by Sichuan Radio. I heard the man speak of Saddam's "final atrocity," using his people as "human shields." I wondered if it was by choice that the Iraqi Army was surrounded by women and children. Wasn't it the Americans who said "No place in Baghdad is safe?" Then I heard the new term "coalition forces" which has replaced "coalition of the willing."

I despise government in general and the current US administration more than most, but rarely do I get a true nauseous feeling when someone speaks.

When I arrived back at the office, CNN was being beamed in by CCTV 4 and we were treated to CNN graphics showing a calm Baghdad with commentary translated on the spot describing attacks on "targets of opportunity" and "leadership targets."

Nobody said much, today is a busy day. The weekend is coming and Friday is notorious for being "part of the Sichuan weekend." My bar opens tonight.

Last night we expats and a few Chinese spoke wearily about MOABS and Daisy Cutters and what the reaction might be when those bombs start falling on little girls like Thuraya, whose letter has made it into the mainstream media due to the efforts of Voices in the Wilderness or Iraq Peace Team and Antiwar.com.

While the world rocked the airwaves and pages of the mainstream media in the past few months with protests marches and superb displays China went about its business. Hong Kong protests were limited to several hundred people and the coverage of the SCMP reflected the turnout. I've heard of a few sit-ins planned Beijing University and in Nanjing, but nothing that will lend Chinese voices to the cacophony Bush is trying to silence with his "decapitation attacks" of 3000 missiles and bombs.

Perhaps pragmatic Chinese believed that war was inevitable and the effects minimal to the mainland, especially after oil prices rebounded and the stock markets breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally decided that the killing would indeed begin soon.

Guilty?

Do all those who go about their lives today leave drops of blood in their wake? Is writing a column once a week, drumming a theme to death and digging up new and ever more ominous signs of our leaders' duplicity, greed and callousness enough to keep the blood off of my keyboard?

The levels of devotion to oneself vis a vis the world are so disparate one girl closes her eyes and thinks of home as the bulldozer runs her over, one man pours himself onto page after page of paper and then goes to the bar and drinks, a city basks in the sun and sips tea as another is turned to dust.

I wonder what my good friend working for Kellogg, Brown and Root building walls around the US Consulate thinks of the whole affair. He actually served in the first Gulf War. He elucidated on the pinpoint "decapitation attacks" that the US is unleashing on the huddling masses in order to keep the "world" safe from Saddam.

Can any American alive understand what it must feel like to be "softened up" for 30 days by MOABS and B-52s and Tomahawks and the such?

It's still a beautiful day out and it is fast approaching time for me to get on with my life here and serve beer to my fellow expats and my Chinese friends. Its time for us all to laugh and play and discuss the business opportunities in Chengdu, the best ways to get that F Business visa, the nicest apartments for the cheapest prices, who is throwing what party where for whom and perhaps even the war that began today.

The war that sent Foreign Correspondents scurrying across borders for $800 to $1000 a ride.

The war that will rob Thuraya of whatever dreams she had, Americans of whatever safety they had, the West of any unity it may have had and the world of any stability it may have had.

–Sascha Matuszak
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Sascha Matuszak is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily, and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column (usually) appears Fridays.

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