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April 7, 2003

I’m sorry, but entirely separate from my feelings about the wisdom of this war, these photographs look to me like something out of Gene Wolfe.

If the Seventh Infantry Regiment were storming Nessus, it would look like this.

It is possible we already have some presentiment of our future. [09:13 PM]

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Comments on I'm sorry,:

michael weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2003, 10:55 PM:

It's 10:30pm on a Monday night and I just traveled down to 14th Street from 86th Street on the subway. At every express stop, I saw one or two National Guardsmen with their M16s or whatever they are slung at they sides.

At 14th Street, I'd had enough. As I was heading for the exit to the station, I saw a very attractive young woman and a very attractive young man standing there in their Nat. Guard uni's with their M16s slung down. I went up to them and said, jeez, you know, you and I are fellow Americans and I've seen the subway system crawling with you National Guard types tonight, and I was just wondering under what circumstances are you supposed to start banging away at us with those M16s.

"Pataki called us out. That's all you need to know, sir. Keep moving."

"Yeah but, me and you guys are fellow American citizens. Surely you can tell me under what circumstances you are supposed to start banging away with those things in the subway stations."

"We've told you all you need to know, sir. Keep moving."

I really felt that if I pursued this line of questioning, my next stop was Guantanamo.

All I wanted to know was under what circumstances the National Guardsmen I had seen in the subway stops would start firing their M16s. I asked them again, as fellow American Citizens to tell me, but I was told again to move along. This is not something I am allowed to know, apparently.

I remarked that this was like Beirut, but they were not impressed. I rather got the impression they didn't know where Beirut was, or what it meant, but I suppose I can't blame them for that. They did look about 16 years old.

Sorry. I know I don't have the right attitude. I did more or less assume my fellow American citizens could give me the information I wanted, but I see now I was not cooperating with the program. I was not satisified with all the information somebody had decided I needed to know, but I see now I should have been.

These kids scare me. Even though I know I'm supposed to feel safer whenever I see them.

I don't blame them, of course. They are just doing what they are told.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 12:38 AM:

I'm sure they were just following the script they'd been given.

Glory to the Group of Seventeen.

Marna ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 12:39 AM:

You know, I have a great urge to agree with you wholeheartedly. Because I mostly do, you have every right to get that question answered.

But I have a lurking suspicion that you really did ask the wrong people and that they really ARE doing their jobs.

It's not a great idea for men and women on duty like that to allow themselves to get into ANY conversations. With anyone.

Now, if you ask Pataki's office and get told you don't need to know, that's another thing.

Marna again ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 12:49 AM:

I should have said, if you actually want the answer.

If you're doing a bit of intervention, trying to get the Guards themselves to think about what they're doing, what you did was pretty much spot-on.

But I can see both sides, a bit -- from their perspective, you could have been trying to get them tangled up in conversation to create a distraction, and that's something they're not supposed to allow.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 01:24 AM:

I'm wondering what those palaces will be used for.

Shopping malls?

Baghdad branches of Bechtel and Halliburton?

Residences of the next autocratic prick to sieze power?

Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 08:41 AM:

You know, I see the Guardsmen in Grand Central chatting with everyone, all the time. They all bunch up with the cops in the main concourse, over by one of the ticket areas.

Only twice have I seen them spread out a bit.

Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 09:44 AM:

Stefan, the autocratic prick currently seizing power in Iraq already has a fine, large white house, in a much better neighborhood.

The palaces will probably be used by the autocratic pricks sent over to exercise the power which was seized.

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 10:00 AM:

I don't mean to sound peevish, but the UK editions of New Sun (through Nessus' link) seem to have nicer covers than the US (which were picked up from the original Pocket Book editions).


Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 02:14 PM:

I dunno Patrick, my first impression of those photos -- with the HVAC entrails dripping from the ceilings, the large halls, and the over-the-top architecture -- was that the 7th had made a wrong turn somewhere and had shelled the Aladdin in Las Vegas.

I kept expecting to see the wreckage of Pai Gao Poker tables and slot machines in there.

Perhaps the Autarch, Saddam, and Steve Winn are the same person?

sinboy ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 02:43 PM:

This photo [link] has to be the most chilling I've seen. It's a picture of a Baathist party member giving guns to his daughters.

Look at the smiles on everyone's faces.

Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 03:35 PM:

That photo looks a lot like something you'd see in Texas. Not particularly chilled about the smiles. Slightly chilled by the lack of gun safety involved in the pose, but am assuming the gun was unloaded and safetied.

As I've remarked elsewhere, Saddam's palaces look a lot like a cross between a high class casino crossed with an opera house--which wouldn't be a bad function for many of them.

Salam Pax on his blog remarked that he hoped that the one by the Tigris would become a university, and it looks like a pretty building well laid out for that.

I suspect that they'll use one in Basra and one in Bagdad as the local governor's mansions (after getting some furniture for the one in Basra) then refurbish the others into universities, museums and hotels. The casino thing will have to wait until Bagdad is settled enough to start bringing in the tourists, at which point it could become quite profitable.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 09:59 PM:

John, I like our covers better, but then I would, since the basic idea was mine.

I also happen to think the original Maitz paintings, which appeared on the Pocket Books first editions, are very strong, among the best work Maitz has ever done.

Then again, in my contrarian way, I often think American SF and fantasy covers are better than British ones. British genre packaging is often "classier," more dignified, less embarrassingly genre-ish, and, uh, well, duller.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 10:26 PM:

Patrick, you saw the invasion of Nessus. I, on the other hand, last night while playing poker in a public cardroom that has TV monitors on every wall (half showing the Giants game and the other half showing CNN's feed of live video from Baghdad provided by Abu Dhabi television) was taken by the image of a US tank, creeping onto a bridge across the Tigris. It's an armored artillery piece on tractor treads, not a tripod with a heat ray; but I was reminded of nothing so much as a Martian fighting machine out of H.G. Wells.

(War of the Worlds was inspired by Kitchner's expedition to the Sudan. I wonder quite how much of Western military attitude towards middle-eastern adventures has been colored by that campaign.)

Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2003, 11:36 PM:

Another alternate use for at least one of the palaces (found this on The Hillbilly Sophisticate):

Six Flags Baghdad
Off the topic, but this quote in an AP article about soldiers go through one of Saddam's palaces cracks me up: "'This used to be a nice place, they should make it like a Six Flags, or something,' said Spc. Robert Blake, 20, of State College, Pa., and the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry."

("The topic" lately on her blog being Jessica Lynch and the media circus in Wirt County, WV, which is where "S" is also from.)

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2003, 09:03 AM:

British genre packaging is often "classier," more dignified, less embarrassingly genre-ish, and, uh, well, duller.

What's frightening about that, Patrick, I just realized, is...that may be why I like it...and (even more frightening) that may be what's wrong with my fiction.

(Uh-oh dept.)

Kate Y. ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2003, 12:22 PM:

Hmph. The NY Times won't show me the photos in question (your primary link) without a fuss. (Sign in! It's Free! Name! Password! etc.) The link in Sinboy's comment goes straight through.


Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 11:37 AM:

Kate: Try username: cypherpunks, password: cypherpunks.

kla. ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2003, 12:47 PM:

My family gets the NYT delivered. This photo was featured either on the front page or on the front of the "Nation at War" section. I was rather disturbed by it. Though I'm sure the soldiers are exhausted and deserve a break, it made me think of nothing so mush as a conquering army. It projected an image of America taking over Saddam's position in Iraq and behaving just as oppressively, rather than the coallition coming to free Iraqis from a sadistic oppressor. Perhaps I am being oversentitive, but the image bothered me nonetheless.