Sunday, October 31, 2004

Kafka Goes To Iraq

A kid from New Zealand with more ideals than brains shows up in Iraq and gets taken into custody for, you know, looking foreign. Thanks to him, we get an inside view of even more idiocy in the rollicking barrel of laughs I'm coming to think of as the 51st state:
When Andreas Schafer was released from a prison in Iraq earlier this year, the Iraqi police apologized abjectly for having inconvenienced him for three months. They made sure he knew that if ever he wanted to get back at the arresting officer by, say, slaying the man's brother, it would be all right by them. And he could expect not to be prosecuted for the crime.
And even the translator exhibited some staggeringly incompetent interrogation tactics. "He said to me, 'I'm going to write something here in Arabic, and you're going to tell me what it says.'" Schafer replied that he did not speak Arabic. The translator belted out a triumphant "Aha!" and asked how Schafer knew the word was Arabic, rather than Persian or Urdu, both of which use a similar script. "You told me it was Arabic," Schafer said. Later the translator yelled a word in Arabic and looked for traces of comprehension on Schafer's face. Schafer again told him that he did not speak Arabic. One more triumphant gotcha later, he asked again how Schafer knew the shout was Arabic. Schafer pointed out that they were, after all, in Iraq

"They didn't know the languages. They didn't know the culture at all, and you could see it just from the way they presented themselves around Iraqis," Schafer says. The failing most relevant to Schafer was the Americans' failing of imagination. "They cannot imagine that someone would come to a country less pleasant than their own, unless they're invading it or have got a really good job."
And he's from a country that's part of the Coalition of the Willing. Thank heaven he wasn't French.


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