Monday, April 12, 2004

War (What is it good for?)
Iraq was on the front page of the SZ Daily four out of five times last week and it'll be front page again today because seven Chinese civilians became the latest foreigners to be kidnapped in Iraq when they were abducted by an armed group yesterday. The word swept quickly through the newsroom Monday morning and I have to admit with both feelings of smugness and guilt that Dylan's mocking, taunting "How does it feeel?" line from Like a Rolling Stone was also sweeping through my head.
You see, I've been getting a bit weary of both the thinly veiled anti-American sentiment frequently expressed by third-in-command Paul when he barely contains his glee about the latest U.S. setback in Iraq and I've also gotten tired of the sincere-but-naive "How do you feel?" questions from simpatico Chinese pals and coworkers concerning the same issue.
How the fuck am I supposed to feel? I want to retort. Yes, it's shaping up as another Vietnam. Very clever anaylysis on your part. Many Americans and Europeans predicted that before the war began. No, I'm not happy or proud of it, but it's not my doing and if I'm still here in November, I'll be voting for Kerry via absentee ballot. Meanwhile, it makes me sick to see history repeating itself.
My irritation though, pales in comparison to that of another, more distinguished journalism expat in Beijing, a J-school prof named Joseph Bosco who blogs on a site called Longbow Papers ( who, in his words, "took great umbrage at four extremely graphic images of the four (American) civilians murdered, mutilated, dismembered, and hung in Fallujah, Iraq, which China Daily chose to put on the front page of Thursday's English language print edition. From the hate e-mail that has been pouring in, one would think I had called for the desecration of Mao's tomb."
His blogged outrage was answered by a slew of annonymous e-mails from Chinese blog readers, a couple of which I reproduce here verbatim:
"America, Shame On You!
"You invade other's country for oil. Now the dead is just for justice.
"Nothing related to china daily. If you don't want to work in china, go out!
"China Daily is just publish the news.
"Shame on you America!


"A raper went to other people's house without
"authorization and tries to rape a woman. Unfortuntely
"he gets killed. Looks you strongly supportly the raper.
"Let's see if the raper goes to your home. what's your feeling.
"Shame on you and brainless comments
"A Guest
"XX Liu"
As it happens, foreign barbarian coworker Jeff and I successfully argued at the time against the SZ Daily using the same picture on our front page. It's tasteless, we pointed out over Paul's objections that it "only showed the truth."
"What if those were Chinese bodies?" I asked. "Would you print it?" The concept was completely foreign to him, it was clear. After all, China is the largest power that has opposed the U.S. war in Iraq and he couldn't comprehend any scenario involving fellow countrymen. Though it was also front page news later when three Japanese civilians working in Iraq were kidnapped and threatened with gruesome deaths unless Japan withdraws its troops from Iraq, in his mind, and those of other Chinese who can't get over WWII and the rape of Nanjing, it's only Japan's just desserts for once again sending armed forces outside its borders.
But China? Mao and Deng forbid. That karma will never happen.
At the time, he didn't answer my question. He simply ignored it as many Chinese seem to do when faced with having to respond to a potentially embarrassing query or retort. Though he might have the opportunity to rethink it soon. But I'm sincerely hoping he doesn't.

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