Jewish World Review March 25, 2003 /21 Adar II, 5763

Stanley Crouch

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New Yorkers know why we are fighting this war --- sadly | MANHATTAN As New Yorkers, we have a much better understanding of what is going on over there in Iraq than most of those who defend the war effort or revile it. Two falls ago, we walked through the valley of the shadow of death, some of us covered by the dust that rose in a storm when the twin towers went down. We know all about civilian casualties, suspense and hoping for news that is never gotten, for a voice that is never heard again, for a human form that will never be seen again, a touch that will never again be felt.

Sept. 11 was not a television show to us. We did not think we were looking at special effects. It was not news. It was beyond interpretation. It summarized nothing. It told us nothing academic. It was all feeling.

We came to appreciate much more deeply our firefighters, our cops, our rescue workers. All the pictures stuck on walls, the memorials, the funerals and funerals and funerals remade the soul of our town and proved both its durability and its capacity for compassion and deep sorrow.

We learned the thing that everyone who is ever in the middle of an event learns. No matter how good the technology might be, the motion picture of television cameras can never capture the human essences of the events that become our history. What we see are mobile shadows, versions of what happened, never what really goes on. Anyone who has ever seen a great athlete perform in person knows that the cameras never actually capture the power or the scale or the human presence. They give us no more than electronic versions, which we agree to accept as the events.

Now we are seeing versions of the fighting and the bombing going on in Iraq. We will see a version of victory and we will see versions of how much we are hated throughout the Islamic world, and we will be told that we should not have done what we have done and that we should have never backed Israel, or something along those lines. But just as what happened Sept. 11 was part of a bigger plan, we are surely watching a grand strategy at work, one intended to send messages to countries that might have reason to fear our wrath.

From a purely emotional standpoint, however, we New Yorkers understand something of what the civilian population of Iraq feels. We also understand the feeling of horror experienced in Israel when some suicidal murderer achieves his end.

We should know that, among the Arabs and people like Patrick Buchanan, there is the feeling that the whole thing is about making Israel the region's strongest military power. In the long run, however, as Richard Nixon once pointed out, the Arabs will not forever be incapable of harnessing their numbers and putting up a strong and deadly fight. A deal will have to be made. As residents of the capital of deal-making, we surely understand that, too.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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