Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Remembering Nuha Al-Radi
By the end of her brilliant, provocative diary chronicling both US invasions in Iraq, Nuha Al-Radi's prose takes on a new tone. Her entries become much more topical, political, taking on a sense of urgency that her previous journaling on quotidienne life did not possess. Al-Radi has become a nomad, an expatriate wandering the globe exhibiting her visual and literary arts. At once, she ponders her place in the world, with the help of a lecture given by Edward Said, as an aging artist. The morbidity of this thought is overwhelming for any being invested in the creation of art. As a writer, I find it unbearable that my time on this earth is limited, that my perspective will dwell only within this small cubicle of history that I am destined to inhabit. I feel reflective in this way after having learned that Al-Radi is no longer with us. She succombed to leukemia in 2004, a self-fulfilling prophecy that she predicted throughout her writing on the war. Though I have been intimate with her for only these past few weeks through her diary, I feel deeply the space she leaves behind.
As the author became more aware of her own mortality, she invigorated her prose. The end of the diary offers a wealth of wisdom on the general horrors of war augmented by a studious attention to world affairs. She also becomes more overtly angry with the nation of Israel. I find myself equally livid. It is unfathomable to me that we share this earth with human beings who say things like, "The 'missiles will destroy everything that makes life in Baghdad liveable...We want them to quit; we want them not to fight...You take the city down...You have the simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima -- not taking days or weeks, but minutes'"(407). Thus spoke Harlan Ullman in regards to the technique of "shock and awe" employed in our current conflict. The overt comparison to Hiroshima is what disturbs me most deeply. Imagine a leader proposing some other grand concept and prefacing it with, "rather like the Jewish Holocaust" or "rather like the Salem Witch Trials." Perhaps Al-Radi is right when she claims that no one has learned anything from history.
Hiroshima in mind, I feel that many, myself included, are ignorant to the environmental effects of the bombs dropped on Iraq during the two US invasions. Al-Radi speaks often of depleted uranium, cancer on the rise, innumerable children born with defects. Her own demise came at the hand of these contaminants left behind, the detritus of war. What have we gained from such destruction? What do we, as a nation, have to show for our arrogant escapades in the Middle East? Rubble. Murdered civilians. Entire landscapes, water sources poisoned. A slew of young American boys crippled and disfigured. I mourn for our brave and determined troops abroad. I mourn for the fate of our nation caught in deceit.
**Image excerpted from an artwork by Al-Radi.