Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bring your own flak jacket: Helpful tips for touring today's Middle East....

Well I'm back home from the Middle East and after spending my latest trip living in the Kuwait City airport Starbucks while waiting for a promised embed in Iraq that never came through (and, yes, I'm still really pissed off about that one!), I don't seem to be all that much worse for wear from the trip -- aside from a sore throat, a runny nose and a maxed-out bank account. But I also need to revise my book. I need to add a chapter entitled "Kuwait on Five Dollars a Day".

Guess what, guys. A more realistic title would be "Kuwait on 500 Dollars a Day". Kuwait is EXPENSIVE! In fact everywhere you travel these days, any place in the world, everything is expensive -- as expensive as it is to stay home.

So. Money is an issue with me right now. Is it an issue with you too? If your answer is yes, I'm not surprised. And if your answer is no, then you are one of the lucky ones. You can afford to go out and buy my book. Good for you.

When I got back to Berkeley, I found that Peter Barus had written a review of my book. This is a wonderful review! I will be forever grateful. Thanks, Peter. Please read this review and then go out and buy my book so that I can pay my rent, buy food, etc. (of course), but also so I can afford to go back to the Middle East and bring you even more news from the Kuwait City airport Starbucks! And from the North Korea Starbucks too. I plan to go on Global Exchange's tour of North Korea in April. Sign up yourself and come on along.

Do you think they'll have a Starbucks at the Pyongyang airport?

Here's the review:

Don't look for Jane Stillwater on Charlie Rose: she is not sitting around doing talk shows and flogging her book. She is, at this writing, stuck in Kuwait at the Starbucks in the airport, after the 'embed' she had been granted by the US Government was rescinded.

'Bring Your Own Flak Jacket' is a heart-rending book about what American policy has really done to the Middle East. Ms. Stillwater went to Palestine, Mecca, Iraq and other places to see first-hand what is going on, and being a woman, a grandmother and a Muslim, and having a certain gift for connecting with ordinary folks, she has been able to provide a view of life in the war zones of the Middle East that most reporters never see, and fewer will trouble to write about.

Living with Palestinians, making her own Hajj, and embedding herself with military and civilian people in Iraq, she brings us into the intimate lives of ordinary people living under the most terrifying conditions of foreign occupation. We learn what it is like to be bombed and shot at, to have no running water or access to medical care, to live under worse-than-Apartheid conditions, to be a refugee in one's own homeland.

Jane Stillwater takes us into the private places where women struggle to maintain their families against frightening odds, day after day for years on end. Speaking as only a grandparent living on very modest means can speak, she opens hearts and minds for us that no other media source has bothered to ask: the hearts and minds of ordinary people living under brutal oppression, the source of which is in Washington, D.C.

This courageous journalist was present when the Iraqi Parliament was bombed, and interviewed wounded officials while the dust and debris from the blast was still hanging in the air. Despite obstruction from U.S. officials, she has gone where no man has gone before to bring us the real human facts from under our own guns.

Stillwater's free, authentic, conversational writing style is disarming and engaging, and made this reader understand -- no, feel intensely -- the unimaginable pain of life in places my own country has made a vast ruin. Through her spare descriptions of fact, we come to know people as they are: so like ourselves, so like our own families, that it brings up outrage and calls us to action.

Don't read this book if you do not want to become a writer of letters to legislators and newspapers, a blogger, a marcher, a thorn in your Congressperson's side, or anything you can discover that you think will make a difference. Stillwater will connect you to the rest of our world, heart to heart, and there is no getting over it.

Reading 'Bring Your Own Flak Jacket', you will understand that the title refers not only to the armor Stillwater had to buy for herself in Iraq, but to the other kind of armor you will have to acquire when you realize what a constant torrent of assaults on reason, democracy, justice and truth we are subjected to daily about how necessary it is that we fund all this horror in the name of fear. Buy this book, and extra copies for everyone you know, and get your flak jacket on. It is your duty as a responsible human being. Jane Stillwater has provided the courage and the insight there are no more excuses for blissful ignorance.

PS: My book is available at http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Your-Own-Flak-Jacket/dp/0978615719 or you can special order it at any independent bookstore.

PPS: The Pentagon still owes me $1,775 for Breach of Promise. Humph.