Sex, Iraq, and pop culture

By ELLEE DEAN  |  January 11, 2007

But what does he know?

In his book The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, Princeton’s Bernard Lewis, a Near Eastern–studies professor emeritus, writes that America’s general level of knowledge in the subject of history is “abysmally low.” (Does Lewis know that our general knowledge of “Brangelina” is galactically high?)

Here, I offer a humble list of resources on the Iraq War. Lewis’s book is on the list. But not every source is written by a professor emeritus; I paid my dues to pop culture and threw in an anonymous graffiti “art terrorist,” as well as a female Iraqi blogger. Read over the list. Suggest more in the comments section if you know about them. Like I said, “What do I think about the war in Iraq?” I think, “What do I know, anyhow?”

The art
Banksy — There is an elephant in the room, and curiously, she is painted red and gold to match the chintzy wallpaper. (Now, she’s eating hay and wagging her tail in 30-second clips on YouTube.) The elephant was part of self-proclaimed “art terrorist” Banksy’s three-day vandalized-warehouse exhibition in Los Angeles. The Brit graffiti artist has also vandalized the Met and MoMA, where his art remained in the museums’ collections for two hours, and for six days, respectively.

In addition to the elephant, Bansky has stenciled little boys with pails and shovels digging palm-tree-and-blue-sky scapes on the Israeli West Bank barrier at the Bethlehem and Ramallah checkpoints — a location Bansky describes as the “world’s largest open-air prison and the ultimate activity-holiday destination for graffiti artists.” His viewpoint on the war: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And people in glass cities shouldn’t fire missiles.” Banksy’s person remains anonymous. His book War and Piece does not.

G.B. Trudeau — Well, there’s Peace Out, Dawg!, Got War?, The War Years (Anthology), The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time, The War Within: One More Step at a Time, and Heckuva Job, Bushie! Something of a cartoon fix.

In his strips, Trudeau follows former Vietnam vet B.D., who volunteered for Vietnam to get out of writing a term paper and lost his leg in the war in Iraq. And, after 35 five years, the cartoon character has also lost his helmet. Rolling Stone ran the picture of B.D. sans helmet on its cover. From political cartoon cover-stories to I’m From Rolling Stone?

Steve Mumford — Mumford is an American who traveled to Iraq, as well as the author of Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq. The New York–based artist’s drawings and paintings render war’s ordinary side; my particular favorite is Miller Lite Catfight Girls posing with US troops. (Joe Millionaire flew in with the girls on Blackhawks.) Mumford also keeps a journal. Most passages are similar to this one about the Catfight Girls:

“They weren’t all that hot, man. The blonde, she had thick ankles,” says Martinez.

“You fucking crazy, man? You haven’t seen a civilian girl in six months and you’re criticizing her ankles?!” says Jimenez.

“I’m telling you, man, I’m picky. Now, my wife’s got nice ankles.”

Mumford’s work can also be found online at artnet.com.

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