i left for baghdad thinking i would see something far different than i did. i thought i would be going to see someone getting their head blown off by a howitzer. instead it was a lobotomization conducted by surgeons from a far-away land.

i decided to go, probably, during the second week of the war, when my frustration with the western media had hit a boiling point. it was during the second week that al-jazeera was banned from the NYSE and told by the british to censor its imagery. meanwhile their ratings were skyrocketing and they laughed through a 10-fold increase in viewers while being surreptitiously bombed in baghdad (by american shells). but mistakes happen, people dont get along and wasn't it a war, anyway?

it was on day 12 when US Army Central Command was calling the invasion of iraq a "decapitation technique" and all i could think of were pain killers on the shelves in a Santa Monica Safeway. i mean, i was sitting in a living room in colombo, sri lanka with my swollen foot propped up in front of the television, and so pain killers were on my mind those days. but really (now) the war in iraq is neither a head nor a headache. if anything it was a great demonstration by the United States of how undemocratically we can behave. if the United Nations is a democratic institution established for avoiding warfare - one that is international - then the US did, indeed, do a great job of making it obsolete by running so contrary to its democratic standards and establishing a culture of "pre-emption."

but after seeing iraq i cant help but wonder if it was the right choice. if only because the iraqis seem to be so damn glad to be rid of saddam. war is, after all, an argument that the ends justify whatever means necessary. and this clearly meant "Necessary."

papers said riots were breaking out and that mars was rising over a bloody capital with an american flag tattooed on his chest. people told me the iraqis were hateful of the americans, that the entire middle east was a hornetís nest, and that if i went iíd be killed on the spot by mobs of marauding moors with machetes. i was advised by my government to stay away. i was advised by friends to stay away. strangers told me i was foolish, reckless, and (best of all) ďamericanĒ but i still didnít know what had happened; the news was all heresay and alterior, and since i wanted to find out i went. somehow the pieces of the puzzle had to fit together.

i dont think it ever did. but what i did find, in the four places i visited, was a cultural transplant of intense proportion: