The cats of war
Like altogether too many of us, I confess to having reached a plateau of protective disinterest when it comes to the gritty details of the war in Iraq. The NPR reports on the numbers, attendant names, allegations and their deflections increasingly dissolve into a background of road noise, leaving much of this meticulously researched information unassimilated—essentially rejected by my subconscious mind, I assume.
In the face of these four years of relentless media bombardment, Sunday morning’s New York Times managed a surgical strike right into the heart of the cognitive dissonance most of us harbor when it comes to the war’s very real toll. It did so with a Week In Review article on a cat’s eye view of the war, a brilliantly written and subtly soulful piece on the ravages of war.
Written by a Times correspondent, one John F. Burns, the article swirls with compelling personal anecdotes on the lives of Green Zone cats (alternately sweet, funny and self-effacing), details on the feline effect on journalistic morale (predictably rousing), and a discussion of military policy on cat-soldier interaction (none allowed for reasons of disease and the untoward effects of humanity on local feline populations).
Ultimately, this seemingly incongruous mix somehow comes together to paint a miniature portrait of what life is like in Baghdad for those who toil for the reports some of us so defensively dismiss.
More than just another animals-made-our-lives-bearable-
in-times-of-strife story, this insightful foray into the lives of hungry wartime cats morphs into a gripping allegory for how our military and its affiliated personnel handle the issue of whom to save and whom to leave behind, how to cope when war renders the basics of life untenable, and how the insinuation of foreign assistance impacts the Iraqi population at large—not just the four-legged one.
It’s been a long time since I was so engaged by an Iraq war story. I guess it’s not surprising that it took an astute British take on human compassion via feline camaraderie to finally bring home an effective war message—for this veterinarian, at least. Kudos, Mr.Burns! You’re my kind of cat people.