Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

It’s easier to tour Iran than to tour the White House

By karlsie Nov 2, 2008

By Jane Stillwater

For years now I’ve been complaining about how President [sic] Bush isn’t letting any of us Americans tour the White House. He keeps claiming it’s for security reasons but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s OUR White House — not his — and we should freaking be allowed to take White House tours.

Finally someone told me that I could score a tour by contacting my Congressperson. So I did. And I’ve been waiting since way back in MARCH to get approved. It didn’t take me that long to secure a visa to North Korea. It took far less time than that to even secure a visa to freaking IRAN. Heck, it only took me three weeks to get permission to tour Baghdad. What’s so top-secret special about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

I’m over here in Iran right now, having a wonderful time touring Esfahan, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And this morning I was chatting with a fellow American tourist, telling him about how the most recent press releases from the US military Iraq tend to talk about how training Iraqi forces has been stepped up and even about how US outposts are being turned over to Iraqis.

Does the US military know something that we don’t know? Is there a de facto withdrawal happening even as we speak? Are they just waiting until after the elections to let us taxpaying voters in on the big secret? Hmmm.

Us taxpayers are always the last to know. But I digress.

“Right now,” continued the American tourist, “the UN mandate for the American military to be in Iraq will expire at the end of December — and you just KNOW that the UN isn’t going to extend it. And the mandate gives immunity to American troops. And Bush is putting pressure on Iraq to keep giving immunity to US troops. But the thing is this — the Shah of Iran granted immunity to US troops in Iran back in 1979 and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Back then, businessmen and bazaar owners had been very hesitant to back Khomeini up to that point but when the Shah gave immunity to the US troops, that was all-she-wrote for the Shah — and the Islamic Revolution was on.” I didn’t know that.

“And Americans never learn,” said my new friend. “The Brits over-extended their empire and lost it — but that didn’t stop Americans from doing the same thing. And Vietnam didn’t stop Americans from getting bogged down militarily and clobbered economically the same way in Iraq.”

Then a whole bunch of German tourists, South Koreans and me went out and toured the bridges, bazaars, mosques, churches and synagoges of Esfahan.

I’m thinking that when Obama gets elected, I may FINALLY get to tour the White House. But what if McCain wins the same way that Bush won before? What if McCain jimmies the vote too and steals the third presidential election in a row? Then I’ll NEVER get to tour the White House.

PS: If the GOP does try to steal yet another presidential election this November, they may be in for a very big surprise. Maybe this time Americans will finally not stand for it. Maybe this time Americans will finally say to themselves, “I voted for Gore, Kerry and Obama and so did most of my friends. What’s with that?”

And maybe more and more Americans might begin thinking that giving election-fraud immunity to the Republicans yet again just might be OUR straw for breaking the camel’s back. So. Perhaps the GOP will think twice this time before tampering with the vote — for their own good.

Editor’s note: It’s with great pleasure that we present the observations and comments of Jane Stillwater, a lady who took it upon herself to travel to Iran and view first hand the issues and culture of the mid-east. Her sometimes blog style of writing include candid glimpses into the customs and every day life. ” A dew days ago,” she writes, “I arrived in the citay of Siraz, famous for its roses, nightingales, poets and wine. ‘People here love to have fun,’ one Shirazi told me. ‘We especially love to picnic.’ And it’s true. Everywhere there is grass, you can see people sitting on blankets and eating — even on traffic medians.” And it’s true her special insights will be a treat for everyone.

She has a book available; “Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today’s Middle East,” my fabulous book on Iraq, Afghanistan, Mecca, Egypt, etc. is now available!!!!! You can special-order it through Ingram at any independent bookstore or to order it online, click here: Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Review by S. R. Thornton: For some, Jane Stillwater might be an acquired taste. She has a gift for skewering the pompous with a phrase, of unabashedly pointing out which emperors lack clothes…. She writes from a personal perspective and the chronicle of her overseas oddessies read like a combination of Mark Twain and Jack Kerouac. [This book is] for the seriously open-minded who enjoy a good chortle.

By karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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