Thomas Sutcliffe: Iraqis have their own 7/7, and 9/7, and 10/7

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The Independent Online

It is perhaps a good thing that they don't go in for two-minute silences in Iraq. There would certainly be no shortage of opportunities for the country to come to a collective halt and bow its head in remembrance. What about 13/3, when 46 people were killed after three car bombs went off in Baghdad? Or 1/7, when a market place explosion killed 66 people? Or 15/7, when, last year, a car bomber killed 26 schoolchildren?

The problem, though, is obvious - it isn't going to be very long before there is no space left on the calendar that isn't stained with blood and the past weekend of sectarian killings has only accelerated the process. They now have their own 7/7 too, and a 9/7 and a 10/7 as well. Even if there was a workable collectivity to join in some national moment of commemoration - and even if they could keep all those mass murders clear in their minds - the silence would probably be broken by the boom of the next suicide bomb.

The contrast between widespread media coverage of last Friday's ceremonies of remembrance and the far more routine bulletins on Iraq's murderous normality was an uncomfortable one - sharpening the sense that our rituals of shared pain might not be a sign of social strength but of weakness. It's not easy to write this, of course. No one would want casually to add the distress of those who lost people they loved last year or to deny that private griefs can be adopted - and felt deeply - by the public at large.

And it's not difficult to construct a defence of the semi-formalised nature of Friday's events. It's important to show that we stand as one, would run one version. Another line might be to point out the impeccably multi-cultural, multi-denominational nature of the observances - an implicit rebuke to the bomber's hopes for a divided world. In the cliché used many, many times since the bombs exploded, it is important to "send a message" to those bent on violence.

If that's the case. though, you can't help wondering what message the extensive anniversary coverage would actually have sent to those currently planning the next attack. Would they not have been heartened by how long and loudly those four explosions have reverberated? When a car bomb goes off in Iraq it's touch and go whether we hear about it at all; here even the echo is amplified by press and television coverage.

And would prospective terrorists not also be encouraged by the depth of the wound their predecessors had apparently inflicted? Friday's events were evidence of a therapised society that believes it to be a good thing to reveal your emotional vulnerability. Unfortunately, there will have been people watching for whom our exposed vulnerability is a profound boost to morale. They want to hurt us and we leave them in no doubt that they can.

It isn't very easy to say what can be done about this. You can hardly ban wreath-laying ceremonies or order public displays of insouciance in the face of terrorist murders. But given that another attack will almost certainly take place (will that get its own two-minute silence?- and the one after that too?) we should perhaps give some thought to more stoical responses - or at least less luxurious forms of grief. Because the brutal truth is that if things go badly, Friday could well come to seem a luxury - the kind of public indulgence in feeling which the people of Iraq ceased to be able to afford some time ago.

Turning Dylan into a circus act

It was decidedly jolting to read that Twyla Tharp plans to bring a musical built around Bob Dylan classics to Broadway, following up the success of Movin' Out - which ransacked Billy Joel's discography. The idea of the jukebox musical is hardly new. It's been done with Abba hits and Queen standards. But Bob Dylan? The Orpheus of the counterculture?

The Times They Are A Changin' tells the story of a circus performer's relationship with the animal trainer Cleo - surely not what Dylan had in mind when he wrote songs such as "Knocking on Heaven's Door". If it succeeds it's hard to believe any back catalogue will be safe from exploitation. I just hope I live long enough to see coach parties queuing for No Future, in which the Sex Pistols provide the backing for a boy-meets-girl tale of self-empowerment.

* I don't suppose Marco Materazzi will be in a hurry to tell anyone what he said to Zidane, given that Article 55 of Fifa's disciplinary code notes that "anyone who publicly disparages, discriminates against or denigrates someone in a defamatory manner on account of race, colour, language, religion or ethnic origin" will earn a five-match suspension.

But I can't help feeling that his exchange with Zizou was a rare moment of authenticity in a tournament notable for flagrant histrionics.

For nearly a month, every time a player went down you braced yourself for amateur dramatics on pitch and multi-angle analysis in the studio. Not much doubt that contact was made this time, though, or that Materazzi's instinctive curl of agony was sincere. Deplorable, of course, but at least we know it wasn't faked.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

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