Yesterday millions of Americans celebrated Thanksgiving, an annual food-stuffing ritual commemorating an event in 1621 when the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims hosted the native Wampanoags for a three-day feast to offer thanks for the survival aid given by these gracious hosts. Before long, the Wampanoags and most other indigenous groups encountered by the European illegal aliens of the time were devastated by disease and outright genocide to the point they had little to give thanks for. George Washington enshrined the idea of a national day of Thanksgiving and set November 26 as the mark. During America’s Civil War Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday for the last Thursday in November. When a country is embroiled in a terrible family-gutting war, why not broil a bird and give thanks you are still alive?

But while the Macy’s paraders schlogged through the rain with their helium offerings to the commercial television gods, professional football players bumped and grinded their way into millions of HD-ready living rooms and pumpkin pie consumption soared, it was not a good day for all. Certainly not for the turkeys, who would certainly view the feast (at their expense) as guinea-fowl-cide, nor for Native Americans who must be wondering why we still celebrate their generosity without also remembering all of the consequent genocide. And most certainly it was not a good day for Iraqis. Today’s news reports, as in the New York Times, are even uglier than usual:

In the deadliest sectarian attack in Baghdad since the American-led invasion, explosions from five powerful car bombs and a mortar shell tore through crowded intersections and marketplaces in the teeming Shiite district of Sadr City on Thursday afternoon, killing at least 144 people and wounding 206, the police said.

The coordinated bombings followed a two-hour siege by dozens of Sunni Arab insurgents against the headquarters of the Shiite-run Health Ministry in northeastern Baghdad, about three miles west of Sadr City, according to ministry officials. The gunmen, shooting from nearby buildings and surrounding streets, pelted the ministry with mortar shells and gunfire, though they fled when Iraqi troops and American military helicopters arrived, the officials and witnesses said.

The attacks were the worst in an intensifying series of revenge killings in recent months, in a cycle that has increasingly paralyzed the political process and segregated the capital into Sunni and Shiite enclaves, and threatened to drag Iraq into an all-out civil war.

Threats of an all-out civil war? This is like talking about the biblical “rumors of war” while the cluster bombs are popping all over. Thanks to the unilateral coalitioned U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq there is a raging civil war in Iraq. The capital Baghdad has not seen such devastation since the days of the Mongols, and manipulated sectarian violence has escalated to a point of apparent no-return.

The New York Times article describes the scenes in Sadr City during the latest round of attacks:

The car bombings destroyed dozens of other vehicles, scattered charred and mangled bodies and sent flames and thick pillars of smoke into the air. Frenzied crowds clawed through the wreckage, pulling bloodied bodies from cars and minibuses and moving them out in wooden carts.

Residents and Shiite militiamen flooded the streets, firing assault rifles into the air, shouting epithets against Sunni Arabs, the American authorities and the Iraqi government, and vowing revenge. Gunmen of the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Mr. Sadr, commandeered the district, setting up roadblocks and searching cars.

“The people don’t know what to do,” said Muhammad Ali Muhammad, a 27-year-old Shiite laborer in Sadr City. “They’re going to the hospital to give blood. Some are standing around shocked.”

This may not be “all-out” civil war, but it is perverse to debate the fact that Iraq is in dire straits with anarchy toppling civility and political revenge overwhelming reason. It really does not matter whether you blame Saddam or Rumsfeld, the salient point is that Iraq this Thanksgiving Day is enmeshed in a most uncivil civil war that the Bush administration, the highly touted but woefully ignorant Iraq Study Group and the gleeful Democrats are not able to control. Politicians talking turkey wll not solve Iraq’s problems.

The fact that so many Americans ate turkey yesterday is ironic. Here is an American fowl orientalized with the name of a real country. But this is not because the bird came from the Middle East or the Ottoman Turkish empire, nor did the English gentry of the 16th century mistake the New World origin of the bird for an oriental homeland. It is most likely that the word stuck because of orientalist prejudice. As Karen Davis notes:

In keeping with this hostile description, the word “turkey” has developed into an all-purpose term of derision, a synonym for failure and worthlessness. In 1984, Andrew Feinberg wrote in The New York Times that by 1873, “turkey” had come to mean an advantage or easy profit; soon the word came to refer to anyone who could be easily duped or caught. According to Wicked Words, students before and after 1945 used the term to characterize an incompetent person who continually makes mistakes (Rawson, 394). It wasn’t long before “turkey” became a political byword for mockery of U.S. administration officials, which it still is.

So when you read tomorrow’s newspaper or listen to Fox News, CNN or any of the mass media, just remember this: when a politican tells you how to solve the crisis in Iraq, all he is really saying is “Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

Daniel Martin Varisco