View from the Manhan Rail Trail

The wet weather here in Western Massachusetts having finally broken (and not a moment too soon, as I swear that mold was beginning to grow on my flesh), I took advantage of the warmth and sunshine this afternoon and strolled along the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton. Where once the trains of commerce had come and gone, ferrying the products of local textile mills, I now perambulated. (I know I could have said “walked,� but the polysyllabic alternative is so much more pleasing to employ.) At one point along the trail, I was delighted to find blackberries growing, a number of which I pilfered for sustenance. The further I ventured, the more I felt myself leaving behind the various stresses, worries, and annoyances of my off-trail life. Pausing for a time to admire the vista and enjoy the touch of sun and breeze, I reflected on the incongruity of such a beautiful moment occurring simultaneous with so much ugliness. Was the country truly at war? Were acts of cruelty and injustice really so pervasive? For a brief, delicious moment, such realities seemed distant and improbable.

And then, upon returning home, I read the following article and felt utterly sickened:

GIs May Have Planned Iraq Rape, Slayings

Investigators believe American soldiers spent nearly a week plotting an attack in which they raped an Iraqi woman, then killed her and her family in an insurgent-ridden area south of Baghdad, a U.S. military official said Saturday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the attack appeared “totally premeditated� and that the soldiers apparently “studied� the family for about a week before carrying out the attack.

According to the official, the Sunni Arab family had just moved into a new home in the religiously mixed area about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The Americans entered the home, separated three family members from the woman, then raped her and set fire to her body, the official said. The three others were also slain. A senior Army official who also requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing said one of the victims was a child. more…