by Lauren Gard
Berkeley's Jane Stillwater, described in the Contra Costa Times over the weekend as a "a grandmother with no formal journalistic training," managed to snag press accreditation from a small Texas newspaper and has been blogging from Baghdad's Green Zone for two weeks now. The 64-year-old's self-financed trip was afforded by many days spent subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches. (A detail both the fluffy CoCo Times article and a UK Times piece deemed worthy of including, despite not explaining other basics like why each referred to her in headlines as a "grandmother" when her child-bearing history had no relevance to the story and no further reference to her family was made. Lame.) At any rate, the UK Times dug a bit deeper into Stillwater's experience, and what it means that the army is now allowing bloggers - even Bush haters like her - to embed.
One of Stillwater's most memorable experiences has likely been her interview with Senator John McCain, in Iraq on what she called a "2007 GOP Hype-the-War Tour." On April 1 she described their exchange in her two-year-old blog, named, simply, Jane Stillwater's Web Log:
So. What did I say to Sen. McCain? I gave him my famous "Light Brigade" speech. "I have been so completely impressed," I began, "by the quality, training, competence and skill of our troops here. They represent yet another generation in a long line of competent and capable Americans." McCain smiled and nodded his head, thinking I had finished my speech. Not.
"But," I continued, just getting warmed up, "our troops are also like the heroes of Lord Tennyson's poem, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.' They are fighting bravely and well in a situation caused by a blunder. So why should we senselessly continue to put our troops in harm's way for a mistake?" Or in order to appease some greedy, immature Lord Nelson wannabe. It doesn't make sense to destroy a whole generation of American soldiers just to support Bush and Cheney.
Then I got down to the heart of my question. Giving McCain that special look that us moms usually reserve for recalcitrant children, I said, "And after this terrible blunder in Iraq, are you then going to go ahead and make that same horrible mistake in Iran?" McCain's answer was brief. "No comment."
Stillwater is not without a sense of humor - in fact, it's what makes her feisty blog so readable. Case in point, from a post she made yesterday:
It is always difficult to ride in an open-sided helicopter without developing "Helicopter Hair" -- but completely worth every tangle. But now I am covering my hair with a trucker cap that reads, "Caution: Stay 100 meters back or you will be shot." The GIs love this hat. First they look at my hat and then they look at me and then they break out in smiles."
Soon, she added, she'll be heading home. Where she'll no doubt resume knitting and having her hair permed in her spare time.