I cannot imagine the Holiday Sermons this year. A child was born so that the rich could get richer? So that only those who accepted Him could know eternal happiness? So that He could pit neighbor against neighbor? Nope. Doubt you'll hear a word about the Real World.

I made the mistake of reading the new issue of The New York Review of Books the other day.

Big mistake. Because once you know, you can't pretend you don't.

Want to know? (Of course, you already know--that's why you're reading this and not the Good News Bloggers.) But can you stand to hear the down-and-dirty?

Okay, you were warned.

Here's Jon Lee Anderson, from his book, The Fall of Baghdad. He's in an Iraqi hospital, looking at the body of a small child killed by American bombs. (This is from Chris Hedges' review.)

Before the cloth covered her, I saw that the girl was covered in blood. Her brother looked as though he were sleeping. But they both were dead. Their mother was there, beside herself with grief. She was the woman I had heard wailing and hitting the walls. Then almost all the onlookers around the mother, including the doctors and nurses, broke down and cried. I was overcome and went outside and sat down. I wept. The children's father was sitting a few feet away from me, disconsolately sobbing into his arms.
I moved on to Michael Massing's piece, Iraq, the Press and the Election:

Most of the soldiers in Iraq are young men who can't speak Arabic and who have rarely traveled outside the United States, and they have suddenly been set down in a hostile environment in which they face constant attack. They are equipped with powerful weapons and have authority over a dark-skinned people with alien customs. The result is constant friction, often leading to chronic abuses that, while not as glaring as those associated with Abu Ghraib, are no less corrosive in their effect on local sentiment.

One journalist who has seen this firsthand is Nir Rosen. A twenty-seven-year-old American freelance reporter, Rosen speaks Arabic (a rare skill among Western reporters in Iraq), has a dark complexion (allowing him to mix more easily with Iraqis), and prefers when in Iraq to hang out with locals rather than with other journalists. (In the late spring, he managed to get inside Falluja at a time when it was a death trap for Western reporters; he described his chilling findings in the July 5 issue of The New Yorker.) Seeing Iraq from the perspective of the Iraqis, Rosen got a glimpse of how persistently and routinely American actions alienated them. "People have to wait three hours in a traffic jam because a US army convoy is going by," he notes. "Guns are pointed at you wherever you go. People are constantly shouting at you. Concrete walls are everywhere. Violence is everywhere."

In October 2003, Rosen spent two weeks embedded with a US Army unit near the Syrian border. In sweeps through neighborhoods, he said, the Americans used Israeli-style tactics- making mass arrests in the hope that one or two of those scooped up will have something useful for them. "They'll hold them for ten hours in a truck without food or water," he told me. "And 90 percent of them are innocent." Writing of his experience in Reason magazine, Rosen described how a unit he accompanied on a raid broke down the door of a house of a man they suspected of dealing in arms. When the man, named Ayoub, did not immediately respond to their orders, they shot him with nonlethal bullets. "The floor of the house was covered with his blood," Rosen wrote. "He was dragged into a room and interrogated forcefully as his family was pushed back against their garden's fence."

Ayoub's frail mother, he continued, pleaded with the interrogating soldier to spare her son's life, protesting his innocence:

He pushed her to the grass along with Ayoub's four girls and two boys, all small, and his wife. They squatted barefoot, screaming, their eyes wide open in terror, clutching one another as soldiers emerged with bags full of documents, photo albums and two compact discs with Saddam Hussein and his cronies on the cover. These CDs, called The Crimes of Saddam, are common on every Iraqi street and, as their title suggests, they were not made by Saddam supporters. But the soldiers couldn't read Arabic and saw only the picture of Saddam, which was proof enough of guilt. Ayoub was brought out and pushed on to the truck.

After holding Ayoub for several hours in a detention center, the soldiers determined that he was innocent, and they later let him go. I finished the day's Iraq reading with this column by Christopher Dickey: