Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Personal State of Iraq

Riverbend is back again, thankfully, and has a deeply moving post today on life in Iraq. Read the whole thing. Please do. But I'll excerpt a few passages here:
...The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I'm certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.

Al Qaeda? That's laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of 'sniper' and 'jihadi', pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee...

What has me most puzzled right now is: why add fuel to the fire? Sunnis and moderate Shia are being chased out of the larger cities in the south and the capital. Baghdad is being torn apart with Shia leaving Sunni areas and Sunnis leaving Shia areas- some under threat and some in fear of attacks. People are being openly shot at check points or in drive by killings… Many colleges have stopped classes. Thousands of Iraqis no longer send their children to school- it's just not safe.

Why make things worse by insisting on Saddam's execution now? Who gains if they hang Saddam? Iran, naturally, but who else? There is a real fear that this execution will be the final blow that will shatter Iraq. Some Sunni and Shia tribes have threatened to arm their members against the Americans if Saddam is executed. Iraqis in general are watching closely to see what happens next, and quietly preparing for the worst.

This is because now, Saddam no longer represents himself or his regime. Through the constant insistence of American war propaganda, Saddam is now representative of all Sunni Arabs (never mind most of his government were Shia). The Americans, through their speeches and news articles and Iraqi Puppets, have made it very clear that they consider him to personify Sunni Arab resistance to the occupation. Basically, with this execution, what the Americans are saying is "Look- Sunni Arabs- this is your man, we all know this. We're hanging him- he symbolizes you." And make no mistake about it, this trial and verdict and execution are 100% American. Some of the actors were Iraqi enough, but the production, direction and montage was pure Hollywood (though low-budget, if you ask me)...

My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

What is it about that Arab mind that prefers the conspiracy theory? You have to admire the subtley of mind and culture that breeds such contemplative men. Here folks seem quite willing to believe in the incompetence of the current administration. I do feel sorry for his situation and will feel even sorrier when he is left holding the bag when we wander off after calling the whole thing a bad job.

The fact is River that to most Americans that soldier, sailor, airmen, or marine IS worth more than your cousin. When dealing with Americans never ascribe to malice what can adequately be explained by ignorance and stupidity. Most don't know you or even want to. In 20 years they won't be able to find Iraq on a map and they sure aren't able to now.

One suggestion I have is to stop believing that the Americans are the authors of all this death. They may be big loud and ugly, but they aren't wearing hoods and slaughtering your relatives at the morgue trying to claim a body. As you mentioned the Iranian's have their mitts into this mess as well. For every Iraqi who wants to paint Yankee go home! on a bullet-ridden wall there are two GI's willing to hold the ladder and the paint bucket.

Reform your politicians on your own time but get with the program, step up and deal with ALL the foreigners in your country. When they have gone, deal with the local hoods because I have news: That was always gonna be your job!

Maybe you long for the days when your homegrown dictator only pulled a few folks a day off the streets to keep other folks in line. I'm sure you'll find no shortage of volunteers for that job too. Pity you can't have the experienced one cuz he's dancing on the end of a rope.

Nobody in the world is going to have a greater interest in a peaceful Iraq than you. So get off the sidelines, hold your nose at the crooks and theives, and take over the job of rebuilding your country into whatever shape you wish it. No one else will.

Oh and if the Iranians come uninvited I know some guys who'd be happy to kill them and break all their stuff.

Good luck, River. Don't despair. Believe it or not things can get much worse. If you can't stomach helping the Americans, then at the very least help yourself and turn in all the viscious bastards that bring the Americans like a moth to a flame.

helmut said...

That's really patronizing, anon. I'm pretty sure Riverbend knows a lot better than you what's possible and what's not in Iraq.

"Buck up and get to work!"? Wow.

lonesomepolecat said...

I think it's possible that Rush may be ghosting on your blog. It's too oblivious on too many levels. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

"The fact is River that to most Americans that soldier, sailor, airmen, or marine IS worth more than your cousin."

Well, to me they're not. If anything, I would never put on an equal footing the value of an invader to that of his victim. There's a clear distinction: American soldiers volunteered for what is unequivocally a war of aggression. The Iraqis had this whole mess foisted onto them.

To most inhabitants of the world, the soldier, sailor or marine is NOT worth more than Riverbend's cousin. Precisely, one of the main notions of the prevailing moral zeitsgeist (at least theoretically) is that all human lives are of equal value, regardless of the ethnic or religious group they belong to. It is to be expected, though, that most people assume that military deaths in a war of agression are somehow less deserving of mourning than the deaths of those who were attacked.

As for malice vis a vis ignorance and stupidity, I'm pretty sure all of them are intermingled. There's no reason to believe that Americans are less prone to malice that the rest of inhabitants of the world. Malice is a universal trait.


Anonymous said...

Pepito -

I would have to agree with your categorizing this as a war of agression. It is clearly a break from our past behavior of waiting to be struck (the source of so many silly previous pretexts. Read here the Tonkin Gulf and the Battleship Maine in Havana harbor).

We are also invaders. Much like D-Day we were not invited by the folks who dominated Europe at the time. Therefore that feature is not new.

Unlike many of my fellow Americans I place a high cost on every life especially when measured against the cold calculus of losses to be faced in the future.

Helmut -

I believe it is more along the lines of "Shut the fuck up and lend a hand." At least the insurgents are DOING something. said...

I agree with Helmut when he says it’s been a sad year. It’s been a sad year for democracy, a sad year for civil rights, a sad year for peace, a sad year if we consider the world we are obviously living in. It is sad to see America still being involved in Iraq, unable to leave out of fear of having to admit defeat. It is sad that the only solution Mr. Bush sees to end violence in this country is to send more troops there. It’s sad to realize that in Europe, people don’t take any notice of news pictures and stories of another bombed Iraqi city anymore. We have started to ignore the dead, the killing. It doesn’t come as a shock to us anymore. It is sad to praise the death of a dictator who might – undoubtedly – be responsible for crimes of unspeakable horror, but was hanged like a dog in the middle of the night and will, in the end, become a martyr for the Iraqi people. Mr. Bush is certainly delighted to have one part of “his mission” completed. The Republicans welcome the idea of death penalty. Personally, I think that it doesn’t bring any justice at all. Killing someone for having killed others guarantees that the killing will go on. And it will go on. And it is also sad to see that the anti-american sentiment in Europe is constantly growing. I have American friends here who are being yelled at in the streets. I hear people saying that the Iraqis do have a right to kill every single American soldier they meet.
There is one good thing happening, though: it is you people running this blog. It is a wonderful and brave attempt to see things a little more critical. Keep it up. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Commandix -

Yes, although you mostly mean it in a different way, 2006 has been as sad year for democracy and human rights. Fear of defeat does not keep the U.S. there, thugs refusing direct battle do.

It is made more difficult by the side effects of direct contact with the civilian population with active military forces, which Riverbend describes so very well. Add to that the interference of Iran. Even the Syrians, who have permitted the evacuation of so many, do themselves no kindness in not stemming the flow of fighters and material going the other way.

As for Europe and anti-american sentiment as long as it does not involve truck bombs and snipers they are free to enjoy it. Perhaps when they are fully integrated and have their spirit back Europeans can deal with their own issues. I'd much rather the only Americans Europe sees be chubby americans with loud voices, cameras, standing about with their mouths open.

I can guarantee you 2007 will be even worse. In the minds of the normally indifferent officer corps a new perception is rising. Planners are examining the characteristics of this latest "long war" and making concrete plan on how to staff and equip it while at the same time training for every other eventuality. Most retired senior officers saw this mindset coming and fell on their swords to try and prevent it.

When the various vendors and contractors learn of this wish you will see a disturbing level of development in surveillance technologies that make NSA wiretapping look like a fat man holding a glass to a wall. Unmanned vehicles will be routinely armed and worse deployed. And then the police state you fear so much WILL BE REAL.

But hey if it saves the caribou and dosn't disturb your view at the beach I guess that's ok. Here's to 2007 being quickly over. And then it's the distraction of the US elections for 2008.

Then when all your dreams come true in 2009, Riverbend will still be sitting in her house wondering if it is worth the dodging snipers to go to the market when there is no power or fuel for cooking. Maybe someone puts a bullet in Al Sadr maybe they don't. Can't you all at least band together and send her a generator or a fuel cell?

troutsky said...

We could send a much needed generator, or rebuild the entire infra-structure.Pretty well illustrates the surreal nature of being a citizen in a capitalist "democracy". I could scrape together some extra change Ive saved from my paycheck working for Dyncorp and then send it to some "lucky" recipient of my charity, only to have my government drop a bomb on it the next day.

Im no psychologist but I know when you are dealing with a family with generations of dysfunction and trauma and nuerosis, surrounded by enablers and an equally sick community of friends and family, it's not enough to say "suck it up,turn on some nice music and do the dishes."Wish life was that simple.

As to the bedeviling question of malice or stupidity, it almost seems we have to come up with a name for this strange synthesis of the two.Malice implies intelligence, stupidity ,in this case, implies good intent.The missionary colonialist, the tough love approach to the "White Mans Burden"? All those highly trained military planners, all those Phd neocons, all those CEOs of the worlds largest corporations can't do anything but scramble eggs.