Baghdad Burning

... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend...

Friday, July 15, 2005
Prayers for Khalid...
Raed of Raed in the Middle has some very bad news. His brother Khalid of the blog Tell Me a Secret has been abducted by the new Iraqi mukhabarat.

We're all praying he'll be alright and that Allah/God gives his family the strength to make it through this.

Nid3eelek bil salameh wil rijoo3 ila il a7ibeh wil ahal wil 7'irooj min hathihi il mi7neh bi 7'air ya Khalid...

Friday, July 01, 2005
“Not only can they not find WMD in Iraq,” I commented to E. as we listened to the Bush speech, “But they have disappeared from his speeches too!” I was listening to the voiceover on Arabiya, translating his speech to Arabic. He was recycling bits and pieces of various speeches he used over two years.

E., a younger cousin, and I were sitting around in the living room, sprawled on the relatively cool tiled floor. The electricity had been out for 3 hours and we couldn’t turn on the air conditioner with the generator electricity we were getting. E. and I had made a bet earlier about what the theme of tonight’s speech would be. E. guessed Bush would dig up the tired, old WMD theme from somewhere under the debris of idiocy and lies coming out of the White House. I told him he’d dredge up 9/11 yet again… tens of thousands of lives later, we would have to bear the burden of 9/11… again.

I won the bet. The theme was, naturally, terrorism- the only mention of ‘weapon’ or ‘weapons’ was in reference to Libya. He actually used the word ‘terrorist’ in the speech 23 times.

He was trying, throughout the speech, to paint a rosy picture of the situation. According to him, Iraq was flourishing under the occupation. In Bush’s Iraq, there is reconstruction, there is freedom (in spite of an occupation) and there is democracy.

“He’s describing a different country…” I commented to E. and the cousin.

“Yes,” E. replied. “He’s talking about the *other* Iraq… the one with the WMD.”

“So what’s the occasion? Why’s the idiot giving a speech anyway?” The cousin asked, staring at the ceiling fan clicking away above. I reminded him it was the year anniversary marking the mythical handover of power to Allawi’s Vichy government.

“Oh- Allawi… Is he still alive?” Came the indolent reply from the cousin. “I’ve lost track… was he before Al Yawir or after Al Yawir? Was he Prime Minister or did they make him president at some point?”

9/11 and the dubious connection with Iraq came up within less than a minute of the beginning of the speech. The cousin wondered whether anyone in America still believed Iraq had anything to do with September 11.

Bush said:
“The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September 11, 2001.”

Do people really still believe this? In spite of that fact that no WMD were found in Iraq, in spite of the fact that prior to the war, no American was ever killed in Iraq and now almost 2000 are dead on Iraqi soil? It’s difficult to comprehend that rational people, after all of this, still actually accept the claims of a link between 9/11 and Iraq. Or that they could actually believe Iraq is less of a threat today than it was in 2003.

We did not have Al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the war. We didn’t know that sort of extremism. We didn’t have beheadings or the abduction of foreigners or religious intolerance. We actually pitied America and Americans when the Twin Towers went down and when news began leaking out about it being Muslim fundamentalists- possibly Arabs- we were outraged.

Now 9/11 is getting old. Now, 100,000+ Iraqi lives and 1700+ American lives later, it’s becoming difficult to summon up the same sort of sympathy as before. How does the death of 3,000 Americans and the fall of two towers somehow justify the horrors in Iraq when not one of the people involved with the attack was Iraqi?

Bush said:
“Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. … The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq, who is also senior commander at this base, General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said, "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."

He speaks of ‘abroad’ as if it is a vague desert-land filled with heavily-bearded men and possibly camels. ‘Abroad’ in his speech seems to indicate a land of inferior people- less deserving of peace, prosperity and even life.

Don’t Americans know that this vast wasteland of terror and terrorists otherwise known as ‘Abroad’ was home to the first civilizations and is home now to some of the most sophisticated, educated people in the region?

Don’t Americans realize that ‘abroad’ is a country full of people- men, women and children who are dying hourly? ‘Abroad’ is home for millions of us. It’s the place we were raised and the place we hope to raise our children- your field of war and terror.

The war was brought to us here, and now we have to watch the country disintegrate before our very eyes. We watch as towns are bombed and gunned down and evacuated of their people. We watch as friends and loved ones are detained, or killed or pressured out of the country with fear and intimidation.

Bush said:
“We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul…”

Yes. And Bush is extremely concerned with the mosques. He might ask the occupation forces in Iraq to quit attacking mosques and detaining the worshipers inside- to stop raiding them and bombing them and using them as shelters for American snipers in places like Falluja and Samarra. And the terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul? Maybe they got their cue from the American troops who attacked the only functioning hospital in Falluja.

“We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country. Rebuilding a country after three decades of tyranny is hard and rebuilding while a country is at war is even harder."

Three decades of tyranny isn’t what bombed and burned buildings to the ground. It isn’t three decades of tyranny that destroyed the infrastructure with such things as “Shock and Awe” and various other tactics. Though he fails to mention it, prior to the war, we didn’t have sewage overflowing in the streets like we do now, and water cut off for days and days at a time. We certainly had more than the 8 hours of electricity daily. In several areas they aren’t even getting that much.

“They are doing that by building the institutions of a free society, a society based on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and equal justice under law.”

We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to assemble that people now fear having gatherings because a large number of friends or family members may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by American or Iraqi forces.

As to Iraqi forces…There was too much to quote on the new Iraqi forces. He failed to mention that many of their members were formerly part of militias, and that many of them contributed to the looting and burning that swept over Iraq after the war and continued for weeks.

“The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day.”

Indeed they are. The forte of the new Iraqi National Guard? Raids and mass detentions. They have been learning well from the coalition. They sweep into areas, kick down doors, steal money, valuables, harass the females in the household and detain the men. The Iraqi security forces are so effective that a few weeks ago, they managed to kill a high-ranking police major in Falluja when he ran a red light, shooting him in the head as his car drove away.

He kept babbling about a “free Iraq” but he mentioned nothing about when the American forces might actually depart and the occupation would end, leaving a “free Iraq”.

Why aren’t the Americans setting a timetable for withdrawal? Iraqis are constantly wondering why nothing is being done to accelerate the end of the occupation.

Do the Americans continue to believe such speeches? I couldn’t help but wonder.

“They’ll believe anything.” E. sighed. “No matter what sort of absurdity they are fed, they’ll believe it. Think up the most outrageous lie… They have people who’ll believe it.”

The cousin sat up at this, his interest piqued. “The most outrageous lie? How about that Iraq was amassing aliens from Mareekh [Mars] and training them in the battle art of kung-fu to attack America in 2010!”

“They’d believe it.” E. nodded in the affirmative. “Or that Iraq was developing a mutant breed of rabid, man-eating bunnies to unleash upon the Western world. They’d believe that too.”

Mykeru has a fantastic post about the speech, as do Juan Cole (as usual), and TomDispatch.

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