Baghdad Burning

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

Sunday, July 30, 2006
Qana Massacre...
Although the sun is blinding this time of year in our part of the world, the Middle East is seeing some of its darkest days…

I woke up this morning to scenes of carnage and destruction on the television and for the briefest of moments, I thought it was footage of Iraq. It took me a few seconds to realize it was actually Qana in Lebanon. The latest village to see Israeli air strikes. The images were beyond gruesome- body parts and corpses being hauled out from under tons of debris. Wailing relatives and friends, searching for loved ones… So far, according to humanitarian organizations, 34 were children. They killed them while they were sleeping inside their bomb shelters- much like the Amriya Shelter massacre in 1991.

We saw the corpses of the children on television, lifeless and twisted grotesquely, what remained of their faces frozen in expressions of pain and shock. I just sat there and cried in front of the television. I didn’t know I could still feel that sort of sorrow towards what has become a daily reality for Iraqis. It’s not Iraq but it might as well be: It’s civilians under lethal attack; it’s a country fighting occupation.

I’m so frustrated I can’t think straight. I’m full of rage against Israel, the US, Britain, Iran and most of Europe. The world is going to go to hell for standing by and allowing the massacre of innocents. For God’s sake, 34 children??? The UN is beyond useless. They’ve gone from a union of nations working for the good of the world (if they ever were even that), to a bunch of gravediggers. They’re only good for digging mangled bodies out of the ruins of buildings and helping to identify and put them into mass graves. They won’t stop a massacre- they won’t even speak out against it- they’ll just come by and help clean up the mess. Are the lives of Arabs worth so little? If this had happened in the US or UK or France or China, somebody would already have dropped a nuclear bomb… How is this happening?

Where is the Security Council??? Why haven’t they stopped Israel? Ehud Olmert recently told Condi that he needs 10 to 14 more days of bloodshed- and nothing is being done about it! Where are the useless Arab leaders? Can’t the pro-American, spineless emirs crawl out of their gold palaces long enough to condemn this taking of lives? Our presidents/leaders are only as influential as their oil barrels are deep.

And the world wonders how ‘terrorists’ are created! A 15-year-old Lebanese girl lost five of her siblings and her parents and home in the Qana bombing… Ehud Olmert might as well kill her now because if he thinks she’s going to grow up with anything but hate in her heart towards him and everything he represents, then he’s delusional.

Is this whole debacle the fine line between terrorism and protecting ones nation? If it’s a militia, insurgent or military resistance- then it’s terrorism (unless of course the militia, insurgent(s) and/or resistance are being funded exclusively by the CIA). If it’s the Israeli, American or British army, then it’s a pre-emptive strike, or a ‘war on terror’. No matter the loss of hundreds of innocent lives. No matter the children who died last night- they’re only Arabs, after all, right?


Tuesday, July 11, 2006
It promises to be a long summer. We're almost at the mid-way point, but it feels like the days are just crawling by. It's a combination of the heat, the flies, the hours upon hours of no electricity and the corpses which keep appearing everywhere.

The day before yesterday was catastrophic. The day began with news of the killings in Jihad Quarter. According to people who live there, black-clad militiamen drove in mid-morning and opened fire on people in the streets and even in houses. They began pulling people off the street and checking their ID cards to see if they had Sunni names or Shia names and then the Sunnis were driven away and killed. Some were executed right there in the area. The media is playing it down and claiming 37 dead but the people in the area say the number is nearer 60.

The horrific thing about the killings is that the area had been cut off for nearly two weeks by Ministry of Interior security forces and Americans. Last week, a car bomb was set off in front of a 'Sunni' mosque people in the area visit. The night before the massacre, a car bomb exploded in front of a Shia husseiniya in the same area. The next day was full of screaming and shooting and death for the people in the area. No one is quite sure why the Americans and the Ministry of Interior didn't respond immediately. They just sat by, on the outskirts of the area, and let the massacre happen.

At nearly 2 pm, we received some terrible news. We lost a good friend in the killings. T. was a 26-year-old civil engineer who worked with a group of friends in a consultancy bureau in Jadriya. The last time I saw him was a week ago. He had stopped by the house to tell us his sister was engaged and he'd brought along with him pictures of latest project he was working on- a half-collapsed school building outside of Baghdad.

He usually left the house at 7 am to avoid the morning traffic jams and the heat. Yesterday, he decided to stay at home because he'd promised his mother he would bring Abu Kamal by the house to fix the generator which had suddenly died on them the night before. His parents say that T. was making his way out of the area on foot when the attack occurred and he got two bullets to the head. His brother could only identify him by the blood-stained t-shirt he was wearing.

People are staying in their homes in the area and no one dares enter it so the wakes for the people who were massacred haven't begun yet. I haven't seen his family yet and I'm not sure I have the courage or the energy to give condolences. I feel like I've given the traditional words of condolences a thousand times these last few months, "Baqiya ib hayatkum… Akhir il ahzan…" or "May this be the last of your sorrows." Except they are empty words because even as we say them, we know that in today's Iraq any sorrow- no matter how great- will not be the last.

There was also an attack yesterday on Ghazaliya though we haven't heard what the casualties are. People are saying it's Sadr's militia, the Mahdi army, behind the killings. The news the world hears about Iraq and the situation in the country itself are wholly different. People are being driven out of their homes and areas by force and killed in the streets, and the Americans, Iranians and the Puppets talk of national conferences and progress.

It's like Baghdad is no longer one city, it's a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence. It's gotten so that I dread sleeping because the morning always brings so much bad news. The television shows the images and the radio stations broadcast it. The newspapers show images of corpses and angry words jump out at you from their pages, "civil war… death… killing… bombing… rape…"

Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it's not really the latest- it's just the one that's being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. Rape is a taboo subject in Iraq. Families don't report rapes here, they avenge them. We've been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?

In the news they're estimating her age to be around 24, but Iraqis from the area say she was only 14. Fourteen. Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes... Raise your heads high supporters of the 'liberation' - your troops have made you proud today. I don't believe the troops should be tried in American courts. I believe they should be handed over to the people in the area and only then will justice be properly served. And our ass of a PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, is requesting an 'independent investigation', ensconced safely in his American guarded compound because it wasn't his daughter or sister who was raped, probably tortured and killed. His family is abroad safe from the hands of furious Iraqis and psychotic American troops.

It fills me with rage to hear about it and read about it. The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings. I look at them in their armored vehicles and to be honest- I can't bring myself to care whether they are 19 or 39. I can't bring myself to care if they make it back home alive. I can't bring myself to care anymore about the wife or parents or children they left behind. I can't bring myself to care because it's difficult to see beyond the horrors. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?

Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed- unless they want to join in with murder and rape.

Buses, planes and taxis leaving the country for Syria and Jordan are booked solid until the end of the summer. People are picking up and leaving en masse and most of them are planning to remain outside of the country. Life here has become unbearable because it's no longer a 'life' like people live abroad. It's simply a matter of survival, making it from one day to the next in one piece and coping with the loss of loved ones and friends- friends like T.

It's difficult to believe T. is really gone… I was checking my email today and I saw three unopened emails from him in my inbox. For one wild, heart-stopping moment I thought he was alive. T. was alive and it was all some horrific mistake! I let myself ride the wave of giddy disbelief for a few precious seconds before I came crashing down as my eyes caught the date on the emails- he had sent them the night before he was killed. One email was a collection of jokes, the other was an assortment of cat pictures, and the third was a poem in Arabic about Iraq under American occupation. He had highlighted a few lines describing the beauty of Baghdad in spite of the war… And while I always thought Baghdad was one of the more marvelous cities in the world, I'm finding it very difficult this moment to see any beauty in a city stained with the blood of T. and so many other innocents…

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