If you read no other blog posts this week read these
Today I present a series of must-reads from the Iraqi blogodrome. Each one is powerful and not to be missed in its own way.
It took a huge email exchange between Iraqi bloggers, but the rumble over the Lancet study estimating 650,000 Iraqi deaths prompted Riverbend to post for the first time in more than two months. She writes:
This has been the longest time I have been away from blogging… Every time I felt the urge to write about Iraq, about the situation, I'd be filled with a certain hopelessness that can't be put into words
I and every Iraqi blogger knows this feeling all too well. She continues:
It's very difficult at this point to connect to the internet and try to read the articles written by so-called specialists and analysts and politicians. They write about and discuss Iraq as I might write about the Ivory Coast or Cambodia — with a detachment and lack of sentiment that, I suppose, is meant to be impartial. Hearing American politicians is even worse: They fall between idiots like Bush — constantly and totally in denial, and opportunists who want to use the war and ensuing chaos to promote themselves. …
So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone…
We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?
To appreciate the power of her writing one should look to the reaction of western bloggers. Billmon, a prominent America political blogger was driven to write:
The point deserves frequent repetition: We did this. We caused it. We're not just callous bystanders to genocide, as in Rwanda, but the active ingredient that made it possible. We turned Iraq into a happy hunting ground for Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. If Iraq is now a failed state, it's because of our failures. … There was something about Riverbend's quiet despair that forced me to think hard about my own moral responsibility as an American for a genocide caused by America — because of a war started in my name, paid for with my taxes. … I've spoken against it, written against it, marched against it, supported and contributed to politicians I generally despise because I thought (wrongly) that they might do something to stop it. It's why I took up blogging, why I started this blog.
But the question Riverbend has forced me to ask myself is: Did I do enough? And the only honest answer is no.
Salam Pax video blogs for the BBC. He gets to visit the Saddam trial and gives us the “Salam Pax guide to the Iraqi High Criminal Court“. His conclusion is most siginificant. He observes: “The death pain and violence this war has inflicted on us Iraqis has stripped this moment of its significance. I think we need to achieve peace first and then we can think about justice.” I wonder how quickly these words will be forgotten in the media circus following the verdict of the Saddam trial.
A Struggle Against Cancer. Marshmallow26 posts a tribute to her mother who died of cancer in 1997. She writes of her mother's struggle against the disease and how the family had to work against the sanctions on Iraq at the time in order to bring medicines to treat her. It takes only the strongest soul not to shed a tear reading this post. Here is an excerpt:
On the day of November 1st 1997, which I consider it as the black day in my life…the most fuliginous day in my life…in that morning I was washing the dishes and I heard my MOM was calling me and my sister, girls come on to mama I want to see you before I go…
I told my sister, what is she talking about??? She opened her eyes and looked at both of us as she was recovering from coma, I will never ever forget that excerpt. She said “you two take care of your selves and your dad,” then she pointed to the corner of her room and said “Oh, my mother is waiting for me, I have to go, I have to go, I love you daughters,”
Then she went back to coma, I started crying severely at that time, because I realized that was the end…my sister did the same.
“They” came in more than ten cars, each car had four Armed men in it, they closed the street from both sides, they entered the house and abducted a young man, they put him in the trunk of a Car, I called 130 [the police] six times, continuously the phone rang without any answer.
I was standing in the Roof with my AK-47 and just stared at them.
This is the first time I witness such an event, and I felt so hopeless, there were too many of them.
A better way to report the news.. In Mecca recently Iraqi religious leaders got together to issue an edict forbidding sectarian bloodletting. Iraq the Model did not believe that this would lead to any reduction in violence. And Konfused Kid reports on the conference with his “Bulls**t monitor” in full operation. If only all news reports came with one of these:
REPORTER 1: Do you have any mechanism for implementing your edict on the ground? (actual question was more decorated than this)
KHOSH-WALAD SAMARRIE 1: blah-blah yaddad yadda peace and prosperity, but we hope that Iraqis are naturally good and this is the last night of Ramadhan.
REPORTER 2: Do you have any method by which you can apply your fatwa in Iraq?
FROWNY-JALAL TURBAN 2: wiggilie-wiggilie peace humpty dumpty love sumbul bulaybul dumbk dunaibuk understanding.
REPORTER 3: Excuse me, but on terms of a practical appreciation of your document, do you expect that it will be endorsed and applied (same question reworded)
THE COORDINATING GUY IN THE MIDDLE: All right buddy, you asked for it, this is the top religious clergy here, we tell you how in which direction to shit and how many papers you use to wipe your arse, we are here to say that blood is forbidden, it is up for the Iraqis, the natural loving and peaceful nation to endorse it, if they do not – we have made ourselves clear on the matter.
Konfused Kid also gives the essential explaination of why at times of war and failed states, people rally behind sectarian militias:
Anyone who calls for peace is shut-up by the realities of life as it is, everybody is so afraid of each other, I remember when Zarqawi died and I went to the mosque to listen to the Friday speech in an Adhamiya mosque, the Imam was practically crying! Nobody wants militas or Zarqawi, but everybody is so afraid of the other now, there is no trust.
Unless the National Reconcillation gimmick targets those who you should really make up your peace with, the blood-soaked Baathists, the backbone of the insurgency, who had their homes and money but now lost it all and are giving Iraqis and Americans a hard time about it, it will be fruitless. al-Qaeda is worthless without their straetgic allies the Baathists, who adopted a more Islamic veil to fit in with the times and bring us all to this sectarain lollapalooza. Shiite militas atrocities are infintely more horrific, but you have no right to blame them when you are part of the blame, get real. … These murderers will lose their support only when you negotiate with the Baathists. …
PEOPLE ARE AFRAID. and they resort to their sectarian identity because they ARE AFRAID, not because they are hateful beings.
Sunshine describes the day that violence in Iraq came too close to her home… “while I was still in my bed I heard VERY loud explosion but it seemed to be far away from my neighborhood. I left bed and went to the living room ,at 7:30 while my mom was preparing to go to work we heard many explosions with heavy shooting just behind our house , my brother ( two years and half) ran from his room , shouting , crying , and shaking ” MAMMY , NO,MAMMY ” , he was sleepy , my sister was also asleep she left her room crawling , we hide in my grandparents’ guest room , my grandpa was in his work , as soon as he reached there, two vehicles exploded near al-mosul university , we were very worried about him. he saw the whole thing . in that horrible explosion 25 were killed and 38 were badly injured ,all were from Iraqi citizens.”
Over at Alive in Baghdad, Qassem posts his story of how he was arrested and interrogated by American troops. The story is eye-opening, bitter and funny and you should just read it in full. Here is an excerpt:
after we finished our food the marines shouted at me ..”Everyone go back to his bed …and NO TALKING …..move now” he shouted and I told the other detainees what he said …..one of the detainees was funny ..he loved to make it funny …he did not move although I told him what the soldier said ..he just stay sitting and ignored the soldier shouting!!!
“Hey Othman ……what you dong …go your bed this soldier getting angry,” other detainee asked Othman (the naughty detainee)
Othman ignored him too ….then he said “Just let me alone …I want him to be mad …just go.” he said …signing by his hand to us, to go
Then Othman said to me “Qasem, Qasem …..if he asked you what it is the problem …tell him that I am a crazy man ok??? Just do that ”
My Honorary Iraqi for the week is Michael Rakowitz (well he is part Iraqi already!) who runs a shop in New York. When he tried to import a truck load of Iraqi dates he found that their journey was a mataphor for the plight of all Iraqis who try to travel out of Iraq and a strong statement about all the failures of the Iraqi economy. Follow their progress as the dates are are initially delayed as the exporter evacuates his family from Baghdad; get stuck for 3 days waiting in a long queue at the Iraq/Jordan border; get sent back because they were not certified free of radiation (apparently depleted uranium munitions have had an affect on Iraqi agriculture); get refused entry into Jordan on the second attempt for “security concerns”; get routed via Syria as a last resort; enter Syria but get stuck at the airport because Syrian customs officials demand a $1200 payment to process out the necessary export papers. He reports:
Atheer [the exporter] apologizes for the delay, that he really thought that it would only take 21 days from the time we officially put our original agreement into motion, and we both remark on how much everything has changed since we first began our work together, what with the deteriorating situation in Iraq, his family’s move out of Iraq and into Jordan to flee the dangerous situation there, and now the exodus of Iraqis into Jordan and the subsequent tightening of the border.
“You know, this (delay) is your government’s fault,” Atheer tells me.
“I don’t know why the USA did this. This man (Saddam Hussein) was so afraid of the US. He was like their slave, and would have at least kept the stability of the country. Now look at it. Nothing normal can happen.”
Neurotic Wife is bored in the Green Zone and to escape thinking of the sadness of Iraq outside she goes shopping. What follows is a snapshot of life in the little security bubble that America created in Iraq…
My shopping spree was amazing. Went to Abercrombie & Fitch, bought a few pairs of jeans, visited the beautiful aisles of Victoria's secret, oh and found a really nice winter jacket at Aeropostale. Went to drugstore and bought a few woman's necessities. Checked out BCBG and Converse. I tell you, spent maybe an hour or so rummaging through the aisles. It was soooo much fun and it felt good too. For a short time I was on a high. For a short time I felt kinda normal.