Thursday, May 27, 2004

War and Its Discontents

We now have access to several first-hand accounts of Operation Iraqi Freedom as witnessed by Iraqi civilians, some of them in diary form and others written later. Salam Pax's blog, of course, is the most well-known, but other accounts have surfaced. Zeyad of Healing Iraq, for example, has written about his keen anticipation of the advancing troops and how he almost got into a fight with one of his uncles because he had waved to the Americans as they rolled into Baghdad. Recounting those days in a October 18, 2003, blog entitled "A little something about the war," Zeyad wrote:

Our area was one of three areas in Baghdad that witnessed the bloodiest resistance against American forces. My uncle was so proud of that fact. But there were still no Americans to be seen, only a couple of helicopters. The next day however, a long convoy of American vehicles stormed through our street. I stood in front of the house watching, M1 Bradleys, Humvees, Abrams tanks, APC's. I was impressed. Most of the Americans were so so young. They waved at us, and I waved back. Everyone in the street looked happy.

After they left, I was surprised to find my uncle standing at the door, his face violet red with rage, he was plucking his hair from his head and shouting, I didn't at first realize what he was saying, his mouth was frothy and he was shaking his fists at me, he was so ashamed and enraged about the fact that I was waving to the 'invading' Americans. I thought he was having a fit or something, because he looked like someone losing it. 'Wait and see tommorrow when they will come into our houses and rape our women! You wouldn't wave then, would you', 'How could you dare to wave to zionist imperialists in front of my house?!', something like that. We almost got into a fight, but people seperated us. I felt so humiliated for being shouted at in front of everyone from our neighbourhood. I haven't talked to him to this day, although he lives next door.

Gaith "G" Ahad, friend of Salam Pax and Raed Jarrar, recently wrote a piece called "We wanted this war so desperately" for the Guardian. Gaith begins:

Lying in bed, I was planning my suicide. I had only one dream in my life - to travel, to walk, to see different people and different cultures - and nothing seemed more impossible than this dream in the Iraq of our beloved leader, Saddam Hussein. I was the world's most underpaid architect, doing ugly work for ugly people who had money to build ugly houses. Dodging military service for almost six years meant that I had no documents in a country where you had to submit five different types of papers to get yourself a food ration. Apart from walking the old streets of Baghdad, getting drunk with my friend and reading, there was no way to free myself. I was trapped in this small room with no exit, not even a light at the end of the tunnel.

And Faiza has now included part of her war diary, indexed on the Family in Baghdad sidebar. As frequent readers of Faiza's blog might expect, she complains quite a bit about headaches and stomachaches and through much of the war is taking sleeping pills. However, in Faiza's defense, there WAS a war in progress. Let's take a look at a few entries.

Friday, March 28, 2003
Continuous close shooting didn’t stop in the morning, I was frightened. Didn’t understand what was happening…
The anti aircrafts guns were targeting something…
And suddenly something happened and it was a mess! People running in the streets and shouting! What’s happening??
“They shot down a small American plane”
Raed and Azzam went out to check what happened, and came back with a small part of the destroyed monitoring plane!
We kept it as a souvenir.

Would someone please remind me to ask Raed where he's keeping this war trophy?

Sunday, March 30, 2003
At around midnight I hear the siren and start feeling nervous. I hide myself in the bed and everyone laughs and makes jokes on me… I just hate to hear the sound of air fighters, but Azzam keep on teasing me, “ here they came hide hide” he says and laughs.

Well, it looks official. The Jarrar sons get their wicked humor from Azzam. This is really funny and strange. While Coalition jets rumble above Baghdad, Azzam is joking around with his wife, "Here they come! Hide! Hide!"

Monday, March 31, 2003
Our door bell was unexpectedly ringing!
A Red Crescent car parking outside our door, and a group of young men and women came out of the car.
I remembered them when they entered our guest room.
They came before the war asking for some water purification units for hospitals, and they took some catalogues and price lists at that time…
Now they came to buy some units.
We had some filtration units in our house, under the stairs.
We wrote the contract between us and them, and drank some coffee.
An Italian NGO was with them, Un Ponte Per, as a funding agency for the project.
We discussed the currant events, and criticized Bush and his administration.
I don’t think he cares for our critic.
We are going through this Hell alone.

One thing you have to admire about the Jarrars is that even in the middle of a war they have the presence of mind to sign contracts and make a profit. This is not a family to discount. They will prosper in Iraq whether democracy prevails or whether Uday and Qusay rise from their graves to take back Dear Old Dad's Country.

Friday, April 02, 2004
AsSahhaf holds a press conference everyday…
I believe he is either a liar, or a moron.
News say they are going to enter Baghdad in 48 hours.
Everyone is on the edge; nervous and anxious. We feel the zero hour is very near.
Some people say we shouldn’t be afraid, Saddam is going to let Baghdad be their graveyard.
How??? I wonder all the time…
We don’t even have a single air fighter flying in the sky… the army is without any air cover…

As it turned out, Al-Sahaf (Baghdad Bob) was both a liar and a moron. It's hard to believe that on April 2 there were Iraqis still buying that "Baghdad the American Graveyard" line.


In Iraq there were those like "G" whose life had been twisted by Saddam Hussein's tyranny and who "wanted this war so desperately," a war to remove Saddam's regime -- including people like Hussein Shahristani, tortured and imprisoned for ten years before escaping. Others did not want the war to happen. But perhaps the majority were simply conflicted by the events, just wanting to live through whatever happened. Today a more complex picture of Iraqis' responses to those days has started to emerge.

UPDATE: STOP THE PRESSES!!! A glimmer of sunshine somehow managed to break out on Faiza's blog today. Faiza writes:

and somebody asked me about the new Iraqi leaders..
we all think ,in this time , the leader is coming due to an American specifications...
when the leader is coming due to Iraqi specifications..
we can say : we are free, and our country is free..
it`s a matter of time...
I think everything is going to be we wish.
but with time....
yes, it`s just a matter of time !!!

Let me repeat for the incredulous:

I think everything is going to be we wish.
but with time....
yes, it`s just a matter of time !!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Iraqi Bloggers' Archives are filled with interesting points that need to be revisited now and then. Reading through Zeyad's blog I came across this passage about Riverbend from October 29, 2003:

And while we are discussing Riverbend I wish that readers wouldn't email me any insulting and inappropriate remarks about her. I won't reply to any of these. I don't want to blindly defend her since I'm sure she wouldn't do the same. Her writing had a huge influence on me. I emailed her before I started this blog commending her effort and asking for her advice and she ignored me. Someone recently forwarded me an email from her in which she expresses her doubts about my Iraqi identity. I was sad to hear it but fine with me.

Nevertheless she has her viewpoint and it shouldn't be disregarded just because it doesn't conform yours. Her anti-american or anti-war tone doesn't make it less important. She is the only Iraqi woman writing a weblog at the moment.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Khalid sends us a bulletin today from the frontlines of exam week in Iraq. Khalid writes:

I had the thermodynamics test today, and I did well too, thank God.
I remember that I have seen a picture for Santa standing on a hill looking at a big city, where all the houses have chimneys, and the comment under the picture was : why me?
I feel the same way every when I take an exam:)
imagine how nice life can be without exams? ;)

I'm still chuckling over that "why me?"

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