April 09, 2004

CHAIR

This photo made me start crying.

statue.jpg

The caption at AP:

On the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, an American soldier removes posters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that were hanging Friday April 9 2004 on a statue on Firdos Square in Baghdad, Iraq. One year ago, U.S. soldiers pulled down Saddam Hussein's statue from this very place. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

One year ago today, I was so happy for the Iraqis. I sat on the sofa at Fort Knox and cheered wildly as they tore that statue down. I wept for the Iraqis and their newfound freedom; now I weep for their newfound vengeance.

If you remember, the statue of Saddam wasn't the only thing to come down from that pedestal last year. The American flag an overzealous soldier hung up there was quickly taken down, lest the world think we came as conquerors. We were there to give Iraq to the Iraqis, and they've repaid us by burning our dead and hanging them from a bridge.

I just finished reading Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. It was written by an Australian woman who spent years studying Muslim women throughout the Middle East. The last chapter was the most interesting, where she recounted her frustration in dealing with women who accepted the status quo. No matter how many times she tried to point out that the oppression of women is a distortion of Muhammad's words in the Koran, the Muslim women refused to believe that the way they were living was not in accordance with Allah's will. You open the Koran and point to a specific passage, and it still doesn't help.

We can point to all the good things we've brought to Iraq -- removal of Saddam, strengthened economy, freedom of speech -- but it doesn't seem to do any good. They hate us. They chose to hate us even before we showed up, and nothing we point at will make them change their minds.

You know how Plato said that stuff about the ideal chair and the real chair? One year ago my mental Iraqi was the ideal Iraqi. I imagined that they cowered under Saddam and longed for freedom in the way I would long for it if I were oppressed. I imagined that they would be grateful to be rid of such a foul leader and ready to start anew in Iraq. The majority of Iraqis, in my mind, were the ideal. Turns out there are a lot more real Iraqis and less ideal Iraqis than I had guessed.

I look at that soldier and wonder what he must be thinking. Damn, are we here again? Full circle, with just another hateful man's face atop this pedestal? Have we made any progress at all in this past year?

This week it feels like we haven't. This week I want to say, "Give the Iraqis their al-Sadr and let's go home." This week I've lost sight of the reason all of this matters. My laser beam has burned out, my ideal chair turns out to be some junky armchair at the side of the road, and my tears are flowing for that soldier who has to climb to the top of that pedestal again one year later and tear down the image of another dangerous leader.

Posted by: Sarah at 06:36 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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1 In our IM last night, all Nerdstar and I could keep coming back to is how stupid and frustrating so much of what's happening over there is. You wrote it a lot more eloquently that I have. Hang in there!

Posted by: beth at April 09, 2004 07:23 PM (G7Amc)

2 Plato also likened reality to the shadows that are thrown on the cave wall by the flickering flames of the fire. We often see the shadows and try to grasp the reality (aka your "real" chairs. The reality in Iraq - if I read the right sources, is that the average Iraqi is delighted that we have made the ultimate sacrifice to provide their freedom and chance for democracy. But there are many that are threatened by this - especially in Iran and Syria - that are now engaged in the fight to destroy what has been won at a price of American lives, we are not fighting against a civil war but against trained guerillas from foreign countries. And our fine troops will win. The experience we had in Japan and Germany after WWII was similar. There were vicious attacks that we forget today. Peace and democracy come at a dear price. This is a journey that the Iraquis - if they make it - will be making for many years to come. The only question is whether we will give up before this has a chance to work. Moving from Plato to a more common experience, birth: we are still in delivery and the baby is viable. But the pain is enormous to the mother at this point. She can terminate the new life - and lose the baby; or perservere and hope the child will grow and prosper. Even that is not guaranteed. No parent can fortell what the child will become. God help us and the Iraqi people if we waver or fail in this venture.

Posted by: RobertP at April 10, 2004 03:20 AM (1+mnL)

3 Elsewhere you have written that US soldiers' lives are worth more than Iraqi civilian lives. And you are shocked and saddened that Iraqis are supporting their own extremist leaders and want the US out? Consider the words of a young Iraqi woman, your age and worried about her loved ones, as you are: "Where are the useless Governing Council? Why isn't anyone condemning the killings in the south and in Falloojeh?! Why aren't they sitting down that fool Bremer and telling him that this is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong??? If one of them were half a man or even half a human, they would threaten to resign their posts if there isn't an immediate ceasefire… the people are enraged. This latest situation proves that they aren't Iraqi- they aren't here for the welfare of the Iraqi people. "The American and European news stations don't show the dying Iraqis… they don't show the women and children bandaged and bleeding- the mother looking for some sign of her son in the middle of a puddle of blood and dismembered arms and legs… they don't show you the hospitals overflowing with the dead and dying because they don't want to hurt American feelings… but people *should* see it. You should see the price of your war and occupation- it's unfair that the Americans are fighting a war thousands of kilometers from home. They get their dead in neat, tidy caskets draped with a flag and we have to gather and scrape our dead off of the floors and hope the American shrapnel and bullets left enough to make a definite identification…" http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com You write that your instincts are telling you "Let's go home." TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.

Posted by: florian at April 11, 2004 07:37 AM (SEBm0)

4 Whoa, hold on, let's see if there's another way to look at this. As I see it, a year later and they have finally gotten their stuff together for their big counterattack, their big show of force before handover. It's their Battle of the Bulge. The coordination shows this has been planned for some time. And this is it. Some pictures of a crazed young cleric. A few thousand hostiles terrorizing the civilians. A few hits against our non-front-line troops. YES, I grieve for those who have been hurt and lost in this, but let's keep it in perspective. On the positive side, this is forcing the GC to finally step up and try taking some responsibility, in a very visible way. This is part of the baby-steps we have to hold their hand for while they're learning to walk. Will it work? Don't know yet. If not, we'll try something else. Remember, the reason we're there are the terrible alternatives if we were not. Those alternatives still await us if we turn away. As to Riverbend, she's been the most pro-Saddam of all the Iraqi bloggers, and the reasons seem pretty clear. No matter what she thinks, we're not going anywhere for some time.

Posted by: DSmith at April 11, 2004 05:18 PM (ZG0r7)

5 How twisted, DS, to call Riverbend "pro Saddam". It shows you have never read her. If you have any integrity you will write her and apologize. And you write "a year later and they have finally gotten their stuff together for their big counterattack". Who are *they*? We have been told it was Saddam's sons were leading the attacks, or Saddam, then foreigners, then Al Queda, then Al Sadr... What is obvious is regular moderate Iraqi people have gotten sick of the US government's lies about the invasion and occupation.

Posted by: florian at April 12, 2004 04:31 PM (WA0/w)

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