April 26, 2007
Iraqi blogger Riverbend, writing about the wall that's being built around a "Sunni" area in Baghdad, and about the wreckage that is Iraq today. It's heart-breaking:
The wall, of course, will protect no one. I sometimes wonder if this is how the concentration camps began in Europe. The Nazi government probably said, "Oh look — we're just going to protect the Jews with this little wall here — it will be difficult for people to get into their special area to hurt them!" And yet, it will also be difficult to get out.
The Wall is the latest effort to further break Iraqi society apart. Promoting and supporting civil war isn't enough, apparently — Iraqis have generally proven to be more tenacious and tolerant than their mullahs, ayatollahs, and Vichy leaders. It's time for America to physically divide and conquer — like Berlin before the wall came down or Palestine today. This way, they can continue chasing Sunnis out of "Shia areas" and Shia out of "Sunni areas".
I always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television from foreign capitals (they can only appear on television from the safety of foreign capitals because I defy anyone to be publicly pro-war in Iraq). They refuse to believe that their religiously inclined, sectarian political parties fueled this whole Sunni/Shia conflict. They refuse to acknowledge that this situation is a direct result of the war and occupation. They go on and on about Iraq's history and how Sunnis and Shia were always in conflict and I hate that. I hate that a handful of expats who haven't been to the country in decades pretend to know more about it than people actually living there.
I remember Baghdad before the war — one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were — we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it — depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.
On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea — leaving ones home and extended family — leaving ones country — and to what? To where? [...]
So we've been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees — the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare — stay and wait and try to survive. [...]
The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends... And to what? [Emphasis added]
There may have been people in the White House and the Pentagon who actually believed that US troops would be greeted as liberators and accepted as the new de facto rulers of Iraq. Or maybe the game plan has always been to create such chaos that Iraqis would eventually demand partition of their own country. Or — perhaps most likely — both, with various factions working at cross-purposes. In any case, I think we need vehemently to resist the notion that if only the US had done this or that thing differently — short of immediately pulling out after the fall of Saddam, something that was never in the cards, just look at the enormous US embassy under construction in Baghdad — it all could have ended well. There isn't some "right" way to invade and occupy a nation of people who do not want you there. The problem isn't that the invasion was done wrong. The problem is that the invasion was done at all. And every day that US troops remain in Iraq, the failure and the unimaginable suffering only deepen.
The US has so much to answer for. If we don't redeem ourselves soon — assuming that redemption is still even possible — it seems inescapable that, one way or another, the US will pay a dark and heavy price. Call it karma, cause and effect. Or call it justice.