Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome
And again for your reading and commenting pleasure is my Global Voices column on the Iraqi blogs...
This week is a week of rememberance. It is the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war and the Iraq bloggers are commenting on the hopes at the start and their feelings for the future. It is also the 18th anniversary of the Halabja massacre. And the burning by Halabjans of the monument raised mixed comments from bloggers. Also several bloggers take on the issue of American violence. Last week I wrote about insomnia, this week I have laziness and the confused kid gets back to being confused.
If you read nothing else this week, read this:
24 Steps to Liberty watches the inaugural session of the new Iraqi Parliament and gives a vivid and personal account of the proceedings. He describes the event in a way that television never can:
"Jafari, the current PM, and Mulla Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq ... were whispering to each other each time Pachachi said a sentence including “far from ethnic and religious divisions,” they didn’t like what he was saying. I could sense it from several feet distance."
The last straw for 24 Steps came when a member objected to giving the oath on the grounds that two words had changed:
"I didn’t know if I should cry, smile, laugh, or spit on my country’s lawmakers... I was thinking 'come on men. It’s only the first session. We are not asking for much. Just say that you are the new parliament. Is that too hard for you to agree on? Well, f**k you and f**k me if I believe there will be a ‘national unity government’ if you don’t even agree that you exist.' "
Its been three years since the beginning of the war.
Among bloggers, optimism is hard to come by. But what there is, can be summed up in Iraq the Model. Mohammed starts unsure saying that "until this moment we have different feelings and opinions about where this operation brought us and where its ... going to lead us." He remembers the days just after the regime was toppled. How Iraqis were angry and hit out at symbols of the old regime. The fears of America:
"all that Iraqis knew about America was that it's ... the imposer of the sanctions and above all, the America that let us down in 1991...
There was a wide gap between the two but we had no choice but to work together, because in a moment Iraqis didn't choose, America and a group of Iraqi ex-pat leaders were suddenly replacing a regime that controlled everything for too long.
Iraqis were confused and vulnerable.."
But was it the right decision to remove Saddam? Mohammed says 'yes' because "life stopped and time stopped when Saddam ruled Iraq." and "we have hope and I see this hope even in the words of those that are cynical about the outcome of the political process". He ends defiantly: "And yes…Iraq will be the model."
Riverbend sees things differently:
"It has been three years since the beginning of the war that marked the end of Iraq’s independence. Three years of occupation and bloodshed.
She fears the present:
"The real fear is the mentality of so many people lately- the rift that seems to have worked it’s way through the very heart of the country, dividing people. It’s disheartening to talk to acquaintances- sophisticated, civilized people- and hear how Sunnis are like this, and Shia are like that… To watch people pick up their things to move to 'Sunni neighborhoods' or 'Shia neighborhoods' ."
And she remembers how sectarianism was treated before. As a child she was asked by a friend if she was a Smurf or a Snork as a code for 'Sunni' or 'Shia' and being told by her mother "we’re Muslims- there’s no difference."
In a similar vein Hala_s notes that Iraq had been ripped off by the Coalition Provisional Authority, is being torn apart by all its neighbours, and Iraqis are too busy surviving to do anything about it. She wonders if it is too late to stop Iraq sinking.
Treasure of Baghdad gives his personal recollection of how his family lived through the war and recalls how over three years his happiness of being liberated has turned to disappointment: "I thought this war was the last as we were told and promised. I did not expect it would be the... beginning of horror, fear, civil war, destruction, and death."
The Woman I Was relates a long list of kidnappings, murder, assassinations, violence, and war. She says
"all these happened in the second week of March while the Americans were preparing them selves to celebrate the third anniversary of the "new Iraq"..The week was a typical week .. The ordinary week called “bloody” and the extraordinary one called “bloodiest”. Blood became the character of the Iraqis life and day.."She also talks about the absurdities of the new Iraq. Well worth reading!
Attawie talks about freedom: "in the new Iraq, the free Iraq, ... we are free to say publicly what we want to say. Oh, and this freedom gives the right to other free citizens to disagree with me. Therefore, they are free to attack me, bomb my car and even kill me. I believe the chaos results from an overdose of freedom."
The last word goes to Hassan:
"Not more than an hour before, I got a call from a BBC reporter, asking for my opinion about the last three years, considering that the anniversary of the beginning of the war is this weekend. I really was surprised, because I have never thought of it. I never thought of remembering the day the war started. And I won't."
There was another anniversary this week. The 18th Anniversary of the Halabja massacre. This anniversary ended in violence when people from Halabja attacked and burned down the monument to their dead. Bloggers had varied reactions.
Some are saddened: The Exiled Shalash laments "Haven't we suffered enough? Haven't enough of us died? When will this stop? When will we have time to mourn our dead and write eulogies for our dead and erect monument in honor of our dead? WHEN? WHEN?" and Fayrouz does not understand why "I'm not surprised the Kurds aren't satisfied with their government... But, I'm surprised that people would destroy this monument because of their anger at the government. I'm not sure what message they're trying to send."
An Iraqi Tear points to a unifying aspect: "Iraqis, before the anger of Halabja, used to think that the Kurds are living in another world; a world of prosperity and safe.. Now they are discovering that they are on the same boat; fighting for their rights no matter if they are Arabs, Kurds or Turkmens!."
Iraqi Tear and Asterism (that's me) also talk of the hypocracy around the memorial. Iraqi Tear reminds us that "In July 1989, April Glaspie, the American ambassador then in Iraq, and Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister then too, gave a joint press conference in Baghdad... Glaspie red a document.. finding that the chemical weapon (gas) used against Halabja was not only Iraqi." and Asterism remembers that the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was in alliance with Saddam at the time of the gas attack.
In other worlds
Several bloggers posted graphic pictures and comment on the bombing of a family home by America near Balad where 11 people, mostly children. I will not link here to the posts because the pictures are so disturbing. While many commentors on these blogs point out that worse is being done by Iraqis on each other I personally wonder if it is because Iraqis expect higher standards from the American army.
Shaggy is having a seriously lazy week and gives us a lesson in applied procrastination. On Saturday he puts off studying for college, and wonders about lunch. Later he picks up his book but falls asleep on page 36. By Monday he is complaining that he has reverted to being a slob. "Today's my day to drive, I really ought to go out for a drive after lunch. Wow, within a matter of minutes I've decided to push back my studies. Where's my lunch." Then he goes on to forget to call his friend or fill the car up with petrol. Tuesday was "Another Sloppy Day". Then by Wednesday he is excited to go to college. He even brushes his teeth.
I think we have all had a week like that.
And Konfused Kid is in desperate need of counseling. So who does he turn to for help? The blogoshere of course. We are warned: "this post is personal and could be admittedly boring, as I will treat you as my psychiatrist. You have been warned like hell so don't flame in the comments". And he pours his soul out about love and relationships in a 3000-word post. Someone please read it and sort the Konfused Kid out so he can get back to posting what we love to read.