Reaching new levels
People are being burned alive.
On Thanksgiving, Sunnis killed 215 Shiites in one neighborhood. So Friday, a few Shiites went and set six people on fire. Elsewhere some Shiite mosques were set ablaze, killing 19.
This year, thousands and thousands of bodies have been found throughout the capital. Many are found beheaded, most have been tortured–electric drills and the like; before they are killed. Average, every day people. Shopkeepers, students, policemen, interpreters.
Can you imagine living in a city like that? Where kidnapping, torture and bombs are normal? Baghdad is a city of several million people. It has civil entities like any other city–administration buildings, courthouses, markets, parks, water plants, electric plants. People get up and go to work everyday, just like here. They get in their cars and head down the street, listening to the radio.
Except in Baghdad, you don’t know if the men next to you will blow you up, or shoot you. A band of police may stop you, ask for your identification and, if they are Sunni and your are Shiite, or vice versa, they may kill you.
As a father, going to work, trying to feed your family, probably very underemployed, you don’t know if your children will make it though the day. You might try to sign up to be a policeman…one of the few stable jobs left…but who knows if you’ll make it through the recruitment line.
Instead of “Did you do your homework?” and “Remember to look both ways to cross the street,” what do you tell your kids? I’m sure hugs are a little tighter, a little longer, maybe. What sort of values does this violence teach the young Iraq? What sort of anger is being seeded in the hearts of the children as their friends and family are picked off around them?
College students fear for their lives. Dorms are attacked. Professors fear giving bad grades to students, who might go and rustle up a rival militia and have them killed. Many have fled the country, and hundreds who have stayed have been kidnapped or killed.
How do you function in a city like that? Power only works some hours per day. Usually city blocks have generators and you pay the owner for a little bit of power. Clean water is scarce. Trash lines every street. Sewers are a joke. A trip to the market for a day’s food might get you bombed. It’s not like you can stock up for a month’s worth of groceries…no power to keep the food cold.
How does a city function at all? There are curfews at night–no one is allowed on the streets. On Fridays there is no pedestrian or car traffic allowed at all–you can’t even walk anywhere! In light of the recent surge in attacks, even the airport has been shut down until further notice.
How do you function as an Iraqi who wants to stay and make things better? There are all manner of people trying exploit the situation, but there are the men and women who won’t flee, who can’t, maybe, too poor; but who want to rebuild their homeland.
How do you run a business when you can’t get to work? How do you do business at all when people get killed on your street? How many times do you run outside to witness the burned out husks of car bombs and screams of the wounded before you cry out?
All of this, despite all America’s extension of of the troops to “secure the capital.” Now it’s time for all those extra boys to go home. And things will what? Get better?
My heart breaks to think of what it must be like to be a normal citizen there. Friends, cousins, bosses, imams, TV personalities, government officials, all are being gunned down around you. You see teams of men moving down the side streets in the black of night and you hold your breath, hoping they’re not breaking down your door, coming for your family. The Americans are around, but not to help. They just sweep the main roads to keep them clear for convoys. They don’t stop the death squads.
What do we expect the average citizens there to do? How should we expect them to feel? A lot of countries came in, made a lot of money, and all have left Iraq. How do you think that makes the average Iraqi feel? Can we really blame them for being so angry? We keep claiming liberation and democracy, freedom and a better world…and this is it? We say it “takes time,” but does it also take getting much, much worse without any hint of progress? Then it will, what, magically get better, like a fever breaking?
The oil is not flowing, the lights are not on, the government is not working, the killings not only have not stopped, but have escalated to the point where hundreds are killed every day…what’s next? Oh that’s right, I remember: stay the course.
Easily said in a speech, but harder to swallow, I imagine, as you hold what’s left of your son after a bombing.