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Old 10-16-2006, 11:48 PM   #1
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The Iraqi Perspective

For my current Geography unit on Iraq I had a guest lecturer come in to my 7th & 8th Grade Geography class yesterday. She is ethnically Armenian and a Christian but born and raised in Iraq and now a U.S. citizen. She lived in Iraq for most of her life including the time when Saddam Hussein came to power through the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. She came to my class to talk about life in Iraq. Her sister, who is currently living in Iraq, but has come to Saipan to visit until December when she goes back to Baghdad also came along.

Her presentation was absolutely fascinating.

A couple of things that really struck me:

1. How truly scary it is to be living in Iraq right now. They say they rarely go out—they just stay inside most of the time, because it’s so dangerous. When they do go out they say their goodbyes, not certain if they’ll see each other again. They try to avoid gathering in groups because terrorists tend to target large gatherings. One my friend’s mother died in February, she was unable to return to Iraq for the funeral because it would have been too risky for her to go as a U.S. citizen. But of the people that were there, only four went to the funeral because it was just too dangerous to do anything bigger.

2. She says that suicide bombings and kidnappings etc are done by outsiders, non-Iraqis that have come into Iraq’s porous borders to wage holy war. According to her, these terrorists have no compunctions about killing Iraqi citizens if need be to get at the Americans and the soldiers under the command of the current Iraqi government. She also talks about the fighting between the Shia and Sunni factions but seemed to imply that they were less indiscriminate in their killing.

3. I found it fascinating how wars are named differently and what those names often say about the attitude during the conflict. She refers to the Iran-Iraq war as the Persian War and the Persian Gulf War she calls The First American War (the current one being the Second, I would assume).

4. She says she worries about the religious people getting into power, because they will make life much stricter especially for women. One thing that rarely gets mentioned about Saddam Hussein was that his government was essentially secular. He may have occasionally wrapped himself in the mantle of religion as a way burnishing a populist image (similar to our own president)—he was responsible for adding the words “God is Great” to the Iraqi flag, but personally Saddam wasn’t very religious, and as such had little in common with religious fanatics like Osama bin Laden.

5. She says that Iraqis were really happy when they heard the Americans were coming, but now they hate having the Americans there. She says people began to stop feeling “liberated” and more “invaded” when the U.S. started putting up it’s flags everywhere.

6. And this was the thing that really got me: She says that the Iraqi people always hated Saddam. He was horrible. But now most Iraqis want Saddam back. In their view things were bad under Saddam, but at least (if you weren’t on his hit list) you were safe, and things were basically secure and stable. Things are much worse now for the average Iraqi citizen then they were under Saddam Hussein. (Though, I’m sure Sting2 would be happy to sit down with this woman and explain to her how she and her family are misinterpreting their own experience and that in fact things are much, much better ) The attitude seems to be that Saddam knew how to keep the people under control and was best able to keep the various factions in Iraq subdued.

In summary, this on the ground account—which is admittedly subjective (she is after all an Armenian Christian. If she were a Kurdish Muslim, or Shia Arab she might have a different view) but I believe still very much valid—combined with the more objective facts, indicates that we have erred gravely in our actions in Iraq. When the people are wishing they had a tyrannical dictator back, something has gone terribly wrong.
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Old 10-17-2006, 01:14 AM   #2
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Thanks for posting this. I agree that her perspective is her own and some will argue that other Iraqis feel totally safe except for the million or so who have left the country.

Regardless, the fact that we don't see reporters reporting from anywhere except the balcony of a hotel in the green zone or embedded with military is proof that Baghdad is one helluva scary place to be.

In regards to Saddam's secularism, many people here have posted that about him til they were blue in the face to refute the point that he was aligned with Al Qaeda. That was a while back though.

When you build an embassy bigger than the Vatican, you ain't leaving....ever. I'm sure people in Iraq are comforted to see George Bush's Palace is on schedule with no power outages affecting its' construction. Totally understandable for her to feel occupied as opposed to liberated. Plus I would have been offended to see my "liberators" kick out the dictator and then move into his house and setup camp. What kind of message does that send?
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Old 10-17-2006, 01:33 AM   #3
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I hate to admit this, and I hate to leave the Iraqi people on their own - but I think it is time to get out. Mission accomplished - they are no longer a threat to us. If they become a threat again, the Air Force can quickly handle it.

You can't stop millions from the desire to slaughter each other. One American life is too valuable to be spent on a murderous, ungrateful, barbaric culture.

They hate each other there, and "democracy" isn't enough to erase hundreds of years of rivalry.

If it breaks into chaos - so be it. It seems thats what they want.
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:16 AM   #4
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But it won't just be an internal fight. You'll have (at least) Iran and Turkey in there within 24hrs of the US withdrawal.
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:16 AM   #5
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Partition could be the most feesible option; standing back for a slaughter would be a disaster for the long suffering people of Iraq and turing around to blame them for whats going on now (as ungrateful) isn't productive.

Foreign troops and occupation could never and can never end an insurgency and the balance has shifted to a point where they can be pulled out without Iraq decending into genocide provided that it is done right. A nuclear Iran filling the breach and maybe even taking over the Iraqi oil fields is going to be the concequence of the Bush administrations weakness
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Old 10-17-2006, 05:32 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by AEON
I hate to admit this, and I hate to leave the Iraqi people on their own - but I think it is time to get out. Mission accomplished - they are no longer a threat to us. If they become a threat again, the Air Force can quickly handle it.

You can't stop millions from the desire to slaughter each other. One American life is too valuable to be spent on a murderous, ungrateful, barbaric culture.

They hate each other there, and "democracy" isn't enough to erase hundreds of years of rivalry.

If it breaks into chaos - so be it. It seems thats what they want.
Perhaps because I know people personally who are affected by this, I have a hard time accepting the "murderous, ungrateful, barbaric" picture you're painting. Is that the way my friend came across to you in my first post? Based on her own account, in what sense is she murderous or barbaric? Based on her own account, what exactly should she be grateful for?

The sense I'm getting is that there are a lot of normal, decent people in Iraq who are now huddling in their homes in fear, while the nutcases and out-of-towners go ballistic. Those people locked in their homes terrified to go outside for fear of losing their lives are the "millions." The killers are not the "millions." If they were there'd already be no one left alive in the country. The people of Iraq are victims, not criminals. They didn't ask for Saddam. They didn't ask for the U.S. to come in and get rid of him either. They didn't ask for any of this.

And I don't think just hitting the road is the solution either. More in another post to follow. I"ve got to run.
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Old 10-17-2006, 06:20 AM   #7
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all of the dilemma and all of the deads and wounded in iraq are based on the lies of criminals like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney etc. its a shame for the US that they have installed criminals as their president and as their vice-president. and its a tragedy for all the other nations that monsters like Bush & Cheney are still at the helm of such an influental nation like the US.
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Old 10-17-2006, 06:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by AEON
I hate to admit this, and I hate to leave the Iraqi people on their own - but I think it is time to get out. Mission accomplished - they are no longer a threat to us. If they become a threat again, the Air Force can quickly handle it.


I really must take strong exception to this. The mission was accomplished before it began. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was nowhere near being a threat to us, such that it necessitated the invasion of the country. It wasn't like Iran, which isn't denying that they are attempting to develop a nuclear program. It wasn't like North Korea which today was actually THREATENING to attack America and has verifiably tested weapons of mass destruction (granted they are empty threats but that's still more than Saddam was doing at the time we invaded) and yet we've not invaded or "liberated" either of those countries.

But now we're there, and it sucks, and it's a hard job made doubly hard by poor planning and execution, and we say, "Let's get out and leave them to reap the results of what WE have sown?!?" I don't care how hard-nosed and pragmatic and realpolitik you are, that is just the height of irresponsiblity. It's sad that our soldiers are put in harms way on account of the poor decisions of our leaders, but if we are to live up to what our country stands for, if those that have already given their lives are not to give them in vain, then we cannot just "cut and run." And it won't do anything for our security either. If we leave Iraq now it will become another pre-911, Afghanistan--a rabid theocracy, a wild west of a nation where various terrorist organizations can set up shop and plan the next Big Attack unhindered by any kind of stable government. Shoot, Al-Qaeda is already there now. They could probably start setting up new training camps in right away! So no, just leaving because we screwed up (or if you prefer, because we "succeeded") aint gonna cut it.

My feeling is we will simply have to dig in for the long haul. Either that or find another brutal dictator (it's not as if the U.S. hasn't been willing to cozy up to brutal dictators in the past provided that they are friendly to our interests) that will quell the various insurgencies Saddam-Hussein style. Or just dust off Saddam's lapels and give him his job back. How's that for pragmatism.

Quote:
Originally posted by AEON

If it breaks into chaos - so be it. It seems thats what they want.
Who is this "they"? It's not the woman who spoke to my class nor anyone in her family. I can assure you of that.
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Old 10-17-2006, 11:19 AM   #9
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The guest lecturer's visit sounds like it was a great opportunity for both you and your students--thanks for sharing some of her remarks.

I'm not surprised if a lot of Iraqis would now prefer to have Saddam (or some similiar) back--a common popular morale problem for NATO in Afghanistan is convincing the public, especially in provinces where the insurgency is strong and reconstruction hasn't made much headway, that resisting Taliban insurgents will pay off for them in the long run. Because to many of them, well yes the Taliban were a loathsome and cruel lot so far as it goes, but on the other hand they succeeded in bringing peace (i.e., cessation of combat) and order (i.e., warlords and other local thugs/strongmen were reined in) to many areas of Afghanistan where no one had known these things in living memory. Understandably, for many, these are more immediately pressing concerns than (e.g.) whether their daughters can go to school, a freedom whose consequences are too unfamiliar to most to mean anything very tangible.

Judah recently mentioned in another thread that the current cover story in Harper's concerns various exit strategies that, if done right, need not be disaster stories--I haven't read this yet, but mean to get around to it soon. Other than that, though, like you I just can't conscience a cut-and-run-then-come-what-may approach. What about all of Bush's well-meaning words about "the Iraqi people" back when all this started? We "care" about their fate for rhetoric's sake only, and only when it's useful to justify pursuing our own interests? Is it really in our interests to abandon the place to whoever has the most guns and the strongest will to kill? And, you're right to point out the risk of Iraq becoming a haven for training camps--this is one good "self-interested" reason to doubt the wisdom of pulling out abruptly.

Did your guests have anything to say about what they felt would happen if the US abruptly pulled out?
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Old 10-17-2006, 12:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean


Perhaps because I know people personally who are affected by this, I have a hard time accepting the "murderous, ungrateful, barbaric" picture you're painting. Is that the way my friend came across to you in my first post? Based on her own account, in what sense is she murderous or barbaric? Based on her own account, what exactly should she be grateful for?

I mean the ones running around killing everyone. There are simply too many people dedicated to slaughtering civilians. You can't really combat an enemy that is killing itself.

We have to hope and pray that enough Iraqis get fed up with the situation and stop these thugs.
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Old 10-17-2006, 12:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by AEON


I mean the ones running around killing everyone. There are simply too many people dedicated to slaughtering civilians. You can't really combat an enemy that is killing itself.

We have to hope and pray that enough Iraqis get fed up with the situation and stop these thugs.


so you, as an Ameican and especially as a self-described pro-war conservative, don't feel at all implicated and complicit with the violence?
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Old 10-17-2006, 01:48 PM   #12
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so you, as an Ameican and especially as a self-described pro-war conservative, don't feel at all implicated and complicit with the violence?
Nope - the hatred was there before we ever arrived, and will be there when we are gone. Only saddam's brutality kept the Iraqis from having a civil war.

Our presence, I believe, actually is preventing things from being so much worse. I feel bad for most of the Iraqi people - I really do. But it is time for us to accept this is mostly a problem between two different sects of Islam. Is this really something we want to get involved with?

I know we need to maintain a presence there because the whole region may slip into war. I am more likely to accept a proposal that we build a huge garrision deep in the desert and simply blast anything that gets close to it.
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:07 PM   #13
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Originally posted by AEON


Nope - the hatred was there before we ever arrived, and will be there when we are gone. Only saddam's brutality kept the Iraqis from having a civil war.

Our presence, I believe, actually is preventing things from being so much worse. I feel bad for most of the Iraqi people - I really do. But it is time for us to accept this is mostly a problem between two different sects of Islam. Is this really something we want to get involved with?

I know we need to maintain a presence there because the whole region may slip into war. I am more likely to accept a proposal that we build a huge garrision deep in the desert and simply blast anything that gets close to it.

so the fact that we went in, knocked over a horrible dictator, and were totally unaware of "the hatred [that] was there before we arrived" -- this doesn't bother you? the fact that we never planned for this? the fact that there was never a plan to deal with these sectarian tensions that, as you've just noted, have always been there?

do we not bear ANY responsibility?
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:37 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by AEON

One American life is too valuable to be spent on a murderous, ungrateful, barbaric culture.

.
That is a despicable statement. A life is a life. Americans are no more loved by God than any other human being.

The Iraqi's are not barbaric creatures in total by any means of your imagination.
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:39 PM   #15
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Originally posted by Scarletwine


That is a despicable statement. A life is a life. Americans are no more loved by God than any other human being.

The Iraqi's are not barbaric creatures in total by any ,eans of your imagination.
Thank you...
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