Riverbend – Baghdad Burning November 6, 2005
My parents, like many Iraqis of their generation and educational background, discouraged too much tv. When E. and I were younger, they were vigilant about the type of shows and movies we were allowed to watch. They didn’t like for us to be exposed to propaganda- Arab or Western- and any programs containing excessive violence, foul language or sexual content were prohibited. On the other hand, all types of books were encouraged. I grew up reading books by authors ranging from Jane Austen to John LeCarre, from Emily Bronte to Maxim Gorky to Simone de Beauvoir… nothing was ever off-limits.
Where movies and television were concerned, there were times when something would slip through their censorship- or rather, there were times when WE would slip through their censorship and watch something at a friend’s house or at a relative’s house, etc.
I believe everyone remembers a movie or two, seen during childhood, that remained ingrained in their memory for years. For me, there were two such events. One was a movie, the other was a recording or documentary- I can’t remember which.
In my memory, neither of them have a name and neither of them have a place- I don’t remember where I saw either one. The images, however, play themselves over in my head with the clarity of an original DVD being shown at the highest resolution.
The first one, I remember, was a movie about the Holocaust. It was fictional but obviously based on actual events. I saw that film sometime in the mid-eighties. The image that horrified me most was of a little girl, no more than six or seven years of age, being made to run by Nazi guards and try to scale a very high wall. She was told that if she could scale that wall, she would be free. As soon as she started running towards the wall, her little feet stumbling in the rush to cover the distance between her captors and freedom, the guards set free three large, ferocious, black dogs on her. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I remember a symphony of terror- her screams, the barking dogs and laughing guards.
The second movie/film/actual footage had no actors- they were real people acting out atrocities. We were visiting Iraq and I was around 8 years old. I walked in on someone, somewhere, watching what I thought at first was news footage because of the picture quality. It showed what I later learned was an Iraqi POW in Iran. I watched as Iranian guards tied each arm of the helpless man to a different vehicle. I was young, but even I knew what was going to happen the next moment. I wanted to run away or close my eyes- but I couldn’t move. I was rooted to the spot, almost as if I too had been chained there. A moment later, the cars began driving off in opposite directions- and the man was in agony as his arm was torn off at the socket.
I never forgot that video. Millions of Iraqis still remember it. Every time I hear the word "aseer" which is Arabic for POW, that video plays itself in my head. For weeks, I’d see it in my mind before I fell asleep at night, and wake up to it in the morning. It haunted me and I’d wonder how long it took the man to die after that atrocity- I didn’t even know human arms came off that way.
The horrors of what happened to the POWs in Iran lived with us even after the war. The rumors of torture- mental and physical- came back so often and were confirmed so much, that mothers would pray their sons were dead instead of taken prisoner in Iran- especially after that video that came out in either 1984 or 1986. Every Iraqi who had a missing relative from that war, saw them in the agonized face of that POW who lost his arm. SCIRI head Abdul Aziz Al Hakim and his dead brother Mohammed Baqir Al Hakim were both well-known interrogators and torturers of Iraqi POWs in Iran.
There isn’t a single Iraqi family, I believe, that didn’t lose a loved one, or several, to that war. There isn’t a single family that didn’t have horror stories to tell about the POW that came home. They were giving back our POWs up until 2003. In our family alone, we lost four men to that war- three were confirmed dead- one Shia and two Sunnis- and the fourth, S., has been missing since 1983.
When he left for the war, S. was 24 and engaged to be married within the year- the house was even furnished and the wedding date set. He never came back. His mother, my mothers cousin, finally gave up hope that he’d come back in 2003. With every new group of POWs returning from Iran, she’d make phone calls and beg for news of her darling S. Had anyone seen him? Had anyone heard of him? Was he dead? With every fresh disappointment, we’d tell her that in spite of the long years, it was possible he was still alive- there was hope he’d come back. In 2002, she confessed to my mother that she wished someone would come along and crush the hope once and for all- confirm he was dead. In her heart, a mothers heart, she knew he was dead- but she needed the confirmation because without it, giving up hope completely would be a form of betrayal.
The agony of the long war with Iran is what makes the current situation in Iraq so difficult to bear- especially this last year. The occupation has ceased to be American. It is American in face, and militarily, but in essence it has metamorphosed slowly but surely into an Iranian one.
It began, of course, with Badir’s Brigade and the several Iran-based political parties which followed behind the American tanks in April 2003. It continues today with a skewed referendum, and a constitution that will guarantee a southern Iraqi state modeled on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The referendum results were so disappointing and there have been so many stories of fraud and shady dealings (especially in Mosul), that there’s already talk of boycotting the December elections. This was the Puppets’ shining chance to show that there is that modicum of democracy they claim the Iraqi people are enjoying under occupation- that chance was terribly botched up.
As for the December elections- Sistani has, up until now, coyly abstained from blatantly supporting any one specific political group. This will probably continue until late November / early December during which he will be persistently asked by his followers to please issue a Fatwa about the elections. Eventually, he’ll give his support to one of the parties and declare a vote for said party a divine obligation. I wager he’ll support the United Iraqi Alliance - like last elections.
Interestingly enough, this time around the UIA will be composed of not just SCIRI and Da’awa- but also of the Sadrists (Jaysh il Mahdi)- Muqtada’s followers! For those who followed the situation in Iraq last year, many will recognize Muqtada as the 'firebrand cleric’, the 'radical’ and 'terrorist’. Last year, there was even a warrant for Muqtada’s arrest from the Ministry of Interior and supported by the Americans who repeatedly said they were either going to detain the 'radical cleric’ or kill him.
Well, today he’s very much alive and involved in the 'political process’ American politicians and their puppets hail so energetically. Sadr and his followers have been responsible for activities such as terrorizing hairdressers, bombing liquor stores, and abductions of women not dressed properly, etc. because all these things are considered anti-Islamic (according to Iranian-style Islam). Read more about Sadr’s militia here- who dares to say the Americans, Brits and Puppets don’t have everything under control?!
Americans constantly tell me, "What do you think will happen if we pull out of Iraq- those same radicals you fear will take over." The reality is that most Iraqis don’t like fundamentalists and only want stability- most Iraqis wouldn’t stand for an Iran-influenced Iraq. The American military presence is working hand in hand with Badir, etc. because only together with Iran can they suppress anti-occupation Iraqis all over the country. If and when the Americans leave, their Puppets and militias will have to pack up and return to wherever they came from because without American protection and guidance they don’t stand a chance.
We literally laugh when we hear the much subdued threats American politicians make towards Iran. The US can no longer afford to threaten Iran because they know that should the followers of Sadr, Iranian cleric Sistani and Badir’s Brigade people rise up against the Americans, they’d have to be out of Iraq within a month. Iran can do what it wants- enrich uranium? Of course! If Tehran declared tomorrow that it was currently in negotiations for a nuclear bomb, Bush would have to don his fake pilot suit again, gush enthusiastically about the War on Terror and then threaten Syria some more.
Congratulations Americans- not only are the hardliner Iranian clerics running the show in Iran- they are also running the show in Iraq. This shift of power should have been obvious to the world when My-Loyalty-to-the-Highest-Bidder-Chalabi sold his allegiance to Iran last year. American and British sons and daughters and husbands and wives are dying so that this coming December, Iraqis can go out and vote for Iran influenced clerics to knock us back a good four hundred years.
What happened to the dream of a democratic Iraq?
Iraq has been the land of dreams for everyone except Iraqis- the Persian dream of a Shia controlled Islamic state modelled upon Iran and inclusive of the holy shrines in Najaf, the pan-Arab nationalist dream of a united Arab region with Iraq acting as its protective eastern border, the American dream of controlling the region by installing permanent bases and a Puppet government in one of its wealthiest countries, the Kurdish dream of an independent Kurdish state financed by the oil wealth in Kirkuk…
The Puppets the Americans empowered are advocates of every dream except the Iraqi one: The dream of Iraqi Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen… the dream of a united, stable, prosperous Iraq which has, over the last two years, gone up in the smoke of car bombs, military raids and a foreign occupation.
Last updated 08/11/2005