Saturday :: Aug 5, 2006

Mission Accomplished: The Middle East Freedom Version


by Mary

Six weeks after starting a war in Iraq, Bush declared success. He'd gotten what he wanted: his very own war. One that he'd been looking forward to since before he became president, because then he would get to be a war president.

What did the Iraqis get? Well, they don't have Saddam to kick them around anymore. But they also don't have electricity, or clean water, or functional hospitals, or safefy. So what did they get in exchange? They've had billions of their dollars sucked up by thieves and war profiteers. They are living with deadly militia and police that can't be trusted. Tens of thousands have lost their lives and cities have been turned to rubble.

They've learned to live with 4 or 5 hours of electricity a day, even in the worst of the Iraqi summer heat. We Americans have experienced our own heat wave this summer, many without air conditioning in our homes, but at least our fans worked. Now perhaps we can be more empathetic with the ordinary Baghdad resident.

Women have learned to live with wearing a hijab when they ventured away from their homes. Not because there are any laws that say they must wear the headscarf, but because it is too dangerous for themselves and their family if they don't. Here's Riverbend's description of what it is like:

There are no laws that say we have to wear a hijab (yet), but there are the men in head-to-toe black and the turbans, the extremists and fanatics who were liberated by the occupation, and at some point, you tire of the defiance. You no longer want to be seen. I feel like the black or white scarf I fling haphazardly on my head as I walk out the door makes me invisible to a certain degree- it’s easier to blend in with the masses shrouded in black. If you’re a female, you don’t want the attention- you don’t want it from Iraqi police, you don’t want it from the black-clad militia man, you don’t want it from the American soldier. You don’t want to be noticed or seen.

I have nothing against the hijab, of course, as long as it is being worn by choice. Many of my relatives and friends wear a headscarf. Most of them began wearing it after the war. It started out as a way to avoid trouble and undue attention, and now they just keep it on because it makes no sense to take it off. What is happening to the country?

I realized how common it had become only in mid-July when M., a childhood friend, came to say goodbye before leaving the country. She walked into the house, complaining of the heat and the roads, her brother following closely behind. It took me to the end of the visit for the peculiarity of the situation to hit me. She was getting ready to leave before the sun set, and she picked up the beige headscarf folded neatly by her side. As she told me about one of her neighbors being shot, she opened up the scarf with a flourish, set it on her head like a pro, and pinned it snuggly under her chin with the precision of a seasoned hijab-wearer. All this without a mirror- like she had done it a hundred times over… Which would be fine, except that M. is Christian.

If M. can wear one quietly- so can I.

The other thing Riverbend writes about in her post is of the numerous goodbyes that she has been saying this summer as those Iraqis that can leave do so.

I’ve said goodbye this last month to more people than I can count. Some of the ‘goodbyes’ were hurried and furtive- the sort you say at night to the neighbor who got a death threat and is leaving at the break of dawn, quietly.

...During times like these I remember a speech Bush made in 2003: One of the big achievements he claimed was the return of jubilant ‘exiled’ Iraqis to their country after the fall of Saddam. I’d like to see some numbers about the Iraqis currently outside of the country you are occupying… Not to mention internally displaced Iraqis abandoning their homes and cities.

I sometimes wonder if we’ll ever know just how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left the country this bleak summer. I wonder how many of them will actually return. Where will they go? What will they do with themselves? Is it time to follow? Is it time to wash our hands of the country and try to find a stable life somewhere else?

Those who are part of the Iraqi diaspora are increasingly found in Jordon. As another Iraqi blogger, Zeyad, notes, over half a million Iraqis have fled to Jordon, a huge increase in population for a country of 6 million. As he says, it doesn't look like Iraqis are thinking of leaving anytime soon and the situation could get even worse as Iraq spirals out of control.

For normal people, the chaos and death engendered by Bush's war would not be considered an accomplishment. But that's because we aren't thinking long term. In fact it is just another birth pang on the way to spreading the flames of war across more of the Middle East. Or as Bush put it, it was an opportunity to get it right. So who defines what is right? According to Sidney Blumenthal, the danger today is that the neocons will get their wish for a Clean Break:

Having failed in the Middle East, the administration is attempting to salvage its credibility by equating Israel's predicament with the U.S. quagmire in Iraq. Neoconservatives, for their part, see the latest risk to Israel's national security as a chance to scuttle U.S. negotiations with Iran, perhaps the last opportunity to realize the fantasies of "A Clean Break."

By using NSA intelligence to set an invisible tripwire, the Bush administration is laying the condition for regional conflagration with untold consequences -- from Pakistan to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Israel. Secretly devising a scheme that might thrust Israel into a ring of fire cannot be construed as a blunder. It is a deliberate, calculated and methodical plot.

Is this what Bush wants? Dan Froomkin thinks it's time to look for clues about what drives Bush. One thing he found is that Joel C. Rosenberg, an author of Christian apocalyptic fiction, has been invited to the White House Bible study group to talk about what he thinks will come next and is still in touch with the White House. Rosenburg brags that he writes comes true. And he believes he knows what will come next in the Middle East, because he knows the end times are near. Is this the mission that Bush wishes to accomplish?

Mary :: 9:18 PM :: Comments (16) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!