Across the Bay

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Iraqis Speak Out

Remember that panic attack by Juan Cole entitled "Shiite International," where he accused Bush of radicalizing Shiites worldwide etc.?

Well he should read the following post by Ali, who writes in the Iraqi blog "Iraq the Model":

"I really laughed at a scene that was not supposed to be funny at all. I was watching the news and they showed a report about a huge demonstration organized in Lebanon by Hizbullah. The estimates said that there were about 500 thousands of She’at Muslim protesting against the “violations” of the American army in the holy cities of Najaf and Kerballa.
That scene took me for a while away from the reality where I stand. It took me a moment to ‘glance’ back to where I am, to Iraq. Despite some alleged "Fatwas" and few speeches about “red lines”, most of the political AND religious leaders were calling for withdrawal of *all* armed forces and militias from the holy cities. No one called for jihad, and no one blamed the Americans, except for Sadr followers. There were almost no anti-American demonstrations regarding this issue, at least not any significant ones.

If one is to believe the media and the Arab leaders and Muslim clerics, the only conclusions that can be drawn from such a situation, is that there are no Iraqis in Iraq. The only Iraqis who seem to exist and “care about the Iraqi people” live outside Iraq! I can name in this respect, in addition to the above; the western media, the French, German and Russian governments and the “pacifists”. Otherwise why aren’t the Iraqis going out to the streets in hundreds of thousands to protest against their "oppressors"!?

I guess there are only few answers to this question. It’s either that the majority of Iraqis don’t feel there’s such huge violation that needs to be protested against, or that they are more interested in their daily lives; their jobs and the future of their children than whining about buildings that as holy as they are to them, can not match their care about their jobs and children’s future.

As for the comment on how George Bush has lost all the Muslims in the universe (among whom are Iraqis I presume!), Omar, another Iraqi blogger drew our attention to an opinion poll where Iraqis expressed their views on life in today's Iraq. One Iraqi from Baghdad had this to say:

"I'm an Iraqi citizen and I want to thank president GWB from all my heart for the great service he's done to the Iraqi people by freeing us from one of the worst tyrants in history. This liberation didn't suit the enemies of humanity and freedom, thus we see them committing terrorist acts claiming to resist occupation by killing their own people, but that will not affect the Iraqis lust for freedom. Thanks again GWB.

The following also would make for good reading for Cole, as well as Blix:

"We lived our worst years under Saddam regime, a regime that many Arabs still believe in! We don't know why don't they leave us in peace, especially the Arab media that turns liberation into occupation and criminals into resistant. We, Iraqis, know the truth very well. The situation is much better now for the vast majority of Iraqis. Most of the people are government employees who used to get paid 4 or 6 thousand Iraqi dinars. Now the lowest salary is 100 thousand Iraqi Dinar. We feel free and we don't fear prisons and torture. The Arab media, as expected, made a huge fuss about the prisoners abuse in Abu-Gharib. Shame on them. Where were they when Saddam put explosives around a bunch of young men and blasted their bodies and they all saw that on TV? Where were they?

I had to leave Iraq because I didn't want to be one of Saddam's slaves. After so many years, I'm back to my country and I saw that people are not as nervous as they used to be. I saw hope in their eyes despite the security problems. All I have to say to our Arab brothers is,"We are practicing democracy. You keep enjoying dictatorship"
Ilham Hussain-Baghdad.

The daily life in Basra is not that different from other parts of Iraq; It's very hot, the water and power supply are not Continueous, still I prefer to live a year in these conditions than one hour like those we lived under Saddam.
Abbas Mahir Tahir-Basra.

Ali also wrote a piece on Chalabi which is worth reading.

But this story is reserved for Watenpaugh, who had the following (among other rubbish) to say about US-Iraq cooperation in the education field:

"I listened to the same language of democratization and development being employed as part of a broader, concerted plan to turn Iraq into a dependent and docile American client; and key features of Iraqi society, including higher education, media, culture, and the arts would be subordinated to that program.
And in the short-term, while these programs have the potential to aid Iraqis as they rebuild their educational structures, in the long run they will tar all American educational initiatives and American academics with the same neo-colonialist brush. Being perceived as, or in fact being, allied to the military occupation of Iraq or as agents of American domination will hinder the creation of permanent, collegial and productive relations between the US and Iraqi academic communities as equals. The ultimate cost of failing to create viable and permanent relationships and of confusing what appears to be voluntary cooperation with a strategy to survive is that the core values of open exchange, freedom of inquiry, women’s participation in higher education and faculty self-management may all be dismissed as “American” values and moreover as anti-Muslim despite our assertion of their inherent universality.

Counter that with the reaction in the Iraqi blog:

"I really wish there could be more of those programs (i.e. like the Fulbright or other exchange programs. Tony) and hope that there could be a chance for some American students to come to Iraq too, although I’m aware of the dangers right now. Such programs can open many eyes and help remove so much misunderstanding and distrust that is created by ignorance about the others and facilitated by the pictures that the media convey. I’m sure those Iraqi students, when they come back, will affect at least the way their families and close friends view the American people, and officials as well."

Perhaps then Bush's premise is right, people's instinct is for freedom, and his money is on the right horse, if, that is, the horse is indeed the Iraqi people, and not the UN.