Civil War in Iraq? Two Reports from the Maelstrom

November 28th, 2006 - by admin

Michael Ware / CNN & Iraqi Roulette / Electronic Iraq – 2006-11-28 22:44:49

“Stand Here on these Streets and You Will Know this is Civil War…”
Michael Ware / CNN

(November 28, 2006) — KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Let’s get straight to Baghdad and CNN’s Michael Ware. Michael?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra, the curfew, as you said, has lifted. Nonetheless, this morning, as many as 39 executed bodies were found on the streets of the capitol. And in the town of Baquba, just north of Baghdad, 12 more bodies were found.

We also see the continuation of what’s becoming a daily phenomenon here in this city, which is neighborhood mortar wars. Firing bombs at each other. We’ve seen another neighborhood in the capital hit. There’s reports of at least three dead and 15 more wounded.

There’s been some sporadic attacks on Iraqi police. There’s at least one dead police officer as a result.

Essentially, this is a city that’s almost socially paralyzed by fear. People dare not leave their homes. The education system is grinding to a halt. Teachers are not showing up at schools. Students aren’t attending classes. Families aren’t prepared to leave their homes.

And reading Iraqi weblogs has become the most illuminating exercise.

Electronic Iraq is an organization which — which culls these things, has posted a number of these — these references. We have people in suburbs saying, “My suburb is under attack now, I can hear gunfire. We’ve been under mortar attack for two days. God save us.”

Someone else saying, “Our suburb is running out of ammunition. Please, come to our aid.”

Another one saying, “Our suburb is breached. We will fight to the death.”

That’s what has become of Baghdad.

PHILLIPS: Michael Ware, interesting point is you give us these descriptions. All you can think about is, is there a civil war or not? Some journalists are coming a little more daring and saying, yes, there’s a civil war going on here. Others not saying that.

King Abdullah doing an interview on ABC this week, saying, still, potential civil war. When exactly can you say as a journalist, as a politician, as an administration, all right, there’s a civil war going on right here. This is how
you define it.

WARE: Well, put it this way, this is the way I define it. It’s that anyone who still remains in doubt about whether this is civil war or not is suffering from the luxury of distance.

You stand here on these streets, you take shelter in these families’ homes. You dare to try to go out and try to go to work or, indeed, shop at a marketplace and you will know that this is civil war.

There are already signs of what technically could be declared ethnic cleansing. The United Nations says entire neighborhoods are being disrupted to various degrees. Communities being split. I mean, we have areas that people of one sect cannot enter for fear of immediate execution by another sect.

You drive in a minibus on your way to work. Suddenly, there’s a check point. If you’re of the wrong faith, you are dead.

There’s literally defensive fighting positions now built in some of these suburbs. And the Sadr City quarter of Baghdad, the Shia domain, where as much as half of the population lives, is essentially now a garrison, servicing outlying Shia militia outposts as it wages its retaliatory strikes for the deadly multiple car bombing on Thanksgiving Day which saw 200 innocents slain in the streets in Sadr City.

If that’s not civil war, if we don’t have two sides of a nation going face to face, then, honestly, I don’t know what is, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Michael Ware couldn’t have put it more directly. Live from Baghdad, thanks.

Once Upon a Time in Iraq
Iraqi Roulette / Electronic Iraq

Out of concern for the safety of our Iraqi contributors and their families and friends, Electronic Iraq does not reveal an Iraqi author’s full identity unless the author gives us permission to do so.

(November 28, 2006) — When I was so much younger than today, I thought that writers who devoted thousands of pages to death were unconditional freaks. Since then many moons have passed and I find myself doing exactly the same thing.

I remember once watching a nature film about apes and their reflexes. A baby ape died as he lied in his mother’s lap. She started screaming and beating her chest–demonstrating grief I presume.

But as soon as they carried the baby away she resumed her usual life eating bananas and picking fleas from her head. They brought the baby back and she started screaming her head off and beating her chest again.

They repeated the experiment several times and the result was the same each time. The conclusion was: Apes have a short memory. How I envy that practical Madam Ape.

My memory is so crowded with images of the dead–I even suspect that the number of my dead acquaintances has already exceeded the number of my living ones.

A new experience hit me the other day. Unfortunately, I have already experienced being shocked when death occurs — the total helplessness, the disbelief, the hope that there was some sort of a mistake…

But to hear about someone’s death after a considerable period and suffer while everyone else has already gotten over it is quite awkward.

Several years ago I worked in a company. My job was uninteresting and exhausting and the wages were so meagre that it would have been more lucrative for me to beg.

In fact, I was once standing with a friend when an old beggar asked us for help. We told her how much we were being paid and the old beggar said: You poor things, how the hell do you manage? I swear to God this is not a joke, it actually happened to me.

Yet somehow we managed in those crippling embargo years.

As work expanded and the owner of the company grew richer, upon my demand I managed to get transferred to another department. Thus a replacement had to be recruited. A sweet miniature young woman came in one afternoon with her dad–they had heard about the vacancy through a friend. I explained the task to her and she accepted.

Both of us were specialists and our specialties could not have been more remote to the job, but everyone was working outside of their specialities then. It was trendy in those embargo years to do anything to survive: engineers were standing selling underwear in al Arabi market, teachers were working as tailors, linguists were working as clerks, chemists were working as builders.

I even had a relative with a philosophy degree who was working as a plumber. He used to joke that whenever he unclogged a blocked toilet or drain he actually saw all the philosopher’s faces “from Aristotle to Jacques Derrida” reflecting on the bathroom’s glossy tiles and on the toilet’s porcelain. They were mocking him.

So, the miniature woman was no exception. And she never really minded–always in a good mood, always making the best of it.

We used to work in different shifts, so whenever she had a question or something to tell me, she either wrote me a note or phoned. The manager made her his personal assistant because she was so efficient and loyal. She used to deliver his messages and orders to the staff — meaning that whenever she called late at night it was bad news and there would be trouble the next morning with the manager.

– Hello , I hope I did not wake you up , but Mr. ______ wants you in his office tomorrow first thing in the morning.

– It is OK Mimi (that was my nickname for her), I wont be sleeping after all you tell me.

The sweetest giggle resonated at her end

– Ok sweet dreams…don’t worry you’ll survive

– I sincerely hope so. Good night.

Once she came to me just as I was going home after an excruciating day. She began her request apologetically:

– I know you are tired and all, but can you please give me a crash course on how to use Microsoft Office? The manager said he will allocate a computer for me only if I learn, and I have no time. But I can come a bit earlier, before my shift starts and if you…I mean if it is no trouble…if you can stay a little later to help me learn…

– I looked at her half crazed with exhaustion, but for some reason I said Sure, I’ll stay for an hour after I finish work…sure, why not? You just make sure the boss doesn’t object.

My other colleagues were pressing me to demand over-time pay. “After all,” they would say, “the boss should pay for your efforts to improve his assistant’s skills.”

I had bitter experiences in demanding my rights–if they ever hand out awards for cowardice I surely would get the equivalent of the Nobel prize. So after two weeks of teaching her Word , Excel and Power Point — after two weeks of her taking notes, asking questions and doing the tasks seriously, I wrote a memo to the manager demanding a reward for Mimi. The manager asked to see me and I told him how serious she had been and “boy how I sang that day.” It’s always easier to demand other people’s rights isn’t it?

He seemed convinced and wrote to the accountant ordering her a reward, the sum of 15,000 Iraqi Dinars — the equivalent of 7 dollars. My God he was cheap!

She became an indispensable member of the company — always running around working so enthusiastically you would’ve thought it was…

It was the last chance she’ll ever have to work.

A couple of years later, sick to death of it, I left my job. I was hoping for a better tomorrow after the war. I thought there would be more chances than I could possibly be able to deal with — we were supposed to be the new Emirate for Christ’s sake. The future was supposed to be so bright, as Oprah says, it would blind our eyes. Could I have been more ridiculous?

So I quit after a minor row with the manger. Mimi phoned me a couple of times — after my stupid dreams proved to be false — telling me that the manger wanted me back.

I did not go back, because enough is enough.

A couple of weeks ago, I met an old friend that used to work there too and we reminisced about the past and about how foolish we were on the eve of the war.

We though all evil was connected to one man…

This friend was counting the people that left the country and the ones that were kidnapped, wounded, killed…and casually mentioned Mimi.

– You know she was killed months ago.

– What, just a moment, she was killed you say? How? When?

– Yes, didn’t you know?

– No, I lost contact with our old gang, I… God, are you sure?

– Yes — shot…I’m sorry I thought you knew… she was shot with a couple of other employees.

– She was barely thirty, I whispered.

I sank in my chair trying to prevent tears. It was supposed to be a bloody outing you see, I didn’t want to spoil it for my friend. Besides, it happened ages (months) ago, which equals centuries in normal nations calendars.

Two or three nights later I had a dream about Mimi. She was not talking to me directly — she was talking to me on a phone. I heard that pleasant voice of hers on the other end. She asked how I was and said that she was fine: “No I did not die, don’t believe that I died,” she said. I woke up wishing that there was actually a place on earth where Mimi would be holding her phone receiver telling people what they had to do for the next morning.

Today I started a new day remembering that we have new things to grieve about. We have people being dragged out of their offices in broad daylight and taken to the unknown… the unknown? I beg your pardon, how stupid of me, of course to the well-known horrible death Iraqi civilians have earned for trying to continue… living.

Read more from “The Iraqi Roulette” here.