Felicity Arbuthnot / Global Research & McClatchy Baghdad Bureau – 2007-02-09 22:57:17
Felicity Arbuthnot / Global Research
(February 7, 2007) — The ‘surge’ is going well. With streets blocked by check points and American troops ‘advising’ Iraqi forces, on consecutive days, the Bab Sharqi market was attacked, body parts strewn amongst stalls, goods — and bodies and injured hauled away on the wooden carts used to bring goods to sell.
Shorja market was next in firing line, with its covered and outdoor stalls, alleys, serving all from traders who used to come from Kurdistan for the cheaper Baghdad price (road now too dangerous) locals, the Catholic priest, workers and refugees housed in the church moments walk away.
Next was the Friday Ghazil animal market, believed the oldest in the Middle East, a weekly amble through the exotic, the heartbreaking, the songbirds, snakes and the illicit. An exceptional act of bravery was the attack on the bird market.
It takes a particularly fearless mindset to declare a war on birds. The mortars which landed in the Kholoud secondary school, in west Baghdad’s Adil district, killing five students and injuring twenty, shredding young bodies with flying glass, were reportedly fired just thirty metres from a ‘surge’ crackdown checkpoint.
In 2003 Baghdad’s ancient Muntanabi book market, a place to wander in wonder at its offerings, was blown up. It had stood on the site for innumerable generations, books laid out on the street, on trestles, on laps — and in the ancient alleyways and covered nooks and crannies, near dark, where the dust was blown off seventeenth century gems and first editions of the wonders of French philosophers, poets. Goethe, Shakespeare, Dickens, hid on piled shelves, no country’s greats seemingly not to be found. The booksellers, professional or amateur, handled their volumes as if fragile, utterly precious. A purchase meant a parting.
‘Bring ’em on’ : the books, the birds, the kids, in this ‘last ditch crackdown’, part of a plan devised by George W. Bush, according to Al Jazeera.Perhaps when the last remnant of Mesopotamia’s ancient heart and soul has been finally ripped out and the last Iraqi has left or been slaughtered, the new pioneers will arrive and build Walmarts, Starbucks, Kentucky Fries, Mesopotamia Mackburgers, from northern Nineveh’s wonders to Basra, from Babylon to Eden (Qurna.)
The myriad marvels of this extraordinary land are truly pearls cast amongst swine — the occupying, brute forces.
The duty of care these illegal occupiers have is total, thus they are responsible for every tragedy. But so depraved are these new Mongols, they have moved on from sending pictures of burned and slaughtered Iraqis to porn sites in exchange for their revolting images and reportedly now collect Iraqis’ brain matter for ‘trophies’ to put in the fridge back at base.
Heaven help the communities to which they return and the children they raise. And again, from where are these deviants recruited? Such psychotic sicknesses could surely only have come from a recruiting drive in secure psychiatric institutions, or maximum security penal institutions.
The grief of non Iraqis can never mirror that of Iraqis with the courage to live through this hell, or those forced to flee all they held dear and watch its destruction from afar. But the horrors of the last near four years for those who love this incomparable place, surely feels like the real thing.
Barbara Nimri Aziz, in a shortly to be published book (‘Swimming up the Tigris’ — Florida University Press) who knows the country as her own, writes in a chapter headed: ‘Imagine’. She recounts a call from a friend, Mohassen: ‘As an Iraqi, I will not be forced from my homeland … my country .. I love my nation. I will not allow Americans to take it from us, from my father, my President, from any Iraqi.’
‘Imagine (the embargo) years of your friends dying, give up before you, departing … stricken by cancers, heart failures, miscarriages, diabetes, ulcers’ (denied embargoed medicines.) She recounts also those who fled to save their children from Americans, British and their few straggling ‘allies’.
‘Imagine, a military invasion days away, calling your dearest friends, with whom you stood for twelve years, to say, after all their pleas and wishes: “Goodbye, Allah Karim”.’
‘Imagine leaving your brothers, your neighbours, to pray themselves through another war.’
‘Imagine packing up the house … paintings .. documents, assembling a few valuables and delivering them along with the children’s pet bird, to your sister’s house ..telling the children you do not know when they might return … instructing the neighbour’s gardener to guard the house ..
‘imagine arguing with your weeping children about what they can take with them, locking the gate ..’ Imagine, imagine, imagine: justified by the venal, oil grabbing, shameful, stomach turning, discredited, disgusting words : ‘liberation, freedom, democracy’.
As the Palestinians before them, Iraqis who flee either abroad, or under ‘liberation’s’ ethnic cleansing, take with them the keys of their homes, the deeds of their home and land, all they have of their precious, only place on earth. As the Palestinians, how many generations will dream of the right to return?
Sixty years after Britain’s establishment of the State of Israel and the ever ongoing displacement, Britain, with the support of the biggest bully on the block, is playing the same game. And Palestinians in Iraq, safe for generations, too, flee yet again, with other nationalities who have lived there equally long, accused of being ‘foreign fighters’. Sorry, ‘foreign fighters’ R us (US)
And the markets, forgotten, dismissed by the invaders in their pathetic ‘surge’. Some personal snapshots: Bab Sharqi, where, days before the war, a stallholder ran after me to give me change I had forgotten, pennies to me, a huge amount to him. We both knew devastation was coming and that every dinar was needed to survive. Please keep it, I said. He refused. Unlike the invaders, he did not steal.
Vibrant, heart rending Shorja, where I bought baby items for expectant friends, who could not afford them, only to return to find the joyously awaited baby had died, for want of simple, embargoed medicines. Where we filmed Denis Halliday (who resigned as a UN Under Secretary General and UN Coordinator in Iraq, walking from thirty four years devotion to the UN, talking across the globe, of the embargo as ‘genocide.)
Halliday stood in packed Shorja, for RTE, (Irish national television) holding up simple items to camera, tomato paste (vital to Iraqi cooking) milk powder, bottled water (tap water equaled biological weapon — repair parts UN, vetoed) and such, explain that the embargo made all unbootable for most.
Suddenly, for the second time in the day, the filming was halted: the stallholders and small amount of buyers, realized who their brave and distinguished guest was: ‘Thank you, thank you Meeester ‘alliday for what you done’. The market erupted and I thought he might be trampled to death in the collective appreciation. As Senior Researcher, I would have had some responsibility for this unexpected event. But all everyone wanted to do was hug, love and thank this brave, urbane man.
The Ghazil animal market will ever be two images. Iraqis love birds as the west dogs and cats. Mr Noor was hunkered down on the pavement with four purring Russian doves, who stroked his hands, with their heads, their beaks. People were selling all to survive. He had sold everything he had, he said, but he would never sell his birds.
He had an aviary since he was a child. Then he said that he had nothing left, so he had to sell two birds a week, ‘…and I pray the next week, the embargo will be over’. I looked at the four: ‘This must be a bad week’. His thick glasses misted over. And the little girl, tears running down her face, taking her pet poodle to be sold : her parents could no longer afford the food.
The book, Muntanabi, market. A book of memories. Just one, is another whose books were his life. One day, having sold all, he walked through his three rooms of bookshelves, and talked to them.
‘All my life, I have spent my money on you, looked after you, nurtured you, now it is time for some of you to look after me’. He took a few to Muntanabi, put them on his lap and started to cry. Week after week, he took them till he had no volume left, his tears flowing. He became a spectacle. Now his great country — cradle of civilization — is destroyed by a President who boasts that he does not read a book.
I do not know the school at Adil where the liberators actions (yes it was, you are responsible, as an occupying power) forced them to walk past streams of their classmates blood, but I know many others.
The courteous Head Teacher, to whom I returned unexpectedly, to find clinging to a pillar in a Tigris-side, beautiful (Catholic) complex, tears streaming down her face. I embraced her and this brave, amazing woman, who gave so much hope to the children in her care, embargoed, bombed, illegally and continuously by the UK and US, broke down. ‘Why are they doing this to us?’ She asked — and sobbed:’ My son is a Doctor in Washington.’
‘I gave them a good boy and they sent me back a monster’, said the Mother of a Viet Nam veteran (the indispensable ‘Four Days in My Lai — a war crime and its aftermath’, Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, Penguin.)
Nothing has changed. America, Britain, take your monsters home. Illegal invasion, illegal ‘surge’, illegal executions, illegal oil grab. Just go away — and take your discredited politicians with you.
More Attacks Target National Grid
BAGHDAD (February 8, 2007) — Saboteurs have destroyed five more pylons linking Baghdad to the power stations in Baiji in the north, the Ministry of Electricity said. It is the second attack on the high voltage line in less than two weeks.
A ministry source said the latest attack has led to a total blackout in Baghdad. The resulting outage has covered other parts of the country, the source said.
Power shortages have worsened since the 2003 US invasion. The authorities blame sabotage.
The ministry source, refusing to be named, said the attack came as ministry technicians and engineers were working hard to improve power supply to Baghdad and other southern cities. The ministry has said there will be no improvement in the level of power supply unless the authorities quell violence.
Baghdad is almost plunged into total blackout day and night and most people rely on private generators. Lack of electricity has aggravated the current fuel crisis and led to a hike in the prices of essential commodities.
Personal Stories from the People of Occupied Iraq
McClatchy Baghdad Bureau
Time to head home
Time to head home. It has been a reletively quiet day with the curfew on from eleven am to three pm. Now starts the heartache of convincing a taxi driver that it’s worth risking his life to take me home.
I live in an area that has been a battleground for more than four months, the tug of war between the Mujahideen and the Mehdi Army has frightened off all but the hardiest transients.
When I do find a willing driver, after a number of refusals and headshakes, he either grumbles all the way there, which hardens my heart somewhat as to his safety, or he turns out to be quite the gentleman. It’s then that I start getting butterflies. For as soon as I get home and give him the fare, I turn away from the car and quickly enter my door , leaving him to his fate.
I pray for the safety of all the taxi drivers who take me home, and truely hope they reach their homes safely. But the risk remains and the possibility that my trip home may have cost someone their life keeps me awake at night.
February 08, 2007
A Media with No Ethics
I turned the tv on to watch the Iraqi national TV news. The channel name is Al Iraqiya and it is funded by the government. One of the headlines was capturing a murderer in Diwania city, south Iraq.
Police found two dead bodies buried at the suspect’s house, the news said. Then the channel showed a savage and cruel scene of a man putting his hands into a pile covered with black mud.
I didn’t recognize what the man is doing till he started showing the camera a human wrist, then I realized; this is a dead body and the man is digging in it with his bare hands…
God I can not continue describing it … but the man continued to show the camera other parts that he was digging out… They didn’t stop it and the camera man was zooming in to show the details.
They didn’t even apologize or warn the viewers… they just think it is normal and they kept showing it for two days
The Iraqi media now is helping to turn the Iraqi people into beasts, as we don’t have enough…
February 04, 2007
The Archeological Sites,
Lost of Knowledge and Treasures
A small piece of news said today that a group of security forces assigned to protect the pilgrimages land road came and sited themselves in one of the archeological castles as their base, they brutally took off the wooden gates of the that historical castle using them as (fire wood)
Despite that everybody in the archeological Dep. and state ministry for tourism are denouncing such destructive action calling them to be abide by the law of protecting such site, but….. No one can stop them When first the Americans came, some of the forces situated their bases in the city of Babylon, Ur, and Nineveh, and I don’t know why such lands are suitable for installing the bases while other (normal lands) are not?
The bases are still situated there. we use to pass by Ur on our way to Basra, have interviews with the US commanders in the military base, during the tour I saw an American soldier sitting alone, his head was looking down on the ground, he seemed busy minded, digging in the ground with a spoon as if his head was loaded with thousands of burdens and problems, I felt pity for that picture, and wondered whether he seemed like that because its war and he fears death, he might be a part from his beloved and he misses them, or the war is not that noble principle for him to scarify his life for I was carried away with my thoughts that I couldn’t stop my self from asking what exactly busied his mind.
So I went to the journalist I was with and asked him, the shocking answer was….. “He is busy digging and looking for artifacts”!!
In a second thought this is not supposed to be surprising information, no wonder he was doing that since the base leis in UR, beside …. Who can stop him?! Iraqis in the villages and rural open lands close to the archeological sites are doing also their best to dig the everlasting source of knowledge and priceless artifacts
They would go to the site in groups, took their shovels and knives, spend hours and hours, ready to sell their past for worthless present and unknown future, and yet, no one can stop them. Oh, land of Mesopotamia, everybody is looting you…and no one can stop them. No one can stop them
Running away from the Hell of the new freedom
Um Yass is one of my neighbors, a widow who has three young sons; she fought for them to ensure a decent life for them.
Unfortunately the wave of violence reached her because she is Sunni living in a typical Shiite area, and as all Sunni families who received threat she moved from the neighborhood.
Despite her efforts to protect her family, her two older sons got killed and dumped in one of the garbage fields, the poor lady has only one left and out of fear for the him, the decision came that he should be send him to Syria.
On the other side of the picture, our president went to Damascus after boycott which lasted for nearly 25 years, and asked the Syrian president not to let Iraqis in any more or allow them to stay for more than 15 days!!! What a constructive role!
The guy whose life now is under absolute threat must go back in this case and face death wily nilly!! The same matter goes on to most Iraqi people who want to fled away from death in there own land.
Why must Iraqis go back from the only refugee exit they got now, and why the Kurdish president who have security up in the north widely prevailed, would set new rules to send Iraqis back to their hell!! Is it because he has his people safe and doesn’t care about the rest??
We don’t blame Syria for taking such procedures because our politicians keeps accusing that country all the time of letting the Sunni fighters entering Iraq and cause all that turmoil.
Head of the parliament said “if the situation keeps on like that I will go myself to Syria and find way out of this problem”
I wonder why would he go and discuss this problem with Syria instead of providing security for them in thier country!!
What I want to say, if the government feels like crippled man, can not help himself nor the others, the options are better to be either step down or look for improvements, and since these two things also seem impossible, let the iraqis dig the way out of this dark tunnel themselves and breath again.
February 03, 2007
I was in a press conference held by the American forces in Iraq today. It was about the econstruction of Iraq. High ranks officers in the American army were talking about the rebuilding in Iraq. They talked about 130 projects in the west side of Baghdad where I live. Yet, I couldn’t see any. Another one talked about something like 100 projects or more in the eats side of Baghdad.
OMG, the first thing came to my mind is to check the back yard of my house because I didn’t go there for really long time and Im afraid that the American forces had built there a project like a power generation station or an oil refinery or even a stadium without my permission.
Then one of the Great officers said something which really drove me crazy, the man said “we formed committees to know the top three needs of Iraqis”. OMG, the American army spent four years in Iraqi without and until now they don’t know the needs of my people. Mr. Great Bush said he sent his army to free Iraq from the dictatorship of Saddam and to provide better life to Iraqis but his poor officers don’t know what the basic top 3 needs of Iraq are.
They say Iraq suffers of terror but they don’t know that we need safety or security.
They say that terrorists blow up the transmission cables of electricity and they know that we have ELECTRICITY for only ONE HOUR A DAY but they don’t know how to bring new generation powers to the country or stop the administrational corruption in the ministry of electricity because of the money they give to.
They know that thousands of houses buy the drinking water all over Iraq and they know we have tow great rivers but they don’t know how to set water plants. I bet they don’t know why they came to Iraq.
Can anyone kindly ask Mr. on behalf of me whether he knows why did he send his soldier because he might forget his main goal.
February 02, 2007
Ask them …
I wonder if the US government has ever asked the Iraqi government the following question:
If the war started between US and Iran, on which side the Iraqi government will be?
Please notice that the prime minister and the majority of the current Iraqi government were exiles before the US led invasion in 2003 and if it wasn’t the US these guys will be outside the country.
What do you think their answer will be?
Please remember the Iraqi government is an Islamic government led by Islamist. Many of them were living in Iran for more than 25 years.
Many members of the current Iraqi government prefer to speak to you in Persian rather than Arabic
Now can you imagine on which side they will prefer to be.
After all the difference between Iran and Iraq is just the last letter, for them i suppose.
January 29, 2007
A Typical Day of Fear
We encounter so many violent incidents everyday not only in the district we live in but everywhere in Iraq, every passing day there is something new to worry about, sometimes I wonder where I have the patience and the courage to take me to the next day.
Every night I have to exhaust myself by working or cleaning to go to sleep and even when I go to sleep I will not rest either from the nightmares or the worry about the mortars or the attacks against our neighborhood during the night.
I am not going to talk about this today I will not talk about the car bombs the assassinations or the home made bomb that I just missed again this morning as I was coming to work it was only a 100 meters away I felt the impact on my chest and the sound piercing my ear drums I took a look back I saw heavy smoke and a police SUV turning over, as we were trying to escape the chaos of the moment where all vehicles were trying to escape the bomb aftermath of random shooting I remembered what my friend have told me few days ago he said “if you can hear the sound of the bomb it means you are fine and alive but when you don’t it means you are already too close and might be in the other world.”
I thanked god for my safety and was thinking to myself about all the what ifs? I thought about my daughter who is only 16 months old I thought who will look after her about my husband who asked me last night weather it was time to stop being on the streets and going to work I couldn’t help but to see this morning as warning to stop being so heroic, I have every reason to be targeted by now I am working in the journalism field in Iraq I am neutral and politically independent why should I exist anymore most people like me have either been killed or have left the country.
There are only now two extreme sides in Iraq you have to support either one and conform to their own rules. If you don’t you have anyone to look after you have to find a place where you can be politically independent. There is no place for moderation in Iraq now.
I didn’t want to talk about the bombs today it is considered a boring story now it is not even news anymore it is not news unless more then 30 people are killed in a single attack so what I wanted to talk about is the result of these bombing on our daily living.
The enormous amount of fear we bare carrying out even the simplest activity.
When I am on the street my body goes numb from fear every time an American convoy a police vehicle passes by or when we drive by a university or a crowded market place or a hospital or a ministry or sometimes even a simple street intersection these are all targets. And so the people around them.
Yesterday I went down to a supermarket when I saw an Iraqi army convoy approach the street that I wanted to cross, I got so nervous I really had a feeling that the parked taxi is going to detonate targeting the convoy, I ran to hide in one of the shops, it was a long convoy and I was thinking if not this vehicle the next or the next until the last, I felt so silly when the convoy passed and the men in the shop stared and smiled … I felt that I will need a lot of time to get rid of these fears if I ever live in peace.