Wednesday, December 27, 2006


someone writes about the plight of Iraqi civilians, regardless if it's gleaned from recently published books. Christian Caryl of the NY Review of Books reviews the Iraqi female blogger Riverbend's two books -- Baghdad Burning I and II, Anthony Shadid's Night Draws Near and Nir Rosen's In the Belly of the Green Bird and their overwhelming concern for the people of Iraq. As Caryl notes, Riverbend is particularly astute at uncovering the many tragic contradicitons of the U.S. Iraq adventure.
She is a passionate opponent of the occupation, and her writing sparks with rage and indignation. An avid consumer of the press and the Internet, she is well aware of the range of American attitudes about the war; she has her own.[1] When she hears that US forces in Iraq are fighting "terrorists," she notes that the American-installed Iraqi government includes several prominent members of the Islamist Dawa Party, which was behind a string of bombings that killed Iraqi civilians in the 1980s.[2] When she hears that Washington aspires to implant democracy in Iraq, she responds by showing how her rights as a woman are being steadily curtailed by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism sponsored by the very same political parties that the Americans have brought to power. And when the talk turns to "collateral damage," she asserts that "American long-term memory is exclusive to American traumas. The rest of the world should simply 'put the past behind,' 'move forward,' 'be pragmatic,' and 'get over it.'"

A harsh verdict, to be sure, but perhaps it needs to be heard. The underlying irony of all this should be obvious. The writer of these words is a young female computer programmer (now twenty-seven), whose resourceful English (acquired during a long stay abroad in her childhood) would put many Americans to shame. Her familiarity with American culture and principles repeatedly comes to the fore; indeed, it is her intense awareness of American political discourse and reporting that infuses her writing. If any Iraqi can be receptive to America's grand democratic design for Iraq, surely it ought to be someone like her. And yet, as her book dramatically demonstrates, she and her occupiers may temporarily inhabit the same country, but they continue to live in different worlds.
Yet while most Iraqis do indeed hate the occupation, there is a fear that an American withdrawal will, in the words of a Shiite matron, result in
"massacres... between the tribes, between the parties and between the Sunnis and Shiites, of course.'" She hastens to add that "no one who loves their country accepts an occupation. Everybody wants freedom."
And this is why Iraq is such a tragedy of the Bush Administration's making. The U.S. is truly damned if we do and damned if we don't regarding withdrawal. I should clarify this by stating that we are more damned if we do withdraw and Iraq becomes the next killing field of ethnic and religious cleansing. Can there be any doubt the U.S., along with the fanatics and jihadists, would be responsible for this gruesome situation? Is there any doubt that if we do withdraw and genocide does occur that the U.S. will not be deploying another mass of troops to stop and contain the situation?

The fierce proponents of withdrawal never answer these questions. I do think withdrawal is inevitable, but it cannot be immediate. If so, American troops will once again be between civilization's two rivers but the blood will be knee deep rather than the slim slick it is now.

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