Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Iraq - ten years after

Ten years ago the Bush administration launched the Iraq invasion. They promised us we woud be welcomed as liberators and showered with flowers and sweets. Didn't quite work out that way. And on this grim anniversary, the violence in Iraq is still ongoing:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than a dozen car bombs and suicide blasts tore through Shi'ite Muslim districts in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other areas on Tuesday, killing nearly 60 people on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda are regaining ground in Iraq, invigorated by the war next door in Syria and have stepped up attacks on Shi'ite targets in an attempt to provoke a wider sectarian confrontation.
Ten long years of horror for the Iraqi people and nothing has really changed. I almost couldn't bear to look at the historic photo galleries at Time and Reuters, especially knowing they only cover a few pages in that long sad story.

I'm also reminded that this is the 10th anniversary of when I became a blogger. My first blog post ever was about the demonstration against the Iraq War that sprung up outside my office. I left work and joined it. The archives are muddled, so I'll just reprint it. It was a fleeting moment of hope in a long and tortuous decade:

There was an anti-war demonstration in my town yesterday. I had a perfect view from my second floor office window. There were at least 400 people and fully half of them took over the major intersection downtown. Some of them lay down on the pavement in a *die-in* and the rest formed a circle to protect them from the oncoming law enforcement. In the end 42 police officers arrived to arrest about 30 people, including two elderly women in wheelchairs. The remaining protesters chanted from the four street corners.

"Tell me what democracy looks like" rises from one corner to the beat of the Revolutionary Drum Corps.

"This is what democracy looks like" thunders back from the other three.

The crowd was deliciously mixed. The American Friends crowd has been demonstrating on that corner every Saturday since the US imposed sanctions on Iraq so many years ago. The college kids were also to be expected but the number of high school and even middle school kids was more suprising. The crowd swelled however with those who would not usually be there. Families with young children and old activists from the 60s who have, over the years, become respected business owners downtown. The latter poured out of the adjoining establishments, along with their employees, to reinforce the numbers. I met my own boss on the corner. He gave me a NO WAR pin someone had just handed to him.

We all stood there shivering in an increasingly chill wind for another 20 minutes in this moment of spontaneous consensus. Those who had not planned to be there stood mostly silent, looking as bemused as I felt, pondering our own role if this is indeed what democracy looks like, now.

For myself, I found it heartening to see the positive energy of the crowd and the planning of the organizers. It was a non-violent action in the name of peace. There was no vandalism and the only blood was of the fake sort that the *dead* had painted on their tshirts. I was not the only one in the 60s contingent who remarked on how the scene evoked memories of our own demonstrations.

However, as my photographer friend remarked, "It's the cool thing to do right now". He's been covering a lot of the protests and notes they are growing. The question in my mind is whether that energy will translate to the ballot box. It's clear they are willing to march, but are they willing to vote? Will they take the time to get politically involved outside of what one has to admit is at least partly a fun social event? I hope so because there are a lot more wars going on right now than just Iraq.
That night, after work, I spent hours on a bar stool explaining to drunken Republicans why the invasion was such a big mistake. I didn't change any minds. I didn't stop the war. But I tried. My conscience is clear. So there's that. [photo via]

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Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

" They promised us we woud be welcomed as liberators and showered with flowers and sweets. "

And that Iraqi oil would pay for the whole thing. And that any left over costs would be paid for by decreasing that historically low marginal rate ever further.

And of course that light of freedom would go on all over the Middle East just like it went off here when we lost Vietnam.

10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

That Arab Spring sure did turn out to be a cruel joke.

1:23:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

There's a temptation to be a cynic about human progress and a stronger one to be Orwellian about the future of our sad selves.

11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Getting harder all the time to keep my Pollyanna on...

11:20:00 AM  

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