The Thinker

A view from the streets of Baghdad

I’ve been fascinated by a web log I was learned about. Riverbend is the pseudonym of an apparently young Muslim lady living in Baghdad. She was a fairly well paid geek until the war started and like lots of people she is now unemployed. The unemployment rate in Iraq is now 65%! She had a great command of English that picked up, she tells us, from both living abroad and the omnipresent American media that is all over their airwaves. Her web log is riveting reading and well worth your time.

What makes it memorable is it offers an unfiltered view from an Iraqi citizen, posting anonymously, on daily life in her strife torn country. It should be required reading for our pompous policy asses who think they know what is going on but who are really fairly clueless.

Her writing is not only riveting it is excellent narrative. Here’s an excerpt:

April 9 was a day of harried neighbors banging on the door, faces so contorted with anxiety they were almost beyond recognition. “Do we leave? Do we evacuate?! They sound so close…”

It was a day of shocked, horrified relatives, with dilated pupils and trembling lips, dragging duffel bags, spouses and terrified children needing shelter. All of us needing comfort that no one could give.

It was the day we sat at home, bags packed, fully dressed, listening for the tanks or the missile that would send us flying out of the house and into the streets. We sat calculating the risks of traveling from one end of Baghdad to the other or staying in our area and waiting for the inevitable.

It was the day I had to have ‘the talk’ with my mother. The day she sat me down in front of her and began giving me ‘instructions’- just in case.
“In case of what, mom?”
“In case something happens to us…”
“Like what, like maybe we get separated?”
“Fine, ok. Yes. Separated, for example… you know where the money is, you know where the papers are…”
Yes, I know. But it won’t matter if anything happens to you, or dad, or E.

It was a day of stray dogs howling in the streets with fear, flocks of birds flying chaotically in the sky- trying to escape the horrible noises and smoke.

It was a day of charred bodies in blackened vehicles.

It was a grayish-yellow day that burns red in my memory… a day that easily rises to the surface when I contemplate the most horrible days of my life.

That was the ‘National Day’ for me. From most accounts, it was the same for millions of others.

According to Riverbend while no one except the Ba’athists are sorry to see Saddam go, there were still many privileges afforded to women that are now vanishing in Iraq. With the rise of Islamic fundamentalism via Iran rushing to fill in a void, young women like her risk serious injury if they do not go outside escorted, and wearing a very conservative dress. They are not yet in the burkas, thank Allah the most merciful, but they had better be wearing long dark dresses with long sleeves and a hajib or some self appointed arbiter of decency is likely to harass or hurt her. And lord knows she had better not go out alone — the very idea!

Frankly, I am not that good of a prognosticator of future events. But my call on this Iraq war was unfortunately very close to the mark. I fear for Riverbend and all those of moderate and educated outlook in Iraq who see the issues clearly but will be swept aside by forces outside of their control. Her future, once so happy and promising, is bleak. It is highly unlikely the kind of democracy envisioned by George W. Bush will be happening in her country anytime soon or possibly in her lifetime. Most likely she will be forced back into the closet by Islamic fundamentalists and she can look forward to being in some sort of arranged marriage and raising a lot of Islamic brats. A spirit that was born to soar will more likely be snuffed out under the weight of an oppressive future state. But before that happens count on continued faltering efforts to make the country safe and secure, lots of internecine warfare between various factions, crime, death and continued cruelty.

Saddam Hussein was a very bad man. But seeing how Iraq is now, it is much worse than when he was in charge. The bulk of the Iraqi people would probably have been better served by keeping him in power.

 

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