May 18, 2013
Iraq From the Inside
Posted on Sep 1, 2008
By James Harris
Iraqi journalist Huda Ahmed, now a refugee, looks back on more than five years of war and occupation from an Iraqi perspective.
Click here to listen to this interview.
James Harris: This is Truthdig. James Harris here with Huda Ahmed. She’s an Iraqi native. And in 2007 Huda also received the Courage Award for Journalism for her coverage of the war in Iraq. I’m talking to Huda today because I felt the need to get a stronger sense of the effect that the war has had on Iraqi citizens. And I, frankly, just don’t feel that we get that sense, living so far away from where the action is. But I feel like when I watch the news and I look around, a lot of it has become cheapened by the fact that they’re saying the surge has worked and that we’re starting to see progress in Iraq. And, “At what cost?” is the question that we’re asking today. So, at what cost did the surge work? Huda, we’ll start simply by asking, how do you feel when you hear, “The surge is working”?
Huda Ahmed: It made me outrageous when they started to publicize for the surge success. Not like disrespecting, you know, the sacrifices of American male and female soldiers back in Iraq who are fighting alongside with the Iraqi security. But they are ignoring the huge efforts from the Iraqi side. It’s a kind of disrespecting the Iraqis for the efforts that they have, gave to help alongside with the American forces. Starting with Sunni tribes from Anbar. When they started to form Awakening groups, which we call it in Arabic sahwa, they started to fight back the Qaida. They started to form conferences, months before the surge was decided. And they were asking for the support from the Iraqi government and from the coalition forces at that time. So we were watching that while we were in Iraq, and there was no word about surge, or any idea about that when those Awakening groups started to fight back.
Then we had the surge come into Iraq, sending their units there to Iraq. The surge couldn’t have succeeded if they didn’t realize that they should have worked together with those Awakening groups, the Sunni tribes. They found that this is a unique opportunity when they started to watch the Awakening groups coming after the Qaida leaders and fighting them. So they found that this is really a good opportunity for them. “Let’s, you know, work together with them and support them.” Beside the truce announced by Moqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shia cleric who froze his movement for almost six months. The Iraqi citizens, the civilians, they started to send information about any suspicious groups around their areas. The Americans started to know how to reach out to the Iraqis to help them to feed them with the information. Instead of throwing flyers on the streets where the people will be so afraid to pick them up and, you know, from the streets because they are watched by the insurgents and by the militia. So, the American troops started to use the loudspeakers and started to give the numbers, the hotlines to allow the people to call them and give them information.
Ahmed: Not only for, you know, the American Army.
Harris: Frankly, we haven’t heard much about that celebrated success, that unification that’s happening in Iraqi communities that is necessary to get this done and to get Iraq back on track.
Harris: Huda, how do you feel about your country at this particular time, it being occupied by American troops?
Ahmed: I think any country is occupied by any foreign force, they would seek for their independence, for their sovereignty, and that doesn’t exclude Iraq from that point. People went through a lot since Iran-Iraq war, the sanctions. ... The hardship of sanctions were terrible. And then, you know, the war of 2003. And people were crazy about that moment when toppling Saddam Hussein and then they saw freedom coming to them. And they were, for a short time—a very short time, because they were traumatized afterward—they were waving for the troops, for the American coalition forces, the troops, thinking that they’re gonna make huge change in the lives of the people there. But, unfortunately, the huge change they brought with them was very dramatic, was to the worse, not to the better.
So, we have sacrificed a lot, to reach to the point now—there is the 2008, there is big improvement in, you know, security, but under what cost? If the things were not misconducted, back after the war, none of this would happen. None of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis would die, including women, children, young men, old men. ... We wouldn’t see many Iraqi refugees being displaced inside and outside Iraq. Iraqis thought that—especially those who worked with American forces, with the American NGOs, Western NGOs, with the media, with the Embassy—that they would be supported, they would be helped if they need for help. But they were abandoned once they got threats, death threats from the militia, from the insurgents; they found themselves alone. They were deserted by the people that they thought that they are their friends, that the Iraqis helped them, translate for them the language, the culture, the traditions, the religion, you know, and made it possible and easy for the Americans to conduct their policy and their process in Iraq. They felt that they were abandoned. Then they realized that they undermined the Iraqis, that they turned their back against them. And then many of them died. They got death threats and they died because they were abandoned. The help came late for the Iraqi refugees who worked with the Americans. You know, any Iraqi who worked with the American troops or with the NGOs or with media, they could have sell them out. They could have betrayed them. They could have, but they didn’t. They put their lives before the lives of the Americans. You know, they protect them.
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