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Iraq From the Inside

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Posted on Sep 1, 2008
AP photo / Adil al-Khazali

By James Harris

(Page 2)

Click here to listen to this interview.

Harris: Why did they do that? I mean, what reason did they really have? Was it the belief that the Americans were bringing something greater, or ...?

Ahmed: That’s what they thought. They thought that if they worked together with the American forces and the American government that it will fasten the withdrawal of the American forces, it will help to rebuild, reconstruct their country, OK? They were welcoming the freedom and democracy, so they were trying to learn from the Americans, at the same time, to educate the Americans about their country: what the ambitions, what expectations of the people. And besides, back there the Iraqis are so dedicated in their work, they are dedicated in their lives, very sophisticated people, very educated. Not because I’m Iraqi, but it is known all over the world what the Iraqi is, who he is. Back there it’s a shame that you betray your own guest, even if she or he is a stranger. It doesn’t matter. Even if he’s affiliated with the occupier. Because they believe that it’s worth it. If we lose our lives to achieve something better, a good future for our next generation, for our children, yes, let’s do it.

Harris: Five years down, who knows how long to go in this conflict, in this war. Huda, what do you fear most about the relationship between Iraq and America? And further, as we imagine the two countries together for the next 10 years, what will those 10 years be like?

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Ahmed: I hope that the relationship between U.S. and Iraq gonna be based on mutual respect, mutual admiration, you know, cooperation, not undermining from any side, from either side. But we didn’t see that when the coalition forces came to Iraq in 2003. We thought they gonna have a huge respect for the Iraqis.

Harris: Mm-hmm.

Ahmed: They did not. You know? And we found that that, the way they treated the Iraqi detainees in the detentions, especially Abu Ghraib. All the Iraqis were shocked, you know. They could have expect anything except that. And also the American contractors. You have thousands of them in Iraq, doing whatever they like. Killing, raping, stealing. And they are not prosecuted by any law. Not the Iraqi law or the American law; they have immunity, so. ... Also, not protecting our Iraqi heritage, the history. I don’t know what did you save in Iraq. You didn’t save the lives of the Iraqis, you didn’t save the Iraqi history, you didn’t save the Iraqi heritage, you didn’t save the Iraqi rights. I don’t know what kind of example of democracy and liberation did you bring to the Iraqi minds. All we knew from you is violence; that’s all we learned from you. OK? We learned the arrogance that you came and received the Iraqis with, dehumanizing them. If you are coming to bring democracy, why would you dehumanize the people? You dehumanize the people in war, the enemy, but not the people that you expect gonna be your friends. You send people to change the religion of the people there in Iraq, to convert them from Islam to Christianity or whatever the religion is. So I hope that the Americans learned from the lessons of the past five years that Iraq is a different country, a different nature, different culture, different, you know, tradition and religion, and all these should be respected. Let the Iraqis decide for themselves what kind of democracy they want, that’s gonna be adjusted and cope with their traditions, with their values, what kind of freedom they want. Because we know that it is totally different world and you cannot make Iraq as an example of U.S., otherwise we would never have our roots. You are just gonna cut the roots of the Iraqis, and they cannot survive without their roots. I hope that in the future that’s what Iraqis are expecting, and that’s what they are dreaming, that there gonna be a relationship based on respect from both sides. You are going to respect the world of the Iraqis. They are willing that you withdraw from Iraq. OK? And respect their rights, and go with it. But don’t try to undermine them or patronize them, and bringing ready solutions, saying that you are the thinkers and we are not. Like the surge and the experiments before. Iraq is not lab for your experiments. OK?  Because in every experiment you are trying, many people are losing their lives. All you hear about is casualties, but you never questioned each casualty, who he is, or who she is. What was she doing, what their dreams, what their expectations, what their ambitions? Maybe ... they loved the Americans but when they died they hate them because they were killed, because of the ... maybe their families, they hate them, because they lost their loved ones, the ones that support them, you know? So I hope that there will be this kind of good, strong relationship between Iraq and America, because Iraq don’t want to go through wars anymore. They are devastated. They just want to live in peace. They want to live a natural life, send their kids to schools, build their country on freedom, on rights for everybody, and try to survive in harmony with all the ethnics and sects without any discrimination.

Harris: How do they feel about Barack Obama over there? Is he somebody they feel could make some of the things you just mentioned reality?

Ahmed: Uh ... besides saying that he’s handsome ...

[laughter]

Ahmed: ... and articulate person. ... There are mixture of feelings back in Iraq, a mixture of thoughts, but the dominant thought in Iraq, that he’s just one person, OK?  And he cannot take all the decision by himself. There are, you know, policy, there is a process that he has to work according to it. Some of the people ... we were talking about it, about the middle name, the Muslim middle name, you know, his middle name: Hussein.  Some of the naive people in Middle East—not only in Iraq—they believe, yeah, oh, he is, you know, Muslim, so we have a Muslim president in America, the superpower country. There are some people, yeah, they were joyful about that. But there’re people who looked at him as a black man, you know, in Iraq, because in Iraq and Middle East—especially in Iraq; I’m going to talk about Iraq because I’m Iraqi; I lived this experience there, I was born and raised—at that time the dictator used to show us through the Iraqi state channel, old movies about discrimination, slavery against the black people. And we’ve read a lot about the history, about the people in the U.S., the Civil War, and the atrocities against the black, the Indians, the Native Americans and the other minorities. So seeing Barack Obama as a black person heading for presidency, the people there would say, Iraqis would say, maybe a black man like him, as a person from minorities, would feel what we have been through. Because they don’t know if he was from slavery generation or whatever; they see him as a black person so they will feel, they would say, “He would feel what we went through.” What the Iraqis have suffered. Maybe that he will be wise enough to try to find the good solutions and try to reshape the foreign policy of U.S. toward the world. Others will say there will be no change. 


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