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Iraq From the Inside
Posted on Sep 1, 2008
By James Harris
Click here to listen to this interview.
Harris: Same policy, different color.
Ahmed: Same policy. They feel that the words, the glittering words that he is using is just because of the campaign; it’s just politics. But they don’t believe that he’s gonna fulfill them, especially when talking about the withdrawal of the American troops in 16 months, which is very ambitious. And especially the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, had respond to it, and, you know, he welcomed it. Though he didn’t want to take any side. But Iraqis are still afraid that this is too fast. They want the American troops to withdraw, but if you’re gonna withdraw you have to withdraw with responsibility, not as reckless as you came to Iraq in 2003. It has to be steady, gradual, responsible. And if you withdraw whether in 16, 18, 20, 24 months, no matter what happens in Iraq, violence is gonna be violence, OK? Because it’s a country that’s full with weapons, with ideas because of the wars that it went through. So just do it, but the problem is that the Iraqis are still hesitant about it. I’m talking about the Iraqi people, not the politicians.
Harris: Mm-hmm. The real people.
Ahmed: The real people that they want to feel that they will not be vulnerable, because they are the soft targets. And they want to feel that they can really trust their own security, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi security, that if U.S. proceeded a really gradual withdrawal from Iraq, there would be no huge violence after they withdraw. So, you know, the kind of tactics that has to be taken care of.
Harris: One day, do you see yourself with the nephews, the cousins, playing on the slides in Baghdad? Is that the kind of place, maybe it could turn out to be, if your hopes and wishes come true?
Ahmed: You know, we have learned, the Iraqis learned to be hopeful, all their times, even under dictatorship. I remember when we were going through Iran-Iraq war or the Gulf War, the first gulf war, or the sanctions, we were saying tomorrow maybe gonna be better day, tomorrow maybe gonna be better day. And that’s what I’m hoping for. Though I cry every day because I miss the laughters of my nephews. I miss everything about them. I miss my family, my mother, my sisters and my brothers and my nieces and my nephews, that I am not there with them, to share every moment. And I cannot be with them for different reasons. But I wish that I will see them soon, whether here or in Iraq, and I will play with them, even if they are now teenagers. But I will have the time to talk with them, to communicate with my own nephews, because they are like my children, and see their ambitions, their dreams, and fulfill it for them. And so I hope not only my nephews and my nieces or my family, but every Iraqi family because they really deserve a change. I mean, the Iraqis really deserve a better life, a better future, no wars, no sanctions, no violence, no bombings, no dictatorships, just freedom, free expression, live their lives. Not to involve them in any political crisis or—how shall I say this?—whatever the problems that the politicians have between each other, to keep the people away from their agenda; let the people live their lives. Now when ... I talk with my family and I ask them about electricity, because in Iraq they live their life now without electricity. It doesn’t exist. They buried it, according to them. They said, “We made the funeral for our electricity.”
Harris: No lights, nothing. The sun goes down, candlelight.
Ahmed: No, they have, they use the generators back in Iraq.
Ahmed: But there is the turmoil of going through how you get the gas, the soaring prices of the gas, and the food and the lower rates of salaries and how the people try to cope with that. And then you have the bribes and blackmails and corruption going around in Iraq. But they don’t talk about electricity or whatever. No. They say, “Our much joy when we can go to restaurant where we can eat with our families, that the most joy.” You know. They don’t want to argue about electricity or about shortage of water or gas or whatever. They say, “At least we can go to the ice cream shop and we can eat with our children.”
Ahmed: They can get out from the house that we imprison them in, you know. That they can see the streets, they can see the trees. They can communicate with their friends that they couldn’t see them because they live in other neighborhoods. And I hope, as many Iraqis, they hope that even the walls that are surrounding the neighborhoods back in Baghdad, they all gonna be, gonna fall and gonna be demolished and the residents of all, of mixed neighborhoods, gonna go back together and communicate with each other and we can travel around, walk around, and drive, go there, shop there, and you know, have fun. That’s what we want. Rebuild our country and just move on. That’s what we want. Iraqis just don’t want to think about oil. Just tell you, “You want oil? Just take it! We don’t want it because it’s been a curse on us. We haven’t seen a good day in our lives since the discovery of the oil. If you want it, just take it, but we want to live our lives. That’s what we want. That’s all.” Because they have built themselves by themselves, without the help of the government. They did it by themselves without the help of, you know, oil revenues. So let’s hope for the best for Iraqis.
Harris: Got hope?
Ahmed: Got hope.
Harris: That’s some guy’s slogan. Huda, you’ve certainly helped us realize the importance of the civilian side, of the human side of this, because this is not just politics. This is not George Bush talking about the surge work. This is not Barack Obama talking about a 16-month withdrawal plan; these are lives. And we’ve seen estimates from 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead to 750,000 Iraqi civilians dead. And those numbers are mind-numbing, they’re stifling, and they hurt. Thank you for your courage. Obviously, the Courage Award for Journalism was ...
Ahmed: With my own colleagues.
Harris: ... with your own colleagues, was well deserved. And thank you for bringing some humanity to the story, and I hope we can continue to talk as things develop in Iraq.
Ahmed: Thank you. I would love to. I would love to be here again with you, James.
Harris: For Huda Ahmed, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.
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