Snapshot from today's war on terror (Baghdad edition)

So I’m in Iraq working on an education project and I found out an interesting fact.

I worked with this Iraqi contractor to get our office ready for occupation and he also worked on some school reconstruction contracts. He could be slow, he could overcharge, he could make promises he couldn’t deliver, in short: he was a contractor.

Later here in Iraq I worked with this youth group. It turned out the contractor’s son had a leadership role in this group. We didn’t get to be terribly close, but we worked together in intense conditions everyday for months. I got to know him just like I got to know his father.

Today I found out that the contractor was driving down the highway and I guess he came up too fast on a US convoy. Apparently they didn’t like that. I know this because they killed everyone in the car.

I don’t blame jumpy kids a long way from home for being scared in a war zone and being too quick on the trigger, but I’m telling you this happens everyday here.

How is the son supposed to feel? Is he supposed to understand that you have to break some eggs to make omelettes and that apartly his father wasn’t a person, after all, but an egg.

What am I supposed to say to the son when I see him? Should I say he should blame Saddam? Will you get out of your SUV and look your smug assumptions about the world in the eye and tell him that for me?

Finally, what was accomplished here today?

(For those of you keeping record, contractor was number 12 of people I know killed in Iraq this year)

My condolences to that young man, his family and to you, madmonk, and thank you for your work there. I just don’t know what else to say, except, please be careful.

Condolences don’t really cut it. It’s not like it was just an unavoidable accident. It was a stupid slaughter by an illegal occupying military force.

I really wish the US media would report how much shit like this goes on over there.

I am so sorry. A friend of my daughter’s went over and hasn’t been heard from by us or his family in months and another friend who was there for the invasion and afterward and recently received a medical discharge after having a nervous breakdown.

I wish I had a better answer for you than ‘not a god damned thing’ but I don’t.

As Shayna said, be careful.

This kind of thing always happens when you have a war. Anyone who supported the start of the war in Iraq was rooting for this kind of thing to happen. Apparently, they thought the omelette would be worth the broken eggs.

Too bad nobody thought ask the Iraqis if it was worth it.

Come now DtC, we all know that US forces have been invited guests of the interim Iraqi government ever since the June handover of sovereignity. Don’t try to confuse us with this talk of occupation.

It is all just such nonsense.

It’s not like I was this great friend with the contractor, or any of the people I’ve known who have been killed here, but I knew them all well enough to see them as people.

I feel like I’m this piece of chalk that is being rubbed on the sidewalk until there’s only a nub left, just bit by bit. That’s what this occupation is doing rubbing away people bit by bit. Rubbing away at America’s soul bit by bit.

It’s not like people didn’t say this war was poorly thought out, but the administration called us unpatriotic, then they let the country descend into chaos and Rumsfield said freedom is ‘untidy.’

Now, they are all standing around with a who farted look on their face. Well Bush farted, that’s who.

Revenge for the WTC bombings. Each time another Iraqi civilian dies there are New Yorkers thinking “right on!”

You and i must hang in different circles.

I don’t know any New Yorkers who think like this.

The middle east is the abyss. When you stare too long at the abyss, the abyss stares back at you. The United States has been staring into the abyss for far too long now, and sometimes it feels like it’s rubbing off on us. Religious intolerance, racial intolerance, sexism, hatred, fear…Does Cheney really need to know the race of the journalists covering his campaign?

…I wonder if we’d have fusion by now if we’d have spent a quarter of what we are spending in Iraq on it.

Anyone know how many people who are dead now because of this criminal war?

Not to say that all that doesn’t exist within all of us, but our coveting of the resources of another region of the world is dragging down our karma.

I don’t know any personally, either. But there’s a few who set up signs on streetcorners every now and then that think this way.

Of course, they spend a lot of their time jabbering at the folks who have counter signs on the opposite corner.

Remember that scene a while back, when the Army pub relations guys were setting up the Big Statue Bring Down scene? Remember reading how originally they had draped an American flag over the statuary head, but that was thought too rude, so they took it off and just pulled the statue down.

I picked up a minor nugget about that. The flag they were originally draped over the statuary Saddam’s head was originally from one of the Towers, brought along by the Army unit for just such an occassion.

The impication being, at least to this little black duck, that the soldiers were thinking in terms of 9/11 vengeance as to the Iraq invasion. That’s why they brought the flag along.

So what are they telling these kids that they’re fighting for?

madmonk, you’re there, so I’m curious: has your viewpoint/attitude as regards Iraq policy undergone any change as a result?

I’ve been in and out of Iraq since the end of the war. My viewpoint hasn’t changed much, maybe moved a little further down the spectrum. Before I was pretty sure the war was a mistake, now I know it is.

Prior to the war, or even the election of Bush, I felt that the situation in Iraq and our (I’m an American) policies were in need of a correction. I don’t think sanctions are particularly effective, except when the sanctioned government is answerable to some kind of constituency.

For example, I think that the South African sanctions were effective because the Apartheid government was elected (albeit by an undemocratically selected voting body), so that there was a group of white voters who were inconvenienced, outraged, embarrassed, etc. enough to put pressure on their government for change. I don’t think a dictatorship like Iraq allowed for a sanctioned populace to put the kind of pressure on Saddam to effect change. In fact, I think the sanctions helped entrench Hussein.

I also think there was some validity in the criticism of the UN that it is ineffective and ossified. I’ve worked with (but not for) the UN in Kosovo and Afghanistan and I am not impressed with the UN as an effective body (although I’ve worked with some excellent individuals from the UN).

I also think that France and Russia were in fact pursuing their own national interests in the region by allying themselves with Hussein.

SO, I was prepared to listen to a president say something along the lines of “this situation in Iraq has gone on too long. The UN and the international community need to take a look at how to bring this to a close, some of the members of the Security Council need to look at their support of this despot and if they are unwilling we are going to help them along by assisting some reporters and think tanks with their research.”

I also believed that an international coalition, under the auspices of the UN, would have had the legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people to possibly install a democratizing government in the Middle East and that this new government could be the engine that could fundamentally change our relationship to the region.

I expected that the US would still have to do most of the heavy lifting in the war and reconstruction, but that its mission would have international and Iraqi credibility (indeed, I believed such a mandate was critical).

I think (and thought) that for this approach to be successful, the US would have to reexamine its support of the state of Israel and take several steps to reshape it to hold Israel more accountable with how it pursues self defense.

I assumed that this kind of policy would be a multi-year effort culminating in the second term of a president who had laid the groundwork with the international community in his/her first term.

In short, I was ready for a nuanced, multi-year approach. I even thought that 9/11 could play a role in reshaping the Middle East, not because of any relationship between Iraq and Bin Laden, but because the US would finally have the will to address the larger issues in the region.

I wasn’t prepared for how Bush pursued this rushed, poorly thought-out adventure. I thought at the time it was a mistake and I still do. I guess the only change in my thinking is that last August I thought the situation was maybe salvageable, but now I think the US has created a failed state in the Middle East.

Let me tell you, it is hard to get up and go to work when you feel you are working on a lost cause. It’s not terribly motivating to work hard to get a school built, then have US soldiers kill your contractor and to realize that the thing will probably be looted in another year.

I know a lot of aid workers who refused to come here because of their opposition to the war. To me, that means the Iraqis get doubly fucked, first by the war, then by the high-and-mighty aid workers who are too principled to lend a hand.

I get the sick joy of living the life of the double-martyr. I thought it was a mistake, I came anyway, I was proved right, I get to work on a doomed project, and yet I get the privilege of working with a lot of right wingers who think liberals are traitors while my liberal friends get to look down on me. And oh yeah, every now and again, someone takes a shot at me.

I hope what this post lacked in coherence it made up for in irony.

Personally, I think your post was perfectly coherent. It’s the situation that warrants a straitjacket.

Amen, OttoDaFe. I’ve taken the liberty, madmonk28, of copying and pasting your OP and posts 8 and 15 into an email (duly attributed), and sharing your observations with a number of my friends. I wish all Americans could be shown so clearly just what is really happening in Iraq.

madmonk, I got no standing here, but that’s never stopped me yet.

Get the Hell out of Dodge! Risking yourself in a righteous cause is noble and worthy, I got nothing but admiration for that. But you appear to have come to an assessment of futility, and that means its time to haul ass to save ass. Martyrdom is for holy fools, and however holy, still fools. Retreat, regroup, and come at it from another direction.

Right on. I try to never feed the Glurge Beast, but I think this one is going to make the rounds of my friends and acquaintances.

Thanks everyone.

Take some of the meladrama with a grain of salt, bad day at work + no AC + 120F make Homer go something.

Besides I’m from Virginia, my people have a fondness for lost causes :wink: