Friday, 10 April 2009

Black Cats and Voodoo Dolls

I'm not superstitious.

In fact, I occasionally go out of my way to prove superstition wrong.
I always walk under ladders , walk on pavement cracks, and i have the ability to crack mirrors just by looking at them (:D), and I enjoy opening umbrellas indoors.

Today is Friday, the start of the seventh year since the start of the war. I hope that the 7th year will bring peace and happiness, and luck. But I don't know what to say. In fact, I am suffering from lack of emotion if anything.
Our house has chocolates and sweets littered around because of the anniversary. But they leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Yesterday, as my father called for us to see some guys on tv make fun of saddam, i didn't join in. When Sadr called for anti US protests nearby in Firdos square, I didn't join in.
I'll start by telling you a story, because I don't know how else to start.

In Al-Aathamiya, lived a family. There was a father (a teacher), a mother (a housewife), a son, and two daughters. They lived in Saddam's time normally. Not rich, not poor. They suffered under Saddam, as the father couldn't get a well paid job because he hadn't joined the Ba'ath party. They suffered under sanctions as their daughter had jaundice. but they couldn't get supplies because the world had decided this was the best way to stop Saddam-by killing the population of the country he ruled.
The war came. They rejoiced. Freedom to go the the Kharij (outside Iraq), Freedom for the father finally to be able to get the job he deserved. Instead, the father got kicked out of his job. He was a 'saddamist'-living in Al Aathamiya and having a job-he had to be one of Saddam's favoured right? Wrong. His older brother had been killed by Saddam. That's how favoured he was.

No job, and a family to feed, he resorted to selling everything. First the furniture went, the car, the extra fridge, but soon he ran out of stuff to sell. He sat on the kerbside and sold vegetables and herbs.

During a particularly nasty time in 2006, he was shot by american soldiers. His wife complained, the soldier's reply-he was about to attack them.

Yes, with that deadly broccoli and lethal courgettes.

It was concluded he was shot accidently, as there were many militia men in the area. The wife had no qualifications and could not get a job. The recompensation was equivalent to $100.

For a while, the family depended on their uncle. Who was then kidnapped by militia men, and beaten to the point that he couldn't walk, by his fellow country men. His ransom was so high, that it cost them everything.

And yes, its a true story, and no they had no reason to lie, and yes i met the mother and her orphaned children. What made me smile, is I met the two girls. One is the age of my little sister, and the other is around 9. She had a son who at the time was 'out'. Two hours later, a depressed looking guy walked in. He was one year older than me, but despite this, his mother angrily called him to the kitchen, no doubt to ask where he had been.

The morale of the story? The reason I wrote their story? I hate it when child like rumours are spread- 'and they burnt him alive and some dogs ate him after'.In war, there's always bad guys and good guys, but no one should take the action of a few to represent the majority, but out of frustration and in country recovering from war, it is suprisingly easy to point fingers.

I want to rely on facts, not rumours and stereotypes, and since this is fact, I believe them. I believe them because the mother was so kind. I believe them because the son looked like he had died. I believed them because the girls looked half their actual age.

If Saddam was not removed from power, I would have never realised I had family. I would have never seen Iraq. I would have felt lost for the rest of my life.

Despite this, I shall not for one second celebrate. I shall not smile. Because I refuse to put a value on human life. Where human life is concerned, it cannot be argued that quantity is more important. Would I sacrifice the life of one person to save the life of ten? I don't know.

Things have got worse, and things have got better. But to think that war does not have horror stories is naive. I do understand that Iraq cannot be built in a day, and like all important things, rebuilding a country needs time. It needs patience. I just hope I won't curse the day I lost ignorance, because ignorance can be bliss. Was the loss of lives worth it? I don't know.

Celebrating the removal of Saddam from power is a completely different thing to celebrating the start of a war to me.

Why would I celebrate the start of a war? Instead, I choose to remember and celebrate all those who lost their lives. All those who could have changed the world, but never had the chance.
All those who selflessly sacrificed their lives. But with that, I also have to remember their killers. Which is why I cannot bring myself to ever say any war is Just or Good.

And for this reason, I shall never celebrate the 9th of April.


Iraqi Mojo said...

"Celebrating the removal of Saddam from power is a completely different thing to celebrating the start of a war to me. "

Excellent point and excellent post, touta. It is so sad what happened to the Iraqis who suffered under Saddam and suffered even more after Saddam's fall.

Iraqi Mojo said...
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Jeffrey said...


Very fine blog entry. I tip my hat to you. Normally, as a teacher, I would have some advice to give for editing, but your entry is great just the way it is.


C.H. said...

Excellent post Touta. I remember the 9th of April myself...but it was very different for me. I was living in Boston and in school at the time.

My only differing opinion from yours is that I think Iraq was always at war...the dynamics of it just shifted after April 9th, 2003. Shia and Kurds had been fighting Saddam for decades, and suddenly they had the chance to hold power, forcing the Baathists and Saddam supporters into the insurgency role...unfortunately they employed tactics that had never been seen before, like the bombings of market places and police stations.

I just hope its finally going to be over you and all Iraqis can live in peace :)

Michomeme said...
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Michomeme said...

a great post Touta.
many Iraqis suffered under Saddam's time and after the war as well.
the different thing is that during Saddam's time, there was a red line that no body dare to approuch to, and if so, he would disappear with the whole family.
while in the current time, Iraqis are being killed for being sunni or shia, kurds or christians.
in that time, at least we had one killer, but now we have killers.
I heard many stories of killing and kidnapping, you can imagine that a young man was a student of Medical college got killed by his friends for money issues, or a child got kidnapped by his neighbor for money as well.
a man got killed for being sunni and went to pray in the mosque, a shia man went to Hussainya and celebrates in Ashura got killed as well for the same reason.
Is that the freedom they were talking about? it is a big lie, and huge mistake, we are dying, and still living in the same situation and it is worse than Saddam's time.
It was a war against Iraqis not the war of freedom as they have been saying "Harb al-Tahrir", how I hate this word.

Touta said...

Iraqi Mojo,
Thanks, and it is sad, but i suppose that's life, and iraqis have the luck of having a particularly hard one. Its time for a change of luck now hopefully. :D

Thanks, :) its one of the few posts that i didn't edit after writing.

hmmmmm, i guess you could almost say iraq is cursed. Luckily I'm not superstitious. :)

you should make you comment into a post, i agree and 'harb al tahrir' walla sah, but what can anyone do apart from wait.

Muhannad said...

Michomeme, does Iraq need another Saddam?

Iraqi Mojo said...

"Saddam did not come from Mars. He came from the village of Awja. His character was shaped on the streets of Baghdad when, along with his clan, calling itself Baathist, he engaged in fist fights with other clans who called themselves communists, Nasserites and other unfitting titles borrowed from modern times.

In Iraq, Saddam was not the cause of Iraqi backwardness, but rather its product. And in his absence and the ensuing vacuum, intelligence operatives from neighbouring countries found an opportunity to settle scores with America on the one hand, and among themselves on the other. The result was five years of Iraqi bloodshed.

This is the sad story of Iraq and most of the Arab world, and the lesson should be clear: when looking at their misery, the Arabs should stop blaming the Mongols, the Persians, the Ottomans, the French, the British, the Russians, the Israelis or the Americans for their ills.

When feeling in distress over socioeconomic and political issues inside their countries, Arabs should start looking inward and keep in mind an Ancient Greek aphorism: Know Thyself."

Touta said...

i don't like to think baghdad spawned saddam, i prefer to think it was all because of tikrit(:D), but more importantly, you are right,
the current generation in charge like to have enemies, but i think that everyone has got tired of it now-no one cares.
If you stepped into baghdad university, i swear its like a different world,but the problem is getting the politicians that are going to place the population-not petrol and politics-first. :)

JG said...

We have a name for this in Ireland, for people who blame everything on outside interference/historical injustices etc.

I think the truth is somewhere in between. I'm not sure Saddam was a product of "Iraqi backwardness", I mean what does that explain? It doesn't really explain anything as far as I'm concerned.

The whole 'resource curse' is definitely a factor. Countries with a huge amount of natural resources almost always have stunted economic growth and development. And, it is definitely easier for authoritarian leaders to emerge and survive when they control the flow of scarce resources.

That said, I think there is also a strong argument for not blaming everything else and examining one's own shortcomings.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Touta.

Just one thing, though. The war started in March. April 9th was to mark the fall of Baghdad, essentially the end of the war between the US government the Hussien regime (in an official sense, at least). So I wouldn't consider celebrating April 9th celebrating the start of a war.


madtom said...

Never walk under a ladder, the guy working up in the ladder might just drop his hammer...

"They lived in Saddam's time normally."Define normal?

I know for a fact that "normal" in Cuba is worst than a death at sea, and being eaten by sharks. At least it seems that way for thousands.

madtom said...

I was just thinking. Now that Obama is opening up relations with Cuba and he's lifting the restrictions. The first thing I am going to send my family is a DVD player, and the box set collection of Jaws.

pepe said...

I also don't see any reason for celebration, this war only makes me sad. Among other reasons, because all resistance fighters in iraqi are seen as Al-Qaeda zealots or simply as terrorists, even those who fought against the americans who tried to transform Iraq in a money machine. And also because once more the american soldiers were used by some croocks to support dirty business, which you can see clearly in some apparently nonsensical decisions, like disband the iraqi army, which in the end was what caused most deaths among americans and iraqis alike but of course made some people incredibly wealthy.
About this celebrations, i'd guess that it is a political thing, and that the average iraqi just sees it as a good excuse to have a beer with friends or a nice family meeting.

Touta said...


the more iraq relies on oil, the more trouble it will bring. I agree with your point, and i really think that something should be done, as the government are all talk no work when it comes to actually trying to develop iraq.


Factually you couldn't be more correct, but to the average iraqi, the end of saddam's regime was when he was captured-despite the war and the fall of baghdad, many were still hesitant to talk about saddam.As well as this, the fall of baghdad marked the beginning of looting, many civilian casualities, and i'm not sure i want to celebrate that.
Thanks for your comment. :)


normal in saddam's time = queuing for bananas/aspirin in the black market, never ever talking or getting attention, neevr seeing anything other than what you were allowed to see.

But the thing is, in Saddam's time they were able to earn money (as little as it was), they were able to live in a house relatively safely, and they didn't have to lie awake every night listening to the sounds of gunfire and bombs.

Personally, i don't think you can compare the situation of a regime to the situation of a war. One's a opressive obsessive lifestyle, and the other is a war. However if all goes well the result of the war will be a better lifestyle, but the immediate effect is that thousands have and still are suffering. That's war.
I think free willy might be a better choice. :)


That's another funny thing about the war, before the war saddam's family and favoured were the rich, and now there's still corruption-i just hope it gets solved before it leads onto nastier things.
Oh, and very little drink beer here, its either wine or 'haleeb il usud' (lions milk). :)

mhmd said...


'Not superstitios'?!

-'don't kill insects, how'd you like it if someone squashed you'
-'i'm not drinking alcohol, Allah might exist, and rastafarians don't drink alcohol either'
-'i'm not reading star signs, the book just fell open on that page'

T, can you spell 'Liar'?

moonlight said...

Great post Touta :).
It's sad the suffering that Iraqi's have had to go through during the war and no matter where they live every Iraqi family has been touched in some way shape or form.

"Why would I celebrate the start of a war? Instead, I choose to remember and celebrate all those who lost their lives. All those who could have changed the world, but never had the chance."

Yup, there is no reason to celebrate the start of war...I never understood how killing and bombs can attain peace.

Touta said...


Great minds think alike. :)

madtom said...

I am glade to see that you can tell the difference between saddams time and the war which you are living through now. No doubt the war is hell. It has not been pleasant for us either. But at least with the war we can have some hope that better times will come. You can't say that for saddams time, as that system would have either lasted for generations to come, or would be replaced by another of the same kind, or worst.

You can still expect trouble for a long time to come, but at least now there is a goal to work towards. It's the responsibility of your generation to make sure that you never live through another saddam, and that Iraq continues on a path towards freedom and Modernity.
And that is a big order.

Touta said...


"No doubt the war is hell. It has not been pleasant for us either. But at least with the war we can have some hope that better times will come. You can't say that for saddams time, as that system would have either lasted for generations to come, or would be replaced by another of the same kind, or worst."

very very true.
And i'm sure that my generation will take on this responsibility, but unfortunately, there's two pretty messed up generations before us, and we're just praying They don't mess it up.


Lynnette In Minnesota said...


You're right, going through a war is a terrible thing. And it has, and will, color your views for a long time to come. Just like any traumatic experience would. We, here in the States, can sit at our computers and tell you that things will get better, but our views our colored by our history. Our country has went through any number of internal violent upheavals, economic crisis, and natural disasters. And we have always fought our way through. It has not been easy. But we have prevailed.

Micho says "freedom", what "freedom"?

...but what can anyone do apart from wait.You can speak out, Touta. You can run for public office. You can stop being a victim and start being a citizen of a free country.

Have you been following what has been happening in Afghanistan lately? I am talking about the new law that was passed that makes it illegal for a woman to refuse sex with her husband? There has been a massive international outcry against it. But what was more amazing to see was the Afghan women who staged a protest recently there. That took courage. That took freedom.


The whole 'resource curse' is definitely a factor. Countries with a huge amount of natural resources almost always have stunted economic growth and development.Careful, JG, you will be encouraging that "American exceptionalism" thought. ;)

Lynnette In Minnesota said...
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Lynnette In Minnesota said...


Do you have any idea why, when I post my comment, it is removing the line space I have between the italicized quote and my response?

JG said...

"American exceptionalism"---------

Not at all.

Don Cox said...

" the problem is getting the politicians that are going to place the population-not petrol and politics-first." This is the universal problem with politicians in all countries. The solutions are checks and balances in the constitution, and rigorous auditing. A Freedom of Information Act helps too, and a free press (but the press can be greedy and corrupt too).

Touta said...

Don Cox
so we've a looong way to go then?