Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Encounters of the Military Kind - 1

I challenge any Iraqi (or anyone who embarrassedly/proudly calls themselves thus) to deny the few or many drops of tears that trickled on watching the destruction of our homeland. Politicians are welcome to interrupt and tell me Saddam had already destroyed the country before then, so I must correct myself with – on watching the further destruction of our homeland.

Whichever way I look at it, America and Iraq have a dysfunctional (almost abusive) relationship. The one that ends with the man angrily storming out while the beaten and bruised woman still clings onto his leg as he walks out.

It sticks with me as very appropriate.

I speak for myself when I say throughout the years of war, my opinions of the soldiers parading around has differed greatly. It has switched between respect, hatred, embarrassment, disgust, playfulness, anger.


The First Time:

I was so excited and thrilled. It had been perhaps 3 or 4 months after the ‘toppling of the regime’. On driving across the border, we got stopped and searched. My dad was casually chatting with the soldiers that were supposed to be questioning us. From behind the safety of luggage and my parents, I peeked at the 7 or 8 soldiers. One smiled. I ducked.

That night, I mentioned how Americans were good looking. I based that judgement entirely on the hair and eye color. That day had been the first time I’d ever seen Americans. I had not spoken one syllable to any of them. I think it’s safe to say my mind was still of a child.


jnana said...

I'm looking forward to read the second encounter!

Nasser Kat said...

I find it very interesting that your sentiments range from positive to negative towards the invasion. As a person who is living outside of Iraq, I would find it to be a betrayal to view the invasion as anything but negative. But that's from an outsider Iraqi, and I understand there are complexities.

I also very much liked your battered woman analogy. I think it's very true unfortunately and so the US leaving a battered weakened Iraq is going to be a disaster of massive propositions for Iraq, Internally and externally.

Looking forward to the second installment ya3ni.

Ihsiin said...

Every individual (that is to say, every individual with any power) is only concerned with his own position, or, at the very most, his position and that of his contemporaries of one sort or another. Individualism and tribalism; that's pretty much the history of Arabia.

Soldiers are just soldiers. Their job is death, but I suppose they're necessary at one point or another.

Touta said...


thank you, i shall try to adtually write rather than start and never finish :D


Although it might seem pessimistic, but to be against the invasion was a pretty futile task, although at the beginning I did go to all the protests, and argue endlessly, but sadly when up against the millions of uninformed 'Saddam caused 9/11' crowds there was never any chance it wasn't going to occur. That's without mentioning politics.

I do regret the loss of life as well as loss of dignity of the iraqi people because of the war, but clearly the wider world doesn't.

As for the current situation, and the 'battered woman' analogy, I find it outrageous to believe that the politicians who thought the war was a good idea didn't see it coming. Perhaps it would be a good idea to mention 'divide and conquer' tactics, but i'm basically afraid of conspiracy theories.


we are always 'one eye towards our neighbour', I can't help but think the tribalism would have paid off in the end, with regards to Iraq - if there had been no war, would Iraq have become the Libya of the Arab Spring, with the tribes hand in hand?

I find the topic of armies and policing especially difficult. In theory, I detest it. In reality, my grandfather is still active in the army. Balancing moral theories with real life is impractical at best, but i generally can't agree that life or death is in any person's hand

Ihsiin said...

Before the First World War many a revolution (against the Turks, who were the colonialist oppressors in those days) was scuppered because of tribalist attitudes and the refusal of the tribes to come together. It wasn't till British T. E. Lawrence and Hijazi Malik Faisal united the tribes under (sort of) Arab nationalism that they were able throw of the shackles Turkish oppression (only, as it turned out, to come under the yoke of British imperialism, but that's another story).

Post World War, the tribalist attitudes have shifted to religious divides. If there had been no war (that is to say, no 2003 Iraq war) then Iraq would have been like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in the Arab Spring, where sectarian revolutions were brutally put down by oppressive regimes; and they didn't get much more oppressive than Saddam.
Divide and conquer: this has been the policy in Iraq since 1919.

Touta said...

who could have thought arab nationalism would be our making and our unmaking at the same time.

As for the Bahrain/Saudi, Saudi's regime is backed by the west, which is why it won't fall, and Bahrain is backed by Saudi which is backed by the west, it hasn't even received media attention apart from a passing comment on the guardian/independent just to show how informed the writer is.

Iraq on the other hand has a larger majority, plus i like to have a little faith in ourselves, how would you measure 'oppressiveness'? Its like asking to measure 'freedomness'. We are neither free, nor oppressed.

Ihsiin said...

That's certainly true, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are propped up the west and a large proportion of their power resides therein. However, if the whole populations of those countries arose together, united in their desire for a less oppressive society, then I don't think any amount of western support will save them.

With Iraq, I find it hard to believe that any domestic upraising would have been able to topple Saddam unless it were it consistent and united across all of Iraqi society. I remember the Shi'i rebellion of 1991 (well, obviously I don't remember, but you know what I mean). Besides which, if a sectarian revolution were made good and the revolutionaries came to power, they would, by their sectarian nature, marginalise (intentionally or not) a big chunk of Iraqi society. Just look at the politically sectarian bullshit we've seen in the Iraqi government of late; the fact that innocent people's lives get mixed up in it just makes it so much worse.
Incidentally, I'm not going on one of those "bloody Iraqis" rants. I heard once that psychological studies have shown that the more disordered the society an individual lives in, the more likely it becomes that that individual will have bigoted attitudes. Is it surprising, then, that in Saddam's culture of fear people stuck to others similar to themselves (regarding religion or ethnicity or whatever) and became suspicious of others? But the only solution I can see is to rise above those attitudes and bring everyone together.

You're right, we can't quantify oppression or freedom, but we can certainly say that one society suffers more oppression, or enjoys more freedom, than another. We are all free and oppressed, just to varying degrees.

With regards to Arab nationalism, you should read Edward Said's 'Yeats and Decolonisation'. It doesn't actual deal directly with Arab nationalism itself, but the connections are fairly easy to make.
In short, my opinion is that we need a new kind of nationalism.

BFF said...

hmmmm, interesting! you should write more on modern iraqi youth tho...

Touta said...

The chance of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia rising against oppression can be said to be as equal to the chance of an Iraqi uprising succeeding during the 'Arab Spring'.I really shouldn't draw comparisons between 'what if' situations with Iraq, and 'If only' situations with Saudi, Bahrain, and Syria (to an extent).

Bringing sects together is harder than it looks. Whether in Iraq or abroad. I can find no quick solution, or a solution that we will live to see (but I am ever optimistic, I mean Cleopatra fooled the Roman Empire and Thatcher made Britain 'Great' again, so I'm sure a iraqi female somewhere can overcome the shackles of society *crickets*). The poison has to be diluted down through the generations. I've probably said before, the only instant-win solution is if a giant 'Reset' button is discovered somewhere in Iraq.

I'm glad you mentioned Edward Said, my father made me read his Orientalism book a long time ago ("if you're going to the west, you need to know them as they know us") , is that similar to the Yeats & Decolonization one you mentioned? I agree with a lot of his theories, but the disordered society one - I'm not so sure. When a society is in ruins, the individual becomes more open, surely? Because they see a variety of people,situations, these rapid changes causes people to either accept the change, or resent it. Humans are like all other creatures, happiness/pleasure seeking, and rather than live in resentment, they grudgingly accept the changes and adapt.
When the society is too ordered, too 'tidy' (ie.oppressive), the population become bigoted, society has made its stamp - we pick up things that are organized, and when propaganda is organized and ingrained into our minds from a young age, there is no removing it. I use myself as an example, my childhood has meant I have a unrealistic prejudice towards Kuwaitis and Iranians (as well as dare I say it, Western Politics). I cannot shake it, even though I mentally know they have both done nothing. Later on in life, due to instability of where I live, I am more accepting of prejudices that were ingrained into me on a lesser extent than the former 3.

And nationalism? If you come up with a new theory, you should realize eventually it will be labeled as the 'root of all evil' in the Middle East, and the whole cycle would restart.

I think I have to admit, we have stumbled upon the best way to procrastinate (since it will no doubt use most time) - middle eastern politics.
(sorry for the essay, its a funner topic than my current assigment anyway..)

thank you! :) I'll make an effort to do that