Sophia's Peace Work

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

By Order of Force

I've had a particularly trying day ... running around at the Medical City (a huge complex of medical buildings in central Baghdad) ... The Ministry of Health office is very nice, clean and white with air conditioning and full of people who appear to do nothing ... I watched as one nasty receptionist told a man looking for work to come back after 10 days ... "But you told me that 10 days ago!" the man cried.

When you compare the Ministry building to the Public Hospital, which is dirty, dingy, with no air-conditioning for the patients, ... You just want to scream!

And then I went to the Palace ... My first time to the real seat of power in Iraq ... where the Americans hold sway. It really is extraordinary. My translator starting asking if there were jobs available in the Palace. I don't know, it all really affected me and then I had this interaction with a military guy there ... It was just a brief moment ... No big deal really. We were talking about the security situation after the "transition" on June 30th.

"I don't think anything will change," he said (Which everyone here knows but no one ever publicly says). I had been asking him if the streets would be opened up and the blast walls would come down. "Not with the Mahdi Army out there just waiting for an opportunity," he said. I tried to point out the catch-22 in what he said ... The current security situation attracts violence at least as much as it tries to protect (certain) people from violence. He just didn't really appear to see it ... force protection is paramount in his book. I left depressed ... And grew only more depressed because my translator appeared to agree with him.

"He's with the military," she said, "It has the right ..."
"The right!?!" I stopped her, "Just because the Military has the biggest guns, it has the right?"

It reminded me of the previous day when I saw a sign on some barriers. I forget the exact wording but it was something like, "Coalition Property. Do Not Remove By Order of Force."

I'm sick of the Order of Force. I'm sick of the helicopters that buzz the rooftops. I'm sick of all the roads that are closed and the patrols that snarl the traffic. I'm sick of motorcades for VSIP's (Very Self-Important People). I'm sick of people who can't talk to me because they have to get "permission" to tell me what kind of crap is in the Medical City sewage pipe. I'm sick of the bomb attacks. I'm sick of the checkpoints. I'm sick of grading tests. I'm sick of the heat (and everyone points out to me that it is not really that hot yet). If I'm sick of it, what do Iraqis feel.

I'm sure I'll be fine ... I'm going to take a few days off and head up to Kurdistan for a break (and maybe a little work)... It's cooler up there and safer.


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