Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, December 30, 2006

An Eid Present?

Over the past few days there was speculation that Saddam's execution we about to take place. Lawyers were voicing opinions in agreement or against. The Anfal case against him isn't even complete. Then today I woke up to the news that he had been executed at 6 am Baghdad time and the BBC, Al Jazerra and others are broadcasting footage to a subdued and black-coated Saddam being prepped and fitted for his noose by his hooded executioners. No actual images of the trap door opening and the sudden, inevitable snap, but the footage is no less unnerving for the clm and almost business-like process of the leading characters.

Today is the first day of the Eid Al Adha, the four day celebration marking the end of the Haj. While outside Iraq, the Arab world seems to be blaming the U.S. for the execution and reacting in shock and outrage to the fact that they chose the first day of a major Islamic holiday in which to do the deed, in Iraq many (those who suffered at the hands of the dictator) are calling it a "present for the Eid." I talked to one of my Iraqi co-workers and he said he had heard the news. "Yes," he said, "I am so happy."

Of course, as even President Bush has admitted, this doesn't change a thing. Americans, the news reporters are saying, will likely not react much to the death of Saddam. The war, and the President who got them into it, is very unpopular and Americans have come to believe that no good news ever comes out of Iraq now.

As for myself, as I am against the death penalty in principal, I'm sorry to see the execution take place. I agree with many that this really was more about revenge than justice. I believe that Saddam should not have been tried in Iraq. In the end, I think that he was killed with many questions left unanswered. Some Iraqi friends told me yesturday that this is one of the reasons why there was a rush to execute him and why there were certain cases that probably would never have been brought against him, because he would have been able to implicate the U.S. for its past behavior in Iraq.

Be that as it may, in the end, Saddam is now free of his accusers ... released into the hands of God, or the Devils ... or into oblivion.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Have I become the Occupier?

I was sitting here feeling a bit sorry for myself because I have been having trouble working with our Baghdad staff. They seem resistant to working with me sometimes, unwilling to share information and they often just ignore my emails. They are friendly ... that is when they take my phone calls, but reluctant to tell me anything. Poor me, I've been thinking. They are being so silly. I'm only trying to help but they must see me as some kind of threat. How ridiculous.

As I was sitting there, it occurred to me that I'm not the only American who probably feels this way. I'm sure there are some U.S. troops (those who aren't of the "kill 'em all" persuasion), some officers, and some U.S. State Department/USAID types, who feel the same. They came to help. Why do the Iraqis view them as a threat? Perhaps they feel the same hurt feelings I do.

Of course, I didn't come to Iraq with a gun like they did, but in the end, what really is the difference? We both came into the country without asking. My God, I thought, have I become the occupier? Not just some pushy American woman ... but an occupier?

And if so, is the Baghdad staffs' passive-agressive attitude towards me not just simple pig-headedness but actually a form of resistance?

Food for thought.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Al Zawraa' - A voice for the Iraqi insurgents

An Iraqi friend and her fiance came over for dinner tonight and they told me about the Iraqi insurgent T.V. network called "Al Zawraa'." We switched on the tube and quickly found it (broadcasted on Nilesat ... see pictures below). Most of it featured video footage of U.S. convoys being attacked by IED (improvised explosive device) or insurgets shooting off mortars and Katyusha rockets ... all of this accompanied by rousing songs (in Arabic) that I guess could roughly be translated, "Arise, Arise, my brothers and kick the occupiers out ..."

If you didn't know that people were dying in these attacks, it would be almost humorous. When the commentator came out in his kaffiyeh and all dressed in camo, I nearly fell off the couch. As the men fired off the mortars, I said out loud, "Why do boys always like to blow things up? This is just a more lethal version of the potato gun." And I asked, rhetorically, "I wonder how many of my male friends have played around with potato guns?" My friend's fiance sheepishly raised his hand.

We watched the footage for about 30 minutes, my Iraqi friend whispering "Khatiya!" (Pity! or Poor thing!) when each bomb went off. It really was sickening. The footage moved on to showing scenes of Iraqis being detained, cuffed and hooded, of house raids, and other indignities that the Iraqis suffer at the hands of the foreign and Iraqi troops. My friend had told me that this program was first broadcast from Baghdad but after the Iraqi government realized that the images took on a decidedly anti-occupation slant and actually seemed to be encouraging the insurgency, Al Zawraa' was shut down. But somehow and somewhere, they are now continuing their broadcasts.

My friends heard about it when they were downtown shopping. In one of the shops, Al Zawraa' was playing on the T.V. When they were asked, the guys in the shop all indicated that they watch it because they supported the insurgency in Iraq.

Personally, when I view such things, I feel that much (but not all) of the insurgency would evaporate if the foreign troops were gone. The emphasis of the channel was definitely anti-U.S. troops, no footage was shown of Iraqi troops or police, atleast not that I could see. But knowing the enthusiasm that American boys have for their own potato guns (oh, if only that is what they could fight with), I don't see an end in sight.

It seems to me that Al Zawraa' could be easily spoofed and made to look foolish (it was doing a pretty good job of it without even trying, if you ask me). I had an Iraqi friend last year who showed me a film he had made with his buddies back in Baghdad, spoofing, of all things, kidnappings and beheadings. It seems that that would be one way to handle Al Zawraa'. I don't like or support the occupation but what they are doing is just as bad.