How Goes the Occupation? Ask the People of Iraq
The July 20, 2003 Washington Post Outlook section had four articles on the occupation of Iraq by American forces. Two were glowing assessments based on American designs as to what Iraq should be like. Too soon for elections and democracy, argued Thomas Carothers, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The U.S. must put administrative agencies and infrastructures in place, presumably the kind it wants, before it can let the Iraqi people elect their own government.
And Ralph Peters, retired Army officer, argued that the occupation is "right on target." He dismissed the murder of American soldiers and Iraqis as a mere nuisance, really, brought about by the trouble-making few who were disgruntled with their displacement by the Americans. All in due time, he says, the country will come around and realize how lucky they are. Oh, we might be there 10 years before that happens, but happen it will, he assures us.
Not one of the four articles (one was about the role of women in the new Iraq, and one about spending more money on Iraq) talked about what the Iraqis wanted for themselves. Saddam Hussein or not, it was their country. In fact, and I may be pilloried for saying this, it was more their country before Bremer and Wolfowitz took over.
Americans and the "coalition of the willing" supposedly went into Iraq to make them free. Free for what? Free to have no electricity, security, jobs? Free to have American troops shooting children for throwing rocks? Free to have American troops searching their houses? Free to have American troops make preemptive arrests based upon their possible threat to American interests?
Do you see a pattern here? Granted, Iraqis might not have had many civil liberties during the reign of Saddam Hussein, but they don’t have any during the reign of American occupiers, either. But more to the point, they don’t have a country.
How do you think you would feel if the United States were occupied by Italy, China, or Japan? Choose any country you wish. The occupiers bring in their media, their language, their troops, their law, their managers, their corporations, and you are expected to sit there and watch them. Take over your country, your culture, and your life.
In his explication of variations on love (of country, of friends, of lovers, of God) in The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes of the love of home and country. Citing early 20th century British poet, playwright, and journalist G. K. Chesterton, Lewis says, "A man’s reasons for not wanting his country to be ruled by foreigners are very likely his reasons for not wanting his house to be burned down; because he could not even begin to enumerate all the things he would miss."
Think about that. Those of you who have had a house burn to the ground, how did it feel? Those of you who have lived in occupied countries, how did it feel? The closest personal experience I have had is losing a home that was the dearest thing on earth to me. But that was my own doing. I sold it–because I had to, true–but it was not taken away from me by force. Or occupied by trespassers or invaders. Or, burned to the ground.
Having said that, since 9/11, I have grown to feel as if I am living in an occupied country. I look at the insanity of the Congress voting for war, for the Patriot Act, and fighting quite literally like unruly children last week, and I think, this is not my country. I stand in line to be searched in airports, museums, and concerts, and I think, this is not America. I listen to George Bush lie about everything from intelligence on Iraq, to the deficit and what it will do to my child and my grandchildren, and to empty promises about Medicare, Medicaid, and education. Surely this cannot be my President.
I listen to the airwaves filled with hate-filled, duplicitous, and slandering right-wing talk show hosts and wonder at the ignorance of the American people. Am I in the wrong country? I read the decisions of the federal appeals court as it rips up the Constitution, article by article (save for the provisions relating to an omnipotent Executive branch), and shreds the Bill of Rights, amendment by amendment, and I marvel at how the judiciary could have vanished in a mere two years.
Granted, the U.S. is not Iraq–yet. But when George Bush and Tony Blair (which took a lot of nerve, if you ask me) tell me what a wonderful job the Bush regime is doing in this new world order of perpetual war, I wish they would ask me.
And I wish The Washington Post would can the conservative think tank pundits who are paid to write reports that support the Bush regime’s party line and ask the Iraqi people: How do you like American occupation?
They, sooner than us, will not be able to remember all the things they miss about home.
ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime’s dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org