16 Apr 2004, Comments (0)

Pollyanna in Iraq

Author: Helen

I haven’t blogged about Iraq for some time, one because of the ongoing renovations, and two, because other people are doing it so much better than I would. I’m not going to start on the escalation of violence in Fallujah and elsewhere. I just want to ask, have we really made a difference for the better in peoples’ daily lives in Iraq?

Since most sensible people dropped the “9/11 connection” idea, the conservative view has been that the Coalition invasion has all been worth it, because we are now giving them democracy and freedom. Sure, we might have made a big mess of it all, but now schools are being re-opened and many Iraqis and expats are saying that everything is much better. (Conversely, if you doubt this at all, you’re labelled pro-Saddam; Rightwing commentators, while being as cunning as all getout, pretend that more than two extreme positions on any topic are impossible.)

Here it is from the horse’s mouth: Alan Jones interviewing Rupert Murdoch earlier this month. (Strangely enough, there weren’t any monstering comments from Jones, such as: “Yeah well let me say this to you. You don’t want to get blustering people like me, because the people who listen to it don’t like it. Talking over the top of me all the time achieves nothing for you. I mean I’d rather just get the answers. You might like to keep that in mind.” (Interview with Mark Latham, 2 April, 2004). No, all was sweetness and light, with frequent sycophantic chuckles. Surprised?)

On Iraq:

MURDOCH: Clearly, we have no alternative. We have got to see the job through. And I think it is being misrepresented. There is tremendous progress in Iraq. All the kids are back at school… ten per cent more than when Saddam Hussein was there. There is one per cent more fresh water. There’s …most of Iraq is doing extremely well.
There is one small part where the Sunnis are, which were the people who supported Saddam Hussein, who are giving trouble, and more by, I think, giving cover to international terrorists and people from the Taliban and from Afghanistan coming in. And it’s not – this is notable – theyÌre not really trying to kill Americans even, they’re trying to kill people, like, from the United Nations. Anyone who is trying to come in and help get their country going properly.
So how does that all affect the American presidential election? Where does George Bush stand in relation to all of this in the eyes of the people?
They’re with him on that, completely. He’s going to walk it in.
The economy is doing extremely well and, you know, there is an international crisis. You have got to understand, America was attacked. The…in…9/11 changed America. It was a big moment in history.

Note, Murdoch and others are still conflating the 9/11 attack with Iraq, something which has been so thoroughly discredited now, I don’t know how anyone can still do it with a straight face. It’s difficult to believe that Murdoch really believes this spin, hard not to think he is laughing up his sleeve. Perhaps he just thinks he can get away with it with Jones’ rightwing target audience. But that aside, his Pollyanna description is failing to match up with the horrors that have been coming from Iraq since the interview. But even before that, there was much conflicting information for people who read blogs. Let’s read some excerpts from Riverbend on the new, free, safe Iraq. (Riverbend has been given bona fides by Salam Pax who, in turn, has been publicly outed and verified as real.) Note how Riverbend’s status as a woman has changed since we “liberated” her. And the coalition might have reopened a few schools, but is it safe enough for children to go to them?

1 April 2004
We haven’t sent the kids to school for 3 days. The atmosphere is charged and the day before yesterday, Baghdad was quiet and empty, almost the calm before the storm.

1 March 2004
My uncle is planning a trip to Jordan so we had to buy him some luggage. I had been looking forward to the shopping trip for at least 4 days which is how long it takes to get the routine familial permission these days. First, I have to make a declaration of intent; I have to tell the parents that I intend to go out and purchase something. Then, I have to specify the area where I intend to make the purchase, after which comes locating a free male relative with some extra time on his hands to join me in the adventure. The final step is setting the date and time and getting the final household authorization.

For those of you wondering, YES, it annoys me beyond anything that, at my age, I have to get parental permission to leave the house. It’s a trend that started after the war and doesn’t look like it’s going to abate any time soon.
There were some strange-looking people in the street- heads covered in turbans, black and white women shrouded from top to bottom in black cloth… men with long beards and abbayas. I was getting quite a few critical stares- why wasn’t this girl wearing a hijab? The rational person in me was asking the same question- why aren’t you wearing one? Is it too much to ask for you to throw something on top of your head when you leave the house? Everyone else is doing it… most of the women you know are just flinging on a head-cover to avoid those disapproving glares and harsh words. Ever since the war, even some Christian women have been pressured into hiding their hair- especially in the south. And on and on went the rational voice… The stubborn voice- the one that blogs- tried to drown out common sense with, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… we won’t be pressured…”
…Before we got into the car to go home, E. asked me if there was anything else I wanted to get- did I want to see the shops? A part of me *did* want to take a more thorough look around, but another part of me was both physically and mentally exhausted with the rare outing. I just wanted to get back to the safety of our home where I didn’t have to feel like some sort of strange outcast.

1 March 2004 (2)
A year later and our electricity is intermittent, at best, there constantly seems to be a fuel shortage and the streets aren’t safe. When we walk down those streets, on rare occasions, the faces are haggard and creased with concern…concern over family members under detention, homes raided by Americans, hungry mouths to feed, and family members to keep safe from abduction, rape and death.

And where are we now, a year from the war? Sure- we own satellite dishes and the more prosperous own mobile phones…but where are we *really*? Where are the majority? (My Bold)

We’re trying to fight against the extremism that seems to be upon us like a black wave; we’re wondering, on an hourly basis, how long it will take for some semblance of normality to creep back into our lives; we’re hoping and praying against civil war…

We’re watching with disbelief as American troops roam the streets of our towns and cities and break violently into our homes… we’re watching with anger as the completely useless Puppet Council sits giving out fat contracts to foreigners and getting richer by the day- the same people who cared so little for their country, that they begged Bush and his cronies to wage a war that cost thousands of lives and is certain to cost thousands more.

We’re watching sardonically as an Iranian cleric in the south turns a once secular country into America’s worst nightmare- a carbon copy of Iran. We’re watching as the lies unravel slowly in front of the world- the WMD farce and the Al-Qaeda mockery.

And where are we now? Well, our governmental facilities have been burned to the ground by a combination of ‘liberators’ and ‘Free Iraqi Fighters’; 50% of the working population is jobless and hungry; summer is looming close and our electrical situation is a joke; the streets are dirty and overflowing with sewage; our jails are fuller than ever with thousands of innocent people; we’ve seen more explosions, tanks, fighter planes and troops in the last year than almost a decade of war with Iran brought; our homes are being raided and our cars are stopped in the streets for inspections…journalists are being killed ‘accidentally’ and the seeds of a civil war are being sown by those who find it most useful; the hospitals overflow with patients but are short on just about everything else- medical supplies, medicine and doctors; and all the while, the oil is flowing.

But we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned that terrorism isn’t actually the act of creating terror. It isn’t the act of killing innocent people and frightening others…no, you see, that’s called a ‘liberation’. It doesn’t matter what you burn or who you kill- if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you’re not a terrorist- you’re a liberator.

The war on terror is a joke…Madrid was proof of that last week…Iraq is proof of that everyday.

I hope someone feels safer, because we certainly don’t.

I was going to quote more, but there is too much. Go to her blog to read more about the assassination of academics at universities, the fact that children are missing big chunks of school because their parents are scared to let them out, random detention / torture / harassment by Coalition troops, the ever present threat of abduction of family members which keeps people prisoner in their houses.

If only half of this stuff were true, it would still give a very different picture from the whitewash we are getting in the popular press in the West. This may not be Fallujah, but normal life it ain’t.

There is just as much Pollyanna-ism in the Fairfax papers. Tony Parkinson says a recent survey shows a majority of Iraqis think life is better. Salam Pax, who is considerably more forgiving of the Coalition than Riverbend, shows us where to find a PDF of the survey itself. On my admittedly cursory reading, I’d say it was hardly an endorsement of Coalition success — and it would probably be even more lukewarm now that Iraq is getting more violent by the day.

Parkinson says:

It’s a long time since we have heard Iraqis speak freely, unencumbered by the threats and intimidation of a vicious police state. We have heard far too little of their authentic voices. Now that we can, it really is time we started listening.

If he was listening to Riverbend, he’d be less inclined to boast that Iraqis are unencumbered by a police state — or rather, a gung-ho occupational force plus provisional state with a disturbing tendency to revert to Shar’ia repression.

It’s evident that the popular media, including the broadsheets, are going to do their very best to tell us that everything is going better for the Iraqis in the run up to the US and Australian elections. But it’s becoming more difficult.

Comments (0)

  • David Tiley says:

    very classy, very classy indeed..

  • Helen says:

    Random Reader please note – he’s referring not to my limpid prose (although I am a Grammar God) but to the new blog fitout, which he had more than a little to do with…

  • cs says:

    Congrats Helen. Don’t know what to say, other than it’s so, well, whiter.

  • Helen says:

    I was getting really sick of that garish Blogger template, although the mighty Dave Neiwert uses it, but then he can use any bloody template he likes without looking silly!

    Not that I want to diss Blogger. I still can’t get over how people do these things for nothing. It’s a wonderful thing.

    I might darken up the gif a bit one of these days and perhaps put a bit more colour in.

  • kyan gadac says:

    Nice place:-) not been here before.. you left your calling card at JQ. Rupert’s always been like that… remember what he was like at the hieght of thatcherism, the seige of Wapping and all that. Rich people like him can afford to deny reality.
    raed’s blog has moved. I think though, that Fallujah is really very important and will turn out to be the turning point. The Marines committed war crimes in Fallujah and galvanised the Iraqi people into turning against the occupation. What’s happening now, along with the Israeli assassinations, is going to reap a whirlwind.
    Read more about what’s been happening at Fallujah from Daer Jamail’s blog.

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