The year is half over and Riverbend has published fewer than twenty essays, each a well-crafted poison-tipped blowdart aimed at the US presence in Iraq.
I always read her posts because I do not limit my reading to comfortable stroking, but I don't normally write about them because to do so would make readers more frustrated. I push enough envelopes already. Like her or not, this one needs to be read.
A close friend of Riverbend is now dead, victim to the meltdown of violence spreading there.
...a 26-year-old civil engineer who worked with a group of friends in a consultancy bureau in Jadriya. The last time I saw him was a week ago. He had stopped by the house to tell us his sister was engaged and he'd brought along with him pictures of latest project he was working on- a half-collapsed school building outside of Baghdad.
He usually left the house at 7 am to avoid the morning traffic jams and the heat. Yesterday, he decided to stay at home because he'd promised his mother he would bring Abu Kamal by the house to fix the generator which had suddenly died on them the night before. His parents say that T. was making his way out of the area on foot when the attack occurred and he got two bullets to the head. His brother could only identify him by the blood-stained t-shirt he was wearing.
In a torrent of raw anger she pours out her grief. It is one thing for me to sit here at my keyboard half a world away and feel sad, or the reader -- wherever you may be -- to read words from a monitor and shake your head. It is quite another thing to know that the stories you see on television can extend to your family and friends, your home, the place where you hope to rear children. We in America have lost over two-thousand of our children in this terrible war, but the people of Iraq have losses that number in the hundreds of thousands. This evil enterprise that began with the catchy line "changing hearts and minds" has indeed done so, but not in the way that was planned. It has changed, and continues to do so, the hearts and minds of countless Iraqis who just want foreign troops to go home.
I realize that there are a lot of Iraqis who share the same hopes and dreams that we did when this all began. If that were not the case there would not have been as much obvious support and cooperation as has been reported. Even today hundreds, thousands of Iraqis will risk their lives and safety of their families because they support well-intentioned efforts being made there.
But this is not a question of good intentions. This is a question of good results. And from every angle that I approach this mess, all I can see are multiple tragedies for every small success. I earnestly hope and pray for a good outcome as much as anyone, but all I see at this point is a painful and bleeding wound, something like the dangerous foreign object -- such as a knife or shard of wood or a screwdriver -- lodged deeply in an emergency room patient...as surgeons try to figure out how to get the thing out without killing the patient.
It's like Baghdad is no longer one city, it's a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence. It's gotten so that I dread sleeping because the morning always brings so much bad news. The television shows the images and the radio stations broadcast it. The newspapers show images of corpses and angry words jump out at you from their pages, "civil war… death… killing… bombing… rape…"
Rape. The latest of American atrocities. Though it's not really the latest- it's just the one that's being publicized the most. The poor girl Abeer was neither the first to be raped by American troops, nor will she be the last. The only reason this rape was brought to light and publicized is that her whole immediate family were killed along with her. Rape is a taboo subject in Iraq. Families don't report rapes here, they avenge them. We've been hearing whisperings about rapes in American-controlled prisons and during sieges of towns like Haditha and Samarra for the last three years. The naiveté of Americans who can't believe their 'heroes' are committing such atrocities is ridiculous. Who ever heard of an occupying army committing rape??? You raped the country, why not the people?
It fills me with rage to hear about it and read about it. The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings. I look at them in their armored vehicles and to be honest- I can't bring myself to care whether they are 19 or 39. I can't bring myself to care if they make it back home alive. I can't bring myself to care anymore about the wife or parents or children they left behind. I can't bring myself to care because it's difficult to see beyond the horrors. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?
Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed- unless they want to join in with murder and rape.
They say this war is not like Vietnam. I agree. From where I sit, it seems to be even worse. At least during the Vietnam era I saw lots of ordinary people in the streets insisting that we get out. That was probably because the mathematical reality was that so many or our own children were returning from that war dead or damaged and we could see the blood on our hands.
This time, thanks to the economics of the "all-volunteer' military, together with an improved efficiency of the machinery of war, there is only a small handful of Cindy Sheehans running around, and those few are being marginalized by a slick, comfortable, well-placed condescending cadre of talking heads and analysts whose only dog in this fight is their respective career paths.