Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Iraq, our model of freedom and democracy in the ME

Maybe Riverbend is making this up, but I don't think so.

I look at my older clothes- the jeans and t-shirts and colorful skirts- and it’s like I’m studying a wardrobe from another country, another lifetime. There was a time, a couple of years ago, when you could more or less wear what you wanted if you weren’t going to a public place. If you were going to a friends or relatives house, you could wear trousers and a shirt, or jeans, something you wouldn’t ordinarily wear. We don’t do that anymore because there’s always that risk of getting stopped in the car and checked by one militia or another.

There are no laws that say we have to wear a hijab (yet), but there are the men in head-to-toe black and the turbans, the extremists and fanatics who were liberated by the occupation, and at some point, you tire of the defiance. You no longer want to be seen. I feel like the black or white scarf I fling haphazardly on my head as I walk out the door makes me invisible to a certain degree- it’s easier to blend in with the masses shrouded in black. If you’re a female, you don’t want the attention- you don’t want it from Iraqi police, you don’t want it from the black-clad militia man, you don’t want it from the American soldier. You don’t want to be noticed or seen.

Lots of people are simply leaving...
I’ve said goodbye this last month to more people than I can count. Some of the ‘goodbyes’ were hurried and furtive- the sort you say at night to the neighbor who got a death threat and is leaving at the break of dawn, quietly.

Some of the ‘goodbyes’ were emotional and long-drawn, to the relatives and friends who can no longer bear to live in a country coming apart at the seams.

Many of the ‘goodbyes’ were said stoically- almost casually- with a fake smile plastered on the face and the words, “See you soon”… Only to walk out the door and want to collapse with the burden of parting with yet another loved one.

Fayrouz reports that half the Chaldean Christians have left. Many who went to Lebanon have now had to flee that country as well and are in a refugee settlement near Damascus, Syria.
If my relatives are any indication of how many Iraqi Christians will stay in Iraq in the near future, I'd say NOT many families.

Leaving the country isn't always the hardest step. Trying to find a refuge in another country proves to be the hardest step in establishing their new lives.

Last June, I wrote that an
estimated 6,000 Iraqi Christians live in Lebanon. Now that all hell broke between Israel and Hizbollah, that haven has become hell for those refugees.

I listened to part of an interview on C-SPAN of Thomas Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. I heard about the book first when Andrew Sullivan had a blurb last month saying the book would be a big seller. I was expecting some kind of tabloid-style approach trying to play up all the blood and criminal angles the author could harvest. But I was pleasantly surprised to see the interview being conducted by Col. Jeffrey McCausland, a retired Army officer who served in the first Gulf War and (if I recall a screen credit) taught at the war college.

The program is an hour long, but I couldn't watch more than a short clip. I got the point. I didn't need to hear more. Advance the clip to abut 38 minutes and listen to the guy talk for a few minutes and see if you can also get the point. According to him -- and I have no reason to argue -- roughly a third of our guys over there "get the point," and are trying to do something about it. A third get the point but don't want to do anything about it. And another third are only there to "kill and capture, kick a little butt and get on outta there."

It made me remember some of the ignorant crap that I heard from my peers in uniform forty years ago. I had no need to keep listening. He is right, but he is pissing in the ocean to try to get any serious number of people to hear what he is saying. That illustration of dividing opinions into thirds is not scientific, of course, but my guess is that it is a charitable and generous allotment to the "understanding" third. Sadly, that same mindset is reflected in the population at home, but without the actual Iraqi experience to support their views.

It all comes down to leadership. We need leaders who are wise enough to know how to stop digging a deeper hole, disciplined enough to speak the truth to people who do not want to listen, and courageous enough to do what has to be done in the face of unpopularity. Those are not easy qualities to find any time, but in an election year they are scarce as hen's teeth.


Greg at Belgravia Dispatch is reading Ricks' book and reports on an interview with Hugh Hewitt. Check out his remarks.

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