Thursday, June 26, 2003

Actually we have been having pretty bad days. If you would have talked to me a week ago and I would have told you that I am very optimistic; maybe not optimistic but at least had hope. Now I can only think of two things. One of them was something my mother said while watching the news. She was watching something about the latest attacks on the “coalition forces” and their retaliation. She said that she has always wondered how people in Beirut and Jerusalem could have led any sort of lives, when their cities were practically military zones, she said she now knows how it feels to live in a city were the sight of a tank and military checkpoints asking you to get out your car and look thru your bag becomes “normal”. When you turn on the TV and just hope that you don’t see more pictures of people shooting at each other.
The other thing was something a foreign acquaintance has said after spending some time in the city on a really hot day. He went in threw his hat on the floor and said loudly: “I want to inform my Iraqi friends that their country is doomed”. I have no idea what that was about but the sentence just stuck to my mind.
The last couple of days have been so eventful and I wish I have posted things daily because now I don’t know where to start. Lets go a couple of days back. Just before the Bremer administration decided that it could not delay the issue of the laid off military one more day.
The protest in front of CPA:
U.S. Troops Kill 2 Iraqis During Protest
It was a bad day to start with and things have gotten out of hand very fast. At around 9 the crowd outside the Saddam’s ooops Bremer’s Palace (isn’t it funny how power drifts to the same places), if you would have driven towards the palace entrance that morning in a car that looked like could be media people in it you would have people mobbing your car and hitting your windshields with shoes. The reaction that day towards media that day was generally very bad.
AP photographer Victor Caivano said the demonstrators threw stones at the soldiers and at reporters, who were forced to retreat.
an Iraqi camera man working for Reuter’s if I am not mistaken, was hit badly on the head and had to rescued by the American soldiers. And it kept getting more and more heated wheni got there the bullets were already shot and the blood was on a couple of demonstrators shirts, the big mass had broken up. Most of them left after a couple warning shots were fired in the air as a small convoy was approaching, and here is where it all went wrong. Stones were being thrown at the journalists and US army and someone in that convoy made the decision to point the gun towards the crowd not above it. Four shots were fired. Two of them wounding two Iraqis fatally (they were taken in by the American Army at the gate and both of them died inside) and two more were injured, one Iraqi was arrested.
I really do believe that the decision to shoot was wrong. They have fired warning shots so why the decision to shoot and kill? They had a very angry crowd which became even angrier after the shooting. Doesn’t say much about the ability to deal and control crowds. Bremer, having realized that the situation of the jobless military people is getting to a critical point. You don’t want military trained people deciding that you are the enemy. The decision came to start paying them salaries and to start a small military, something like 40k soldiers. which is fine with me, who wants military. Let’s just have a couple of them in cute uniforms parading on Liberation Day.

From that incident and until today things have been moving in a downward spiral. The “coalition forces” don’t feel safe and we don’t feel safe either. You can see the distrust in their eyes and the way they hold these big guns towards you when you move close to a check point. And if you ever drive beside a convoy don’t look out your window they would be having their guns pointed at you, aimed right between your eyes.
Some areas are better than others, you still see soldiers in certain districts very relaxed walking around and talking to people. Kids on their tanks or buying roasted chicken from a restaurant. They are on their edgier side when moving or on checkpoints. I don’t blame them; I hate to be in the situation they are in. I was hoping that the day when they would be moving in Baghdad in civilian clothes and browsing thru our markets, mixing with people was closer than it looks now.

I had the chance to go to a couple of bases and talk to people there. The most fun I had was at one in the south of Baghdad where to my surprise I guy came towards with a coke in his hand and said “shlonak?” [how are you? In Iraqi dialect]. It turns out he was born in Iraq and left to the US around 85. This is his first time in Baghdad since then. It was great talking to him. He came with the army as a translator. Told me about the really bad days in Samawah, and how he isn’t really sure he is glad he came back. he didn’t exactly have a very warm welcome, specially the last couple of weeks during the weapons searches. Do you remember the guy G. was telling you about, the translator? It was the same guy I didn’t know that until I told G. where I met him. He’s really a great guy, so talkative and fun. It is a shame that some Iraqis made him feel unwelcome because he was helping the “infidel invader”.