Since I have been able to talk on the phone with Diva, (my Iraqi friend, if you have missed this) I was able to find the link to her blog and thus found this excellent piece she wrote in June 2005. I asked her permission to copy and publish it here on Booman and she said yes so here goes.
BTW she is doing well, having many adventures in the great new land for her and very much looking forward to the University of Kansas at Lawrence.
There is a tiny, well maybe big problem she has with arriving in Lawrence on Aug. 5, but her apt. will not be ready till Aug. 11. Her funds are low so living arrangements will be hard to finance till that date, so I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions for what she might do in the interim.
“A Tribute to American Soldiers”
by Diva, 2005
It was a cold and rainy Christmas Day in Baghdad, but other than these two natural phenomena there was nothing suggestive of the festive spirit of Christmas. Work was not only a necessity, but also a dejection-proof haven to take minds off contemplating the gloominess of that bleak morning.
For American soldiers that morning had a more dramatic tinge of melancholy. Some probably never had the chance to enjoy a family get-together since their first deployment in 2003. What an awful time it must have been for the father, the lover and the only son!
Throwing oneself a little party might prove a suitable distraction – or so did John Doe believe! After all, isn’t celebration what people mostly do on Christmas?!?
My friend works in the Green Zone; Baghdad’s most explosive regions, being the most densely settled by U.S. officials and servicemen. As she prepares herself for the routine inspection at one of several check points, she catches sight of an American soldier whose sense of homesickness seemed to have reached an unbearable level on Christmas Day! Topping his Humvee, he placed a couple-of-inches tall tree decorated meagerly with whatever decorative ornaments he could find lying around – including a golden star he fixed at the upper tip of the tiny-tiny tree. Determined to enjoy himself to the fullest with absolute nonchalance to his surroundings – people, events or weather conditions – John Doe chanted at the top of his voice every single Christmas song and carol known to American ear – old and new, classical and popular!
“ It’s as if he had spent the night before reviewing the songs, memorizing the lyrics and making sure he had not forgotten a single carol!” , she said.
-“ Iraqis stood watching, while being inspected, with their eyes fixed on the singing bird, while almost every one of his companions was complaining that their mate had a terrible voice , unfit to singe a single note!!!”, my friend gleefully explained.
“The level of impatience heightened and culminated when a soldiers from a neighboring check point left his post at full speed and, on reaching his homesick comrade, picked up a few stones and stated throwing them impatiently at the songbird and helplessly begging him to “shut up man, please!!!”
“Did he stop singing??!”, I anxiously inquired.
“You have no idea how briskly and cunningly he avoided the stones. Not even a single one hit him!!!”
When my friend was communicating the scene to me on the phone we both were laughing and thinking what a funny scene it must have been! Less than half an hour later I realized that it implied crushing bitterness and harsh reality. I began to realize that fellow soldiers did not grow impatient because their mate could not sing a note, but because his outspoken sorrow began to stir their own grief and gall their own wounds.
I remember I asked my friend what she thought were the Iraqis reactions to this incident. She said it was hard to decide; “some thought the guy lost his mind, others were totally indifferent while others experienced an instant relief of satisfied retaliation!!!”
“Really!?!?”, I asked shockingly.
When our phone call terminated I pondered those reactions over and over. For several days they haunted me like my own shadow. Many questions tinkled in my head: “Have the Iraqis grown too absorbed in their political conflicts that they became so apathetic to significant implications of certain events?? Are they willfully overlooking the humane side of their temperament simply because that same side was never appreciated throughout the history of Iraq, and particularly during the last 35 years?? Are we feigning heartlessness to use it as a cover-up to conceal our weaknesses and distract ourselves from our frustrations??
It is often observed that those who had suffered abuse tend to inflict abuse. A father, severely abused while a child, tends in most cases to abuse his children, and his behavior is almost always premeditated. Even history teaches us that the oppressed often oppress their fellow victims instead of teaming up with them.
Contemplating historical evidence and common instances from real life confirmed to me that an avid appetite to fulfill an ardent need for retaliation and bloodshed is consuming the heart of many Iraqis hearing about or reading about the high rate of casualties and suicides among American servicemen.
This desire is so powerful that it deviates Iraqis from the course they ought to take, the road towards reconstruction, and pouring their full attention on gall and virulence. What a deplorable fact! To take refuge from the grisly political scene into the misery of fellow human beings!
As early as the outbreak of the war every single American soldier has become the incarnation of President Bush; a symbol that stands not only for a hated president, but also for a hated culture and a hated country. This is the worst form of insularity and narrow-mindedness. Fanaticism in this case puts on its ugliest outfits and it is entirely different from insurgence or “armed fanaticism”. It is not the fanaticism of coarse illiterate insurgents and cutthroats or the bigotry of religious extremists and political ringleaders.
It is the bigotry of common people and average citizens; many of whom are well-educated, honorable active society members and presumably civilized, but whose primitive impulses, empowered by upbringing and tradition, still enjoy free play. This is not uncommon in the Arab world countries where contradictions between a glittering polished exterior and a savage tribal interior are strikingly shocking. Elegant suits, shiny shoes, multiple college degrees, expensive cars, fancy homes, self-conscious poses and holier-than-thou attitudes all serve as camouflage to beautify the frightful features of what lies beneath.
Tough times bring these contradictions more conspicuously to the surface, especially when there is a conscious knowledge that giving free play to those primitive instincts will bring certain material gains or emotional satisfactions. A homesick soldier, an amputated soldier, a large number of casualties, careworn families back home and an alarming rate of suicides all gratify a desire to “get even” in the hearts of many of Iraq’s civilized fanatics : “You did this to me and my people, I’m glad this is happening to you and your people!!!” Result: Desolation and misery for both parties. Meaning of the result: A total failure of humanity in the 21st century.
I maintain e-mail correspondence with many American families who have sons, daughters, or husbands serving in Iraq and they confirm that the soldiers’ morale is so low that at many times the families get the feeling that they won’t hear again from their beloved ones not for combat reasons but because their depression is on the verge of suicide. I can’t think of any reason why such a miserable state of affairs should provide me with any conceivable amount of pleasure that I “got even”! Even though each morning I go to work realizing I might not get to see my mother again because of what’s happening in the streets, even though I sat writing this article by candlelight, and it’s overstraining my poor eyesight because of lack of power supply, even though I’m freezing in my own room because of fuel crisis and even though I’m perfectly aware of the flaws and drawbacks of U.S. policy in Iraq, my desire to keep my humane feelings alive tells me that none of these young people is directly or personally responsible for what’s happening all over Iraq. I can’t bring myself to believe that there’s a cut and dried solution for the problems of Iraq in the figure of a 20-year old soldier pointing a gun to his head thinking that this is the best way out!
A great number of these soldiers do not agree with their government’s policies and many others are bitterly indignant at their president, but they all believe and agree that it is their duty to do what they are doing. They believe that their sacrifices are not a personal favor they are doing for their president, but it’s their obligation to their country that guides them along the way.
Not long ago we’ve been working on a project in our company which required a daily survey of ads published in every newspaper issued in Iraq since the deposition of Saddam and the rise of free press. I was the person responsible for this survey and, almost everyday, at least 5 out of 10 newspapers boasted smashing Iraqi victories by putting pictures of wounded soldiers, soldiers under severe stress, soldiers contemplating family pictures, soldiers in tears or soldiers in caskets on the way home, with such captions and sidebars as “These are Bush’s Pets!” or “These are America’s Baby Dolls!” or “This is How Iraqis Punish!”. The pride and relief mixed with burning vindictiveness which many of my co-workers or visitors expressed is as powerful and vainglorious as that a Roman citizen boasted in the heydays of the Roman Empire!
Even though such pictures are often side by side with pictures of Iraqi casualties and wounded Iraqi children in hospitals, the sense of overwhelming satisfaction generated by soldiers’ pictures somehow stifles the sense of sympathy which a human being should likewise feel on seeing a child in so much pain. It is as if the placing of the two images side by side somehow diminishes the effect of tribulation caused by one image and causes the viewer to experience a counterbalancing soothing effect caused by the other. This, of course, is a sad case of wishful thinking. Any body with average mental powers can tell the difference between a homesick soldier and a toy soldier! A sense of homesickness does not mean that the soldier who’s experiencing it is not a fierce fighter. These are two completely different concepts, so why use one to distort the other?!?
It is true, and has to be admitted, that wars originate rancor and cause people to nurse grudges not only against their foes but also against one another. But neither in history nor in contemporary affairs do we find evidence to support the view that vindictiveness cured people’s physical or emotional wounds, reformed societies, restored peace and prosperity to a war-stricken nation, enriched lives, purged souls or wiped out evil. On the contrary, blood baths are made deeper and manslaughter turn into a sport whenever feuds are fostered and animosities are given free play.