I've wanted to blog about this for 2 weeks now, but my schedule only delayed this blog. It's been waiting to be written. Everyday, this blog calls to me and tonight, I finally have time. I would like to write this blog as it was narrated to me, by my Iraqi friend. Of course, I didn't tape our conversation so I'm quoting, but it's really a paraphrase.
Here's what she said:
"You know, when I was in Iraq, we had Saddam Hussein. At that time, he was very strict and no one could say anything bad about him. That's how we grew up and that was life. We just knew not to talk about him. If anyone said anything bad about him, they would be taken to the town square and killed in front of everyone. If people did anything bad, he would kill them in front of everyone. We knew the rules and we didn't break them and we followed them. It was very strict. Maybe it felt too strict, but that was life. When Saddam Hussein was no longer in power, that's when we missed him and wanted him back. Yes, Saddam Hussein was very strict, but when he was in power, he ruled with an iron fist. There was no corruption. There was none. We were too scared to say or do anything, but everything worked fine. The only thing was that he didn't pay us well. He had all the money but he didn't give it to the people and we wanted more money. We didn't say it, but we thought that would be nice. Then America took Saddam Hussein out of power. When Saddam Hussein was gone, we missed him. We all wanted him back. You know when you have someone you don't realize it and we wanted Saddam back.
See, the new leaders started to give us more money and that was nice but then corruption increased. We couldn't be at peace. The doctors were scared to send their children to school, because people knew the doctors had money, so they would kidnap our children. We may never see our children again, even if we gave them money and for those of us who did get to see our children again, they were not the same. They did horrible things to them. We wished for Saddam Hussein. This kind of corruption would not have taken place when Saddam Hussein was there. People just knew how to behave. We couldn't even say the words "Saddam Hussein" but who cares? It was more peaceful.
Why did you take Saddam Hussein away? Why?"
At this point, I didn't know what to say. I'm historically clueless and I live under a rock. That's not a great excuse. I didn't even know what the two wars were about. I really didn't. I knew thousands of innocent lives were lost, but ones empathy dies when the numbers are high. I read an article about that. I'm not making an excuse, just stating what I had read about empathy, but back to the conversation.
"I think Bush invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was mistreating women or …" I wasn't allowed to finish my sentence, not that I had much more to say to further expose my ignorance.
"It's lies. It's all lies." she pleaded at me. "No, Saddam Hussein was good. He ruled very firm but he was good. Times were so much better when he was there. You all took him out of power and Iraq is so messed up. But we recovered. You know, we Iraqi's are strong. They destroyed a bridge and we rebuilt it immediately and it was done in 2 weeks. As soon as the war was over, my mom told me to go back to school, the very next day. We are strong people.
And then Bush came back and destroyed us for no reason. He said we had chemical weapons and nuclear weapons and it was all lies. We had nothing. They found nothing. My mom and I were at home and a bullet went right above our heads. If we were taller, we would have died. You know, my mom came home in shock and crying one day. There were 2 babies on the street and the tanks just rolled over them. And the soldier who shot into our homes, just lost it. He just opened gun fire on us and then he started crying and saying he's sorry. What is he sorry for? After he shoots everyone? Why were they killing all of us? What did we do to you? Bush came in and killed our people and he should stand trial for those charges. He is a prisoner of war. I will tell as many people of this as I can. He just came and killed us for no reason. No reason. What did I do to you? What did my people do to you?"
What does one say to that? "I'm sorry. I don't know what to say?"
"I hate Americans. Iraqis hate Americans. I didn't want to come to this country but my mother explained to me that if they destroyed our homes, they are obligated to give us homes in their own country. We think you just destroyed our country and then you let the educated people come to America so you steal the brains from our country. You know there are Iraqi people in high positions in America because Iraq was destroyed. If we were there, it would benefit Iraq, but we can't be there because of the corruption because the war destroyed us.
I'm torn in this country. I thought Americans were horrible people and then I met my neighbors and I met the people here. Everyone here is so nice and inviting. I'm torn. How can nice people live in this horrible country?"
"I think the people don't really know the truth." I tried to explain, to no avail.
"Then we must tell them. Bush is a prisoner of war and he should be tried for his crimes. He just killed thousands of innocent people and no one said anything? I will keep telling people as long as I can. I will tell as many people about how horrible Bush is and how he should be tried."
"You do that! I think the people do need to hear."
"Yes, I will."
So ended the conversation. I wish I had it taped. It was far more powerful than my paraphrase 2 weeks later. I could ask her again, but I hope I got the salient points of what she had said. It's ironic. Few years ago, I was in a play called The Buffalo, by Steven Clark. I played the character of a dead Iraqi woman and at the end of the play, I had this speech. It didn't sink in then, but it does now, and I'll end this blog with one of the lines from that speech.
…We once had a king. A great, but terrible king, but he is lost forever….
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