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Author Topic: Iraq's shame
Whazzup?
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posted 10 April 2003 01:37 PM      Profile for Whazzup?     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Listening to news coverage from all over, I'm surprised by one of the overwhelming impressions I have of the "Iraqi response" to the defeat of Saddam. We hear reports of jubilation and celebration (which the American media loves). We read stories of fierce resistance (which the Arab media loves). We hear about fear and anticipation, desperation and optimism. All of this is verifiable.

But the "general mood" in Iraq is one I didn't expect, and I wonder whether others notice it as well. It is shame. Humiliation. (Not in Iraqi Kurdistan, which is an entirely different story, for obvious reasons.) People wept when the statue in Baghdad went down yesterday -- and not just tears of joy. Many in the crowd were ashamed that it took a foreign power to destroy Saddam's power. [Obligatory admission that it took a foreign power to arm Saddam, too.]

One reporter I trust mentioned that Baghdad's Shiites and Sunnis had really been divided by the experience. Shiites were "proud" that the south had given such trouble to coalition forces, and were scornful of the Sunni fedayeen forces, who collapsed so disgracefully in Baghdad.

Happy to be rid of Saddam? Most are, I suspect. But (paradoxically?) angry that they didn't manage to give the US a little butt-kicking at the same time.

Does this make sense?

That's why all this crowing over a cause I supported makes me so uncomfortable. I don't know what else to say.


From: Under the Rubble | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Tommy M
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posted 10 April 2003 01:40 PM      Profile for Tommy M     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
And I think all this crowing will do is add to the humiliation.

I wondered when I saw american soldiers ripping up posters and destroying statutes if they shouldn't have left that for the Iraq people.


From: Here | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
SHH
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posted 10 April 2003 03:38 PM      Profile for SHH     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
My reaction is much the same, whazzup! Seems the Arab reaction is a complex jumble of shock, surprise, changed opinion, relief, humiliation, shame, suspicion, hope, and anger. I suspect it will be awhile before the conflicting emotions coalesce into something a little more rational. I’d love to hear a conversation right now between a celebrating Iraqi and a Jordanian anti-war protestor.

Some Arab opinions.


From: Ex-Silicon Valley to State Saguaro | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
WingNut
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posted 10 April 2003 03:48 PM      Profile for WingNut   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I am not so surprised, Whazzup?. One question which had arose early on was: where are all the refugees?

Apparently there is a shame associated with Palestinians for having become refugees. And many Arabs would rather face the bombs then the same shame as the Palestinians.

Also, the Shiites were warned against supporting the Americans. Being a minority Arab group (a majority in Iraq and Iran) it was believed they would suffer if they helped the Americans. They were to remain neutral.

I think Arab culture is far more complicated than we know.

There is also the human aspect. Put yoruself in there shoes. A hated government you cannot overthrown and then have that government overthrown by a power you believe to be imperialistic and hypocritical in dealing far more harshly with Arabs than Israelis.

I think there are a lot of emotions to deal with. And I know I have been strongly opposed to thsi war. But it is nice Saddam is gone. But I also believe the end of Saddam is only the beginning of a much longer and more difficult conflict.

I hope I am wrong.


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skdadl
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posted 10 April 2003 03:52 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
On the one hand ( ), I think we all know that it is going to take a lot longer than this for any of the thoughtful, meditative persons so far present on this thread to be sure of what they think of what has happened in Iraq.

On the other (you knew that was coming): Especially when I hear people comparing Saddam's fall to that of, eg, Ceaucescu, I keep thinking: but the Romanians did that themselves. It was bitter and bloody, and many of us would have wished it otherwise -- and it's true that the people needed outside reason to hope that their rising would work ... But as soon as they had it, they did it.

I think about the Romanians especially because I know someone who was with them that Christmas, and I've been rivetted by an hours-long narrative of just how terrible it was. When people who have lived under a dictator truly decide to overthrow him, it is not a joyful process, not for a long while.

I hope that the Iraqis really are there, though. I hope so. We'll see.


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Will
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posted 10 April 2003 04:07 PM      Profile for Will     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
If God had meant for us to truly understand this complex web of cultures, loyalties and local politics, we'd all be wearing Dubya-like smirks.
From: there's a way | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Whazzup?
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posted 10 April 2003 04:19 PM      Profile for Whazzup?     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
When people who have lived under a dictator truly decide to overthrow him, it is not a joyful process, not for a long while.

That bears repeating.

I mentioned in another thread about a report on CBC from Mike Hornbrooke. I'd like to repeat it here. I wish I could give more precise details, but I believe he was reporting from Basra (or Umm Qasr?), and was witness to the crowds of people surrounding the trucks filled with water and other goods.

Hornbrooke witnessed an angry exchange between two men -- one of them assisting the coalition efforts at humanitarian assistance, the other a passer-by. He assumed the angry conversation had to do with denunciations for cooperating with coalition forces, but he taped it and had it translated.

In fact, the angry exchange indirectly involved him -- and the crowd of reporters who had gathered to record the desperate scene. The man was furious that reporters were allowed to record the moment, compounding their humiliation by broadcasting it around the world.

It was an interview, so I doubt I can find it, but I'll look.


From: Under the Rubble | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
ronb
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posted 10 April 2003 04:21 PM      Profile for ronb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I wondered when I saw american soldiers ripping up posters and destroying statutes if they shouldn't have left that for the Iraq people.

We had that same conversation today at work, regarding the Star's cover photo of the statue with the US flag draped on its face. The latest US rationale for regime change is certainly getting garbled in the transmission here... I thought Saddam was the Iraqi people's enemy and this was a war of "liberation", so what's with all the symbolism of occupation? Why not let the Iraqi people do the pissing on the presidential palace carpets? Is there some fear that they might not comply with the photo op?

A recent acquaintance from Somalia gave me a very powerful lecture on the sometimes horrible consequences of arrogance and its handmaiden humiliation. Mogadishu, which he personally witnessed, was his example.


From: gone | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
Whazzup?
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posted 10 April 2003 04:31 PM      Profile for Whazzup?     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Well, after watching that scene live on TV, and shouting out "NO... DON'T!!!" at the TV screen, I thought a little about that. I suspect it has more to do with 19-year-old kids who have just risked a violent death to accomplish something, and wishing to demonstrate their pride.

A silly, impetuous move ... with serious consequences?

[ 10 April 2003: Message edited by: Whazzup? ]


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ronb
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posted 10 April 2003 04:38 PM      Profile for ronb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Absolutely. Just wholesome American kids on a tear, happens every Friday night down at Hooters - but the utter lack of condemnation or even reflection on these acts Stateside speaks volumes. For all the manifest, horrifying defects of the British Empire, can you imagine a British soldier doing something so obviously disrespectful to the symbols of an enemy state and not getting whipped for his insolent lack of discipline?

Not exactly off to a flying start, are we?


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Wankity
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posted 10 April 2003 04:50 PM      Profile for Wankity        Edit/Delete Post
American kids, in a foreign land, who've problaby had 20 hrs. sleep in the past 3 weeks, who've been shot at and suicide bombed ... ill-advised and a tad stupid, yes.

But really Ron, don't you have bigger fish to fry than a flag over a statue's face?

How exactly do you know that the guy wasn't taken by the ear or shouted down by a field general? I certainly hope he was.


From: Saskabush | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Tommy M
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posted 10 April 2003 05:18 PM      Profile for Tommy M     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:

The Marines joined the effort to pull down the Firdos Square statue -- erected last April for the Iraqi president's 65th birthday -- when it became clear a small group of Iraqis would not be able to bring it down on their own.

"We pretty much saw the Iraqi people trying to pull down the statue," Chin said. "They couldn't do it with just a rope, and our commanding officer gave us the go-ahead to give them a hand."


Marine: Flag a symbol of liberation, not occupation


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Michelle
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posted 10 April 2003 05:26 PM      Profile for Michelle   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Yeah, yesterday on the news they showed Iraqis trying to pull down the statue in vain - they were trying to pull it down with a rope, and not succeeding, so apparently that's when the American tank came along and assisted them. So in that instance at least, I think the Americans were just following the lead of the Iraqis at the scene.
From: I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
sheep
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posted 10 April 2003 05:48 PM      Profile for sheep     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I was reading something about the American flag over Saddam's head yesterday, can't remember exactly where so I can't post a link, sorry. But it was a quote from an Iraqi watching the US flag go over the statue. He snickered and remarked "the ultimate humilation". It seemed to me he was referring to the humiliation of Saddam, not humilation of the Iraqi people. It is possible that while we tut tut and cluck our tongues over this appaling lack of good manners, some Iraqis got the message.

The message the US has been trying to send the Iraqi people all along is that this is a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein, and not the nation or the people of Iraq. Some people might see the sight of American soldiers blowing up statues or tearing up posters of Hussein as evidence of that.


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Art J
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posted 10 April 2003 07:02 PM      Profile for Art J     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh sure, the U.S. has been trying to say a lot of things as a justification for their invasion. The Iraqis - a lot of them - are happy to see the last of Saddam, but they know its all about oil. They're not stupid.
From: British Columbia Inc. - Let us Prey | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Steve_Shutt
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posted 10 April 2003 07:17 PM      Profile for Steve_Shutt     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Sheep, sorry I saw that quote as well and I did not get the same sense from it that you did - I read it and felt his shame and humiliation, not Saddam's. I like your interpretation better, I just didn't get the sense that that was the case.
From: coming in off the left wing | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
ronb
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posted 10 April 2003 07:20 PM      Profile for ronb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
This is an extremely complex situation. for every guy chuckling over the statue with the US flag on its face there is another crying in shame and humiliation. Many millions of Iraqis have invested a great deal of pride and toil into the national project that Saddam represented. Many of them saw benefits for their trouble. Which is not to say that many obviously did not. However, the fact remains, many did, and they are not automatically "evil" for doing so. He commanded a measure of respect and loyalty partly by carefully manufactured his public image using all the tricks of media manipulation at a modern state's disposal. Surprise, those tricks work there as well as they do here. It's going to take quite awhile for the more gullible portion of Iraq's population to get over the loss of the leader they watched on TV for many years. Think of them as the Fox News crowd of Iraq, they watched the extremely partisan evening news, saw that Saddam was still "great" and crops were still growing gloriously and America was still satan and they went on with the rest of their life happy in the knowledge that life was as good as possible in this the greatest of all possible political regimes. This occupation period is going to be hugely traumatic for many Iraqis, presumably mostly Sunnis, but perhaps wider than that...

It's my belief that the occupying army will find it a whole lot easier to operate in Iraq in the long run if they start acting with humility and professionalism right now and start treating these people with sensitivity and respect instead of simply reinforcing a common perception that they are just there to humiliate the populace and steal the oil .


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al-Qa'bong
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posted 10 April 2003 08:49 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
"Please, America must hear our voices. The American media and people are in a state of euphoria right now, but they are not seeing it the way we are seeing it at all," said Diaa Rashwan, a political scientist at Cairo's Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

TV Images Stir Anger

This is but one sample of reaction in the Arab world. The situation is at a critical point at this moment. If US troops and their leaders act with humility and respect...who knows what good might come of this?

I don't know if they will, however.

quote:
It's like you're fighting a faceless enemy," said Cpl. Jeb Moser, 21, of Ruston, La. "They're all just ragheads to me, the same way they used to call the enemy 'gooks' in Vietnam."

"Raghead, raghead, can't you see? This old war ain't -- to me," sang Lance Cpl. Christopher Akins, 21, of Louisville, Ky., sweat running down his face in rivulets as he dug a fighting trench one recent afternoon under a blazing sun.


Source

CBC radio reports that US troops are guarding the Ministry of Oil building in Baghdad, and nothing else; letting looters roam free. Some media are reporting things differently as well. SRC showed an Iraqi woman last night, screaming at a US soldier, calling the US murderers, and telling them to leave Iraq. The trooper yelled back, "Where were you on September 11?" Lloyd Robertson, on the other hand, was gushing over the end of tyranny and chirping about Iraq's new era of freedom.

As usual, we aren't getting the full story, so making conclusions is difficult.


From: Saskatchistan | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
writer
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posted 10 April 2003 11:21 PM      Profile for writer     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Yeah, yesterday on the news they showed Iraqis trying to pull down the statue in vain - they were trying to pull it down with a rope, and not succeeding, so apparently that's when the American tank came along and assisted them. So in that instance at least, I think the Americans were just following the lead of the Iraqis at the scene.

Take this and apply it to the Berlin Wall. Sure, it took Berliners a while to smash the thing down. But they did, in time, with their own hands. Had an American tank trundled to it from a U.S. base ... what would that have meant to Berliners?

Why can't it take days rather than hours?

As for the flag. Perhaps the young marine didn't know the full implications, but the Pentagon sure did. The backlash was pretty fierce the first time the red white and blue was whipped out in Iraq.

Reports indicate that the use of the U.S. flag is now banned for troops. Why wait so long?

The guy who put the flag on the face of Hussein's statue had apparently been in the Pentagon the day the plane hit.

“This flag was given to me on September 11. Now it is in Baghdad and now I am happy.”

He brought it with him to Kuwait, then Iraq. He was allowed to keep it. He kept it for the right moment to use. He was allowed to put it up at a location where the world's media would be guaranteed to view it. The army "support" meant the statue went down in a way that provided pure real-time eye candy for the cable news networks. And in time for that night's evening news in the U.S.

This smells of more than a pumped up kid full of pride for his country.


From: tentative | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Elemennntal
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posted 11 April 2003 03:12 AM      Profile for Elemennntal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
It's my belief that the occupying army will find it a whole lot easier to operate in Iraq in the long run if they start acting with humility and professionalism right now and start treating these people with sensitivity and respect instead of simply reinforcing a common perception that they are just there to humiliate the populace and steal the oil .

And that my friend, would be the ultimate path to establishing peace first-off in the region. The more the US/UK forces jump up and down and take credit - and 'taunt' (because that's how many are viewing the flag draping et al) the more 'resistance' there will be towards post-war efforts.


From: Dubai, UAE --- yeah THERE. | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Elemennntal
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posted 11 April 2003 03:16 AM      Profile for Elemennntal     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Take this and apply it to the Berlin Wall. Sure, it took Berliners a while to smash the thing down. But they did, in time, with their own hands.

It's a shame, I think the simple act of letting the people 'topple the dictator' would have said more to the Iraqi people about the US troops than a thousand press-releases and hand-shakes.

It's not just the Iraqi people the US/UK forces have to show respect towards, it's the entire Arab region who are watching and observing carefully.

Now is the time, more than ever, that professionalism needs to step in. The troops need to be TOLD some do's and don'ts and save some of the patriotism for when they come home and are celebrated and honoured then.


From: Dubai, UAE --- yeah THERE. | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
swallow
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posted 11 April 2003 01:54 PM      Profile for swallow     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I could probably save a lot of typing by saying "what ronb said" more often.

Without wanting to comdemn the soldier who put that flag over the statue's head, the image may turn out to be the most lasting one of the entire war, on a a par with (say) the lone Chinese activist standing in front of that tank in Beijing, or "the girl in the picture" fleeing her village in Vietnam, naked and crying. There are many people who believe that Suharto fell the day every newspaper and television station in the country showed a picture of him, bent double and apparently bowing down to the head of the IMF as he signed Indonesia's first IMF-imposed programme: the invincible strongman was forced to kneel, and then the people knew they could topple him. The massacre at Tiananmen lives in the international memory while the massacre in Rangoon does not, becuase on had an image and the other did not.

Symbols matter. They matter a lot, even when accidental. That image of the stars-and-stripes covering Saddam's head, maybe, will turn out to be the one that destroys all the carefully-laid plans about appearing as "liberators." Maybe it won't, maybe another image will become the dominant one. But maybe one exuberant and thoughtless young American man has just done more to affect the course of the future of the Middle East than the rest of his government put together. And no, i don't think this would have happened under the British Empire, which tended to start with a "project of knowing" before it opened fire.


From: fast-tracked for excommunication | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
al-Qa'bong
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posted 11 April 2003 05:41 PM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
But maybe one exuberant and thoughtless young American man has just done more to affect the course of the future of the Middle East than the rest of his government put together.

The act of using the US flag as an executioner's hood and the violent words of Bush, Rumsfeld, Perle, and Wolfowitz seem rather similar, and of a piece.


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muggetywumpus
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posted 12 April 2003 09:34 PM      Profile for muggetywumpus        Edit/Delete Post
I was disgusted when I saw the bombed-to-smithereens "Saddam's yacht". Pulling down statues is one thing, although I agree it should have been left to the Iraqis to do so if they wished it, but why destroy a boat that could have been used by the people? This just goes along with the looting, lynchings and wanton destruction perpetuated by some Iraqis under the benevolent gaze of US troops who stand by and do nothing. The Geneva Convention (just recently invoked by Rumsfeld and Co.) requires that an occupying force has the obligation to protect civilians. Instead they let a Red Cross hospital be looted. Brave new world!
From: Coquitlam | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged

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