Sometimes it feels like Iraq has just been filtered out of the social consciousness. People still discuss it, but they often refer to it as a thing of the past. “When Iraq happened,” or, “It cost us [x].” Iraq is still happening and it didn’t cost, it is costing. People there are still dying and random explosions are still excruciatingly common events. Yet its easy to gloss over. This isn’t a lecture, because I’m just as guilty. I read a headline like, “53 Dead in Baghdad Explosion” and don’t think twice about rolling on by without a second thought. However, Iraq is currently undergoing some changes that I feel are important to be aware of.
Remember all that freedom we brought to the Iraqi people? All the voting and the lady rights and how grateful they ought to be? Well yeah, I think most of us who have some basic level of bullshit-detection are cognizant of the propagandist fluffers and feel good stories. But most people are not aware that even basic rights, such as protesting in the street, have been halted in the cities around the country.
Blame it on the Arab Spring, Jasmine Revolution or Arab Awakening, whatever you prefer to call it. But Iraqis who are living under a foreign occupation (and let’s be really honest because that is exactly what this is) got a little whiff of all that optimistic, freedom stuff. This sparked off a number of protests, especially in Baghdad. However, for “security reasons” and other inane excuses like, “protesters were hindering the ability for local shops to function,” those were immediately outlawed. Instead, now protesters are allowed to voice their discontent, but they must do it in contained and restricted areas, like soccer stadiums. Really. Three of Baghdad’s soccer stadiums have been opened just in case anybody is unhappy with the current system of guns and explosions everywhere.
Other strategies that most Americans would consider outright fascist bullshit if they happened in Boston, are currently taking place in Mosoul. You see, a lot of Iraqis are really upset about the fact that the U.S. is maybe, kinda, possibly considering extending their stay there. After hanging around for eight years, most Iraqis want them out, but lets be real, it’s not like Iraqis actually have a say in this. Hence, sparks of discontentment and some rather large protests taking place.
However, instead of simply letting the completely peaceful protests go off without a hitch, the “governing rulers” have imposed strict curfews for the people. Because telling grown adults when they can and cannot leave their homes as a productive response to non violent shows of discontent. Not that this has stopped the protesters from banding together in any way. While the Iraqi government, backed fully by the U.S., has taken shots at protesters, shut down newspapers, banned radio shows and gone after journalists, the citizens remain unfazed. How could they be when they’ve lived through 8 years of terrible violence and still don’t have access to clean drinking water and only subsist on about 3 hours of electricity a day? That is, after eight years of the United States being in Iraq, Iraq being one of the most oil rich countries in the entire world, the people still have fewer amenities than most 3rd world dictatorships. Ain’t liberation grand?
The U.S. is supposed to withdraw their remaining troops from Iraq by December 31st. The war, which has been a huge loss for the U.S. and Iraq in almost every conceivable way, supposedly ended all combat missions last August. Time will tell if the U.S. keeps their promise, and what it will mean to return Iraq to sovereign control. Many in Iraq and the Middle East already have their doubts that any of their leaders actually represent them. A quick look back at American history in the Middle East will give anybody plenty of precedent for this supposition. So then what is their only option for gaining a government that actually represents the people and is for the people? [Hint: it’s revolution.] And what will be the consequences of this action in the West? Did the United States just set up Iraq to stage an Iran-esque revolution? Except perhaps with 1000x the casualties, insurgent groups and violence?
Iraq’s future has never looked so precarious. However, if you are in America or Europe you probably haven’t heard one word about it. It wasn’t until I happened upon a random article on Reuters that I’d even given Iraq a substantive second thought in months, perhaps even years. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the level of destruction there and want to tune it all out. However, that is exactly why we need to stay on the issue and remember that for millions of people, the privilege to tune out the awful news does not exist. It is remembered in the form of their lost husband, their kidnapped daughter, and the destruction of their cities and culture. So lets at least put ourselves out there, for a minute or five, or however it long it takes to be even minimally informed, and remember that when we discard the pain and agony of an entire country we set ourselves up for failure, not just politically, but morally as well.