Wednesday, March 19, 2008

PLAYGROUNDS HAVE BECOME CEMETERIES: HOPES FOR DEMOCRACY ARE DEAD IN IRAQ

The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been been the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States.

The Bush White House and their parrot FOX NEWS can boast about the success of "the surge" from now until the cows comes home, but Iraq will never become a democracy and that was the stated goal after Saddam Hussein was captured and executed.

Iraq is and will remain a nightmare for the 160,000 U.S. troops in country, and for the Iraqi people who have seen their lives shattered by the U.S. occupation of their country.

As a famous Chicago alderman put it half a century ago: "Chicago ain't ready for reform." The same could be said of Iraq. Iraq is not ready for reform, at least not a reform that is being forced down their throats by the Bush admiistration.

Commentary by Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE.

'We can't live like this'

Playgrounds have become cemeteries. Bridges have become battlegrounds. Hopes for freedom and the spread of democracy are dead. Our reporter returns to find a war-torn country fearful that rival Iraqi groups are holding back for the real fight to begin once U.S. troops leave

MARK MACKINNON
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
March 15, 2008 at 12:37 AM EDT

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080313.wiraqmark0315/BNStory/International
BAGHDAD — Five years ago, there was a children's playground on the flat lot between the brown walls of the Abu Hanifa mosque and the even browner waters of the Tigris River, a rare place for families to escape the incessant turmoil that even then defined life in Iraq.

Residents still reminisce about how boys and girls from the surrounding north Baghdad neighbourhood of Aadhamiya would play on the ancient swing set and seesaw, while women would push strollers through a park shaded by palm trees. Older kids played soccer in a nearby field.


But like so much of the old Iraq, the playground is now gone, replaced by long, ragged rows of white tombstones marking the burial places of more than 4,000 Aadhamiya residents who have died since the war for their country began on March 20, 2003.

"I used to take my children here every Friday. It was a place to enjoy life," said Muayad Natiq, a 49-year-old resident who was strolling in the cemetery this week. "Not any more. Most of those buried here are teenagers. First, they came here to play games. Then they came here to shoot [at the Shia neighbourhood of Kadhamiya across the Tigris]. Now they lie dead here."

On April 9, 2003, the same day the United States Army arrived in Baghdad and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, residents of mainly Sunni Aadhamiya quietly began burying their dead inside the walls of the Abu Hanifa mosque. But there was only room for 250 bodies.

By July of 2006, as the country descended into all-out sectarian war between the minority Sunnis and the majority Shiites, the neighbourhood's residents moved the now-unused swing set and seesaw aside and converted the playground into a cemetery. Almost every day since, 30-year-old Ahmed Akram has buried fresh corpses under the soil.


At first, the white tombstones were laid in orderly rows. But the rows have since disappeared almost completely as groundskeepers bury bodies wherever they can, sometimes up to two dozen dead each day.

Since the U.S. occupation began, more than 4,330 people — more than 1 per cent of Aadhamiya's pre-war population of 300,000 — are buried here. Now there's no more room, and the bodies keep coming, so the cemetery is expanding to the adjacent soccer field.

"Every time I bury someone here I remember that this was a place that we use to come for enjoyment," Mr. Akram said, leaning on his shovel during a break between digging two fresh graves. "Every time I bury a child, I imagine their face asking me why and for what all this happened."

The overflowing graveyard in Aadhamiya is a microcosm of what has happened across Iraq in the past five years. The lowest-end figure for how many Iraqi civilians have died violent deaths since the U.S. invaded is just over 82,000. Other studies, which include deaths indirectly caused by the war, put the figure as high as 1,185,000. Judging from the Aadhamiya graveyard — one cemetery in one neighbourhood of one city in Iraq — the latter number seems far closer to the mark.

The good news is that violence has fallen in recent months. Sometimes only two or three bodies arrive at the makeshift cemetery during the course of a week.

The bad news is that few here expect the calm to hold. While the U.S. government is taking advantage of the lull to sponsor a rapid-fire series of reconciliation conferences around the country, at street level there's little sense that Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Kurd are ready to patch up their vast differences.

When plans surfaced last month to reopen the Imams Bridge that connects Sunni Aadhamiya to the Shia neighbourhood of Kadhamiya on the other side of the Tigris, residents on both sides protested, demanding it stay closed.

Mr. Akram supported the decision. Last April he buried his 30-year-old cousin, Nabil, who had worked as a translator for the U.S. Army until he was kidnapped by Shia militiamen. The body Mr. Akram buried was mutilated almost beyond recognition. Among other indignities, Nabil's eyes had been torn out and his mouth filled with acid.

"We can never forgive them," Mr. Akram said, his eyes flashing with hate. "Even if we did, they would never forgive us."

JOY, INTERRUPTED
Five years ago, I stood in Firdaws Square in the centre of Baghdad with a small crowd of Iraqis who cheered as a U.S. military vehicle yanked the signature statue of Saddam Hussein off its plinth. It was hailed at the time by the Americans as the effective end of the war; U.S. President George W. Bush's famous "mission accomplished" speech came just three weeks later.


Standing at the edge of the crowd that April afternoon, I wondered whether it was the end, or just the end of a phase. While the Iraqis joyously beating Saddam's metal head with their sandals seemed genuinely pleased, I was just as struck by the faces of the Iraqis who instead watched the scene from the balconies of nearby apartment buildings. They clutched their children — relieved, perhaps, that the daily bombing by U.S. warplanes was over — but plainly nervous about what was still to come.

I took a drive around Baghdad that day and got an early taste of how the next few years would go for Iraq's new American conquerors. As we drove through the Shia slum that was then called Saddam City (it has since been renamed Sadr City, after the father of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr), crowds of seemingly jubilant young men surrounded our car.

Having just come from the happy scene at Firdaws — and having bought into the mainstream wisdom that the Shiites, who had been violently oppressed by the Sunni Mr. Hussein, would be happy to see the Americans — we expected more of the same in Sadr City.

"Yes, Bush!" a few shouted as we scribbled in our notebooks. Just then, the back right window exploded, covering me in shattered glass and opening several cuts on my arm and hands. Someone had shot at us, our driver concluded, and we sped away. As we left Sadr City behind, some of the youths who had greeted us a moment before picked up stones and hurled them at our back window.

WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Buried in the international news pages this week, behind the New York sex scandal and soaring oil prices, was the less-shocking revelation that American investigators have concluded — five years after the fact — that there was absolutely no link between Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.


The exhaustive study of some 600,000 official Iraqi documents — everything from tedious cabinet memos to records from interrogations carried out by the dictator's feared mukhabarat secret service — found there was "no smoking gun (i.e. direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda." The Pentagon was so ruffled by the findings of its own report that it made sure the document was hard to obtain, only mailing CD copies to those who specifically asked for it, rather than holding a news conference or posting it online.

It may not seem like big news now, but it's worth pausing to reflect that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found and now there's no proof that the regime was ever linked to al-Qaeda. (Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the primary insurgency group, sprang up after the U.S. invaded.) Before the war, then U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed the evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq was "bulletproof." Vice-President Dick Cheney touted the risk that Saddam's WMD could find their way into the hands of "terrorists" interested in striking inside the United States, as al-Qaeda had on Sept. 11. It's clear now that none of those risks really existed.

The other, less-frequently stated justification for the war was the widely held belief among neoconservatives in the Bush Administration that invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein would start a chain reaction throughout the region, creating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called a "new Middle East." The idea that liberating Baghdad would trigger a wave of democratic, pro-Western change was a powerful one with many adherents in the White House and the Pentagon.

Click on link to read full story.....

2 comments:

Major Sinjin J. said...

Hi... can you point me to POSITIVE news on Iraq that you've posted to your blog? It doesn't seem like you want success there. Your negativity just urges others to be negative as well. But positive news might encourage people to support success there. That, afterall, is the best outcome.

Thanks.

Bill Corcoran said...

What I post is the TRUTH about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want sugar-coated war news, I suggest you watch FOX NEWS which is the propaganda arm of the Bush White House and DoD.