by Jo Wilding in Baghdad
(Filed March 28)
Why? Why did the human species ever bother with the creation of language only to dream up and carry through ideas so monstrous as to wither all the words we ever thought of, to strip them of meaning in the face of that intent.
And why is it considered a legitimate way to live, for a person to get up in the morning, kiss his or her kids goodbye and go and spend the working day experimenting and discussing and planning and building novel and ever-more efficient ways of severing soft, beautiful, living human bodies?
And why is there no way of physically preventing someone from getting in a plane and flying over schools and homes and firing rockets which burst through the wall and into a million fragments in the middle of the night, splintering a family's sleep and driving vicious metal squares into their flesh and vital organs?
Last night's bombs were so immense I could see the flashes from inside a room with the curtains drawn and my eyes closed. The building swayed like a treehouse in the wind, rocking long after the sound had died away and the soothing voice of the prayer call was singing out, as if from a machine activated by the sudden shaking of the minaret.
The communications towers were hit last night and today there are no phones. The internet is but a fantasy and even the carrier pigeons have dirtied the pavement and deserted. I don't know how Zaid is, or Asmaa and Israa and Mimi and Omar, or Majid and Raid or Ibrahim, probably less than a mile away, although it may as well be a million, or Umal or Waleed or Samir or Hamsa or any of them. Kamil's house is trashed - it's on El Shaab street, near the ruined market. Mr Zaid, the minder, is understandably a little tense today after his house was hit last night.
As foreigners we're not even allowed to cross the road without a minder now. Six peace activists were kicked out this morning. A good friend was expelled yesterday to Syria as a "security risk". He must've passed the wreckage of the bus convoy. I'm still waiting to hear he's arrived safely, but he won't be able to phone me because the phones are down. Another good friend has just been told, half an hour ago, "Leaving tomorrow."
Right now Friday prayers and a rally are going on outside the mosque, people crowding into the circle opposite, among the fountains. A thick crust of sand has mummified the streets and buildings with a monotone yellowish-grey, clogging the drains so that the blood of two sheep, butchered on the pavement an hour or two ago, provides an almost welcome splash of colour.
Shane and I blew bubbles over the edge of the second floor inside balcony, down into the dining room on the first floor and the reception area below, and watched in glee as grown men jumped and laughed trying to catch or pop the bubbles and, all the while, the bass thudding of the bombs carried on around us. Playfulness in the face of war feels like profound defiance.
There's no way of telling the US/UK governments' bomb fires from the Iraqi government's oil trench fires: as ever both sides at once are choking the Iraqi people, poisoning and darkening the air they breathe. People are running desperately low on money because they're not able to go to work. Between the two sides they've now locked the Iraqis out of all communication with the outside world, as between them they have shafted the Iraqis for the last couple of decades and a bit.
And why and why and why, like a sigh, like a mantra, beside every hospital bed, every bombed and burnt out house: why did they do this to us? Why did they kill my child? Why are we a target? Why can't my mum come back? Why destroy my shop and my living? Why can't anyone stop them?
And how? How did it ever come to this? How did we surrender our power so completely that an entire world of people screaming "No" is not enough to stop a few from bringing about all of this? How did we forget that they were supposed to carry out our will? How did we lose sight of our responsibilities to each other, and continue to pay taxes and commit our labour to the people who harness it all towards death and their own power?
And when are we going to put an end to it? They have to go. These politicians have to go. This whole system has to go. If we can think of ways to kill, in their homes, people we can't even see, render non-existent whole buildings by remote control, we must be able to imagine and bring into being a better way to run our world, to conduct ourselves without these corporate controlled governments, without any governments. They've failed us, whatever their ideology: now it's time for the people.
Jo Wilding is a British peace activist from Bristol currently in Baghdad. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org