Iraqi Fighters: “We Will Send Them Back
the Bodies of Their Soldiers”
by Firas Al-Atraqchi
June 23, 2003
Somewhere in America someone is itching to say, "I told you so." Elsewhere in the world millions of people laugh, scoff, mock, and launch vitriol and hyperbole when discussing America's role in the world. All of a sudden, the so-called victory in Iraq, which was neither a military nor a popular victory, is beginning to look like a public relations disaster.
Consider the facts:
Iraqis today fare far worse than they did under Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Yes, worse -- you only have to ask the Iraqis themselves, not the Friedmans and Krauthammers of the world, who speak from a bastion of cultural ignorance. Iraqis no longer feel safe in their own country, in their own houses. Some have pooled their financial resources and bought weapons to defend themselves. Others, who can afford it, have hired bodyguards. The weapons trading and protection businesses are thriving in lawless Iraq.
There is no electricity; with the traditional summer temperatures of 135 Fahrenheit looming in the distance, Iraqis will be unable to operate their desert coolers. There is no running water. Eight million Iraqis are jobless, mulling about at home, murmuring curses under their breath every time a U.S. military patrol or convoy passes. Food is scarce; medicines are scarce; hospitals are barely functioning. Rape and murder rule the night. An Iraqi family of four who lost their men during the Iraq-Iran war were stopped by armed men one evening and asked to leave their car behind. They were not hurt, but the loss of their car broke their resolve. They called from an ICRC (International Commission for the Red Cross)-run refugee camp on Iraq's Jordan border. "We have had enough," they said. They were applying for asylum in Jordan, a temporary stop on their way to Italy, they hoped.
While Iraqis rummage about their lawless "freedom," certain forces move hastily to assert control. Islamic law in Iraq seems a reality, as Shiite and Sunni religious leaders begin to issue decrees. They are the de facto rule of law in the land -- everything must be approved by them. Ironically, and thanks in large part to U.S. bungling, mismanagement and indifference, Saddam's popularity is soaring in many places. "At least under Saddam, we could sleep safely in our beds, and not worry about people barging in with their guns," has become a popular sentiment. Or "At least we had jobs under Saddam and could feed our children," goes another.
Rumors of Saddam's betrayal at the hands of his kinfolk abound. One says the Republican Guard sold him out at the last minute. Another says Saddam is in the U.S., hidden in Crawford, Texas. The most popular rumors are those pertaining to jobs. "We hear the U.N. is hiring volunteers. Can you tell me how I can apply?" said one disgruntled e-mailer from Mosul, who paid 10 dollars for 5 minutes of Internet time.
Adding insult to injury is the new phenomenon of Iraqi businessmen who have infiltrated post-Saddam Iraq looking to make a quick buck. They parade around with bodyguards armed to the teeth in newly polished Benzes and BMWs. They are buying up everything in a very volatile environment. Add to that the Kuwaitis who seem to have expansionist dreams of their own, buying up large tracts of land in the Basra area. This will not bode well as rumors have almost become fact that it was the Kuwaitis who orchestrated the torching of government ministries and hired armed brigands to loot everything.
Iraqis in Baghdad now speak of the Kuwaiti invasion -- the partitioning of the southern port town of Oum Qasr, once fully Iraqi, now sectioned off to the Kuwaitis. Iraqis in Baghdad are also infuriated that their local companies are not allowed to fix southern oil pipes; Kuwaiti firms have been handed the contract -- and they in turn have hired Filipino and South Asian workers. Iraqis are strangers in their own land.
The sidelining of Iraqis, both in creating a government and in running economic affairs, is pushing hatred of everything American to new heights. This weekend, a new Iraqi resistance group, Iraqi National Front of Fedayeen, said they had nothing to do with Saddam or his cronies, and everything to do with killing Americans. They promised to send at least one U.S. bodybag a day back home. A country that had no ill will toward Americans now despises the very word.
No wonder the U.S. is seeking an international police force.
At press time, 193 U.S. military personnel had been killed. The British military casualty toll came in at 37.
Firas Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry. He is a columnist for YellowTimes.org, where this article first appeared. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org