How is life in Iraq? Depends on your point of view. A bunch of us were talking the other night; one friend, very angry, said: "Did you see what happened today in Antar Square? The Americans came, blocked the street and attacked the toy store. They were smashing kid's bicycles!" Another friend, listening carefully, asked: "Was there a big loading truck with them?" Yes, came the reply. The second friend then told his version: it turned out he'd been at the store buying a bike for his son. "I was in the middle of tough bargaining with the shopkeeper when two Humvees and a truck stopped out front. One of the Humvees waved all the cars to pass. Soldiers from the second Humvee said they wanted to buy some bicycles. It didn't take a long time, as they didn't bargain, and they bought a huge number of bicycles and filled the truck with them and left." Whom to believe? Here are two good friends and both were on the scene. As for me, it didn't take a lot of effort to figure out who was closer to the truth. Those bikes have probably been delivered to a local school.
Like all Iraqis, I hate Americans. Of course. Here is why:
l The Americans, although they brought us freedom, acted without authorisation from the United Nations. Arrogant Americans
l The Americans, although they rescued us from Saddam Hussein, defied the will of many nations. Insular Americans.
l The Americans won't leave Iraq, say newspaper reports. Get out, Americans!
l Other newspaper reports say the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible after throwing us into chaos. Stay here, Americans!
l The Americans spent tens of billions of dollars to liberate Iraq and help it become a prosperous democratic nation. Don't Americans care more about fixing their own problems? Crazy Americans.
l The Americans started this whole war because of oil. That is why fuel costs are at record high levels in the US and is cheaper than water in Iraq. Selfish Americans.
l The Americans are not using the necessary force to keep Iraq safe and secured. Lazy Americans! The Americans are also using excessive force in Iraq while dealing with the security problems. Brutal Americans!
l The Americans support the Israeli terrorist government instead of the good peaceful people of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Says it all. Violent Americans.
I was working in a village north of Basra a few weeks ago when news broke of the attack, apparently by Americans, on the Imam Ali shrine. I thought to myself: "That's it. Tomorrow there will be an uprising that will involve all the southern 'governates', and I'll be trapped here alone." I couldn't sleep that night, as I was preparing plan B and plan C to find my way back to Baghdad (I assumed the roads would be blocked when the uprising began). But the next morning kids were walking to school in the regular numbers I see every day, there were many cars in the street, and everything seemed normal. When I got to my clinic, I asked my assistant, Abu Hasan, a local man, about this strange peace. What did he think of the American attack? Abu looked shocked: "Dr Omar, this was a very naive try from Muqtada al-Sadr to drag us into his war. We all know that his fellow thieves are responsible for the attack, we know where he positioned his guns and we know where the Americans were. It can't be anyone but Muqtada." Here I got really confused. No uprising? No civil war? The Americans didn't attack the shrine? Then I realised, because I'd spent several earlier months outside of Iraq, that I'd begun to believe the media.
The above posts were published in the Australian newspaper "The Bulletin" on the 30th of June by help of Tim Blair who intoduced us to the Australian readers and lent us his column. I thought of posting it again in case anyone missed it. Thanks a lot for Tim Blair for trusting us with his column and for his help in editing.