Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A few great men.

A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail that made me feel ashamed of myself. It was from an American soldier serving in Iraq and besides doing his job, and risking his life daily to protect his country and the freedom of the Iraqis, he posts some articles in the Internet trying to build a bridge of trust and faith between his people and the Iraqis. Obviously this was not enough for him. He sent me an e-mail with a copy of an article he wrote in which he addresses the Iraqi people urging them to unite and have a more active role in building their country and establishing democracy. He told me that he was on the opinion of publishing it in Arabic in one of the Iraqi newspapers and was asking for my advice and help. It was a beautiful article that comes straight from the heart.

I couldn’t help wondering what was the power that pushes this man to endure such an effort and give so generously, not only for his country but also for other people. And I started asking myself, what can I do more?

As some of you may know I’m a doctor and I try to do my professional duties as best as I can and study to make a progress in my career, and in my spare time, I help my brothers on this blog. All this seems fine. But compared to what this man is doing it’s nothing. Besides all what I do has selfish motives. I work to earn my living and study to improve my financial and social status, and when I write here, I actually enjoy it a lot; I enjoy my freedom to express my thoughts and feelings and I enjoy meeting wonderful people, I make new friends and learn from the readers much more than I give them. I’m not trying to be modest here. I have my ethical motives but they are not the only, and maybe not the major, ones.

That’s why I find myself always asking what can I do more? And I often find myself helpless when people ask me how can they help? And what is there to be done? They offer their help so generously and I simply can’t translate it into actions.

It’s been a long time since I started thinking what could be the solutions to Iraq’s major problems, even before the law of liberating Iraq was approved by the American congress. I kept asking myself, then what? What after Saddam will be toppled? As this was an easy and definite conclusion to me. For despite how Saddam looked to Iraqis, he was extremely weak compared to an American army and this was not just because of the huge difference on the scale of military power and technology. He derived his strength from our fear of him and his brutal regime, a fear that paralyzed our minds, a fear that the Americans were free of. I n addition to that, and more important is that he was completely isolated from his people who stood watching him being defeated without moving a finger.

But then what? What after freedom? How is this terribly poor nation with all the prevalent ignorance, diseases and complete isolation from the rest of the world for decades, will become a free prosperous and democratic nation? How long will that take? And what should be done in order to achieve this drastic change?

In my opinion such sudden change is unfortunately impossible. This will take long years at least. But if this is the case then at least we should make sure that we lay our feet on the right path and start walking cautiously and (slowly if it has to be so), but with trust and strong determination until we reach the point were our peoples minds and souls become free from the chains of a long history of oppression and false beliefs. Then, I believe that the wheels will start to run almost automatically and in a growing pace just like a snowball. It needs to be pushed first, and nature will do the rest.

We are not Germany or Japan, and as I refused to demand miracles from America, I find it unfair to demand from the Iraqis to be like Japan or Germany. These nations were, when they started rebuilding, already ahead of us in a considerable distance in culture and resources. I use the word ‘rebuilding’ here but I didn’t use it when talking about Iraq, and this is on purpose. The word ‘rebuilding’ makes one think that there was something that worth mentioning, and that it was destroyed during the war and therefore it needs rebuilding. This maybe suitable in case of Japan and Germany, while in Iraq it’s completely different. There was nothing worth mentioning that has been destroyed and need to be rebuilt unless you call some buildings with their furniture as a valuable infrastructure. The main problem was that there was nothing important being built under Saddam’s rule and the already existing infra structures were terribly neglected, hence the more appropriate word should be ‘building’ Iraq and not ‘rebuilding’. And again the starting point should be building trust and hope in the future inside Iraqis’ minds.

The way I see it, is that the Americans are doing their best and most of the Iraqis are doing so too. Do not get fooled by the scenes presented by the media and do not miss- interpret the Iraqis whining as that they are spending their time sleeping in their beds and waiting for you to do their job. Although I don’t deny that there are such people, but they are by no means represent the majority.

Iraqis whine mainly because they are free to do so for the 1st time in their life, and my friend who was (whining) in the last post, in fact works with your soldiers risking his life every day too. Or how do you think things would have been if Iraqis refused to cooperate with the coalition? Do you think that your soldiers (as good as they are) could sniff the criminals and terrorists and pull them out of millions if there wasn’t such cooperation. Even the Ba’athists have become convinced of this fact and began turning their weapons in Mousul, for example, to the US army, as it became clear to them that they cannot fight both the American army and their own people.

It’s been months since most of Iraqis are back to there jobs and I don’t exaggerate when I say that most of them are doing that with a devotion that I’ve never seen at Saddam’s times. Iraqi police are doing a remarkable job in arresting the criminals which lowered the crimes rate considerably in the last few months, and they are therefore subjected to almost daily terrorist attacks in which many of them lost there lives while doing their job.

Still the picture is not what we all desired, and that what make some people on both sides complain and blame the other side, but that’s the nature of things. Building a strong, free and democratic country starting from nearly zero requires a hard, long and persistent effort. I may not live to see my dream come true, but at least I can have the honor of assisting in setting a corner stone for such a bright future, so that my kids or grandchildren can enjoy it.

What is needed today is continuous and coordinated effort on the part of all those whom their interests lie in achieving this great job which will serve not only Iraq and America, but the whole region and therefore the whole world. This demands that the Iraqis should continue to believe in the American’s good will, and that the American and the coalition continue to believe that the Iraqis deserve this future and can do their part of the job, which is of course the major one. And who knows, maybe what I consider to be a remote and impossible goal, in the near future, will turn to be not that far.

I’ve heard some painful words lately that made me somewhat depressed and less hopeful, but then I got that e-mail and I also remembered that American soldier who came once to this blog. He had been serving in Iraq when he was attacked and broke all four limbs, and then he was transferred back into the USA to get more medical help. After speaking shortly on the course of his service in Iraq, he apologized to me and to the Iraqi people for not doing this job in 1991! I told him that there was absolutely no need on his part to apologize and that he had done much more than enough, and I was never more true and honest than when I said that. How can I not be so?? Do you know what was his reply? His words-and I’ll never forget them- were” I’m honored to serve you and your people”! Can you possibly imagine the effect those words had on me? I tried to answer him, my hands reached for the keyboard, but my fingers froze over the letters which suddenly turned into strange figures that were unable to translate my feelings into words that makes sense. I didn’t reply to him. I couldn’t.
I told this to all my friends, and now whenever I meet someone who doubts the American soldiers honesty and motives, I throw those words (the soldier’s) into his face saying, “This is how an American soldier, who broke his four limbs in Iraq, looks at you and me and his job in Iraq”, And as expected his response would be a silent embarrassment.

All that I hope is that we could rise as near as possible to those 2 great men. They were Americans, yes, and thank God for that, and just for the record one of them is Muslim. I’m sure that there are many Americans and Iraqis who are doing there best with such a great love and devotion to the others. As I know that there are at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who lost their lives while they were trying to do what the coalition forces led by the USA did.

From now on, call me a whiner or call me a CIA agent, I don’t care. I’ll continue to do what I do and I’ll try to do more; asking questions, searching for solutions inspired through this long and hard journey by the few great men that I’ve met and so many others whom I haven’t had the honor of meeting, but I know that they believe in me, just as I believe in them.

-By Ali.

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