In America, we have names for each generation of young people, such as “Generation Y” and the “New Silent Generation.” A story from Kurdish Media speaks of today’s “Mako Generation” in Iraq. The word “mako” refers to something that is missing, and “mako” in Iraq are essential things such as electricity, clean water, fuel, services they depend on, security, opportunity, trust, a state, and a government. Iraq’s teachers say that their students honestly believe that they see “mako benefit from studying.” It is saddest to know that Iraq’s young generation is “mako hope.”
The following are quotes from young Iraqis from the Kurdish Media article:
“I own a computer at home and am subscribed to the internet. But if there is no phone line and mako electricity, how am I meant to get connected to the internet?”
“We play at war and fighting. We sleep to the sounds of explosions and wake up to them. We have grown up with fighting, from the Iran-Iraq war, the liberation of Kuwait and the recent war.”
“Our future is unknown. My sister and brother completed their university education. She is a pharmacist and he is an engineer but they are unemployed. Will the situation improve? How and when? Our situation is worsening. Saddam is gone and in his place there are a hundred Saddams now!”
“We own two computers at home and are subscribed to the internet and an electric generator. However, mako fuel for the generator and we only receive an hour of electricity during the day and one at night. Our generation suffers from gloom and despair. We can’t walk in the street or in the markets because we face the danger of being kidnapped or killed. I can’t visit my girl friends or practice any hobby. Our only pastime is to keep an eye on the electricity….we turn off the generator, turn on the fridge and washing machine… the electricity is cut off and we turn the generator on again. This is our life.”
“I stopped going to school because it became dangerous. We now watch satellite channels when the electricity is available. Tell me, what sort of life is this? My uncle’s family was lucky and emigrated to Canada. My cousin tells me about her life there. It seems extraordinary to me. Is this the paradise the US and the new governments promised us? Is this the democracy they promised?”
“We want a dictator to rule us on condition he provides us with security, services and a future. I don’t care about this imaginary promises and democracy as long as problems are killing our youth.”
“I come here to visit sites where I can see the latest models of Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Austin Martin and others. Of course, I don’t even think about buying one but I wish I could drive one… perhaps one day I will become rich or my father will be appointed to the cabinet and can [embezzle] lots of money… as it is alleged the majority of government ministers are doing.”
When we think of the kind of war in which America is engaged, and we see how it is affecting the real lives of a whole generation of Iraqi citizens, it’s easy to empathize with their despair. They feel disconnected from the world; all they’ve known is war; they look toward the future and see no opportunity; they see hundreds of Saddams where only one monster once stood; they are afraid to leave their homes; rather than having time to visit friends, their time is spent on ensuring the milk won’t spoil; the promise of democracy seems so far away to them that some express a desire to go back to the way things were before America’s pre-emptive attack; some of them aspire to get rich quickly by emulating their leaders’ criminal tendency to embezzle government funds.
Many Americans are torn about our presence in Iraq, and most want to see it ended. There are statistical indications showing that the war in Iraq is more unpopular with Americans than was the Vietnam conflict at this stage. Bloomberg News’ Heidi Przybyla points to the politically disturbing contrast of 57% of Americans who currently believe sending troops to Iraq was a mistake to 48% of Americans who disagreed with the Vietnam war in 1968, even though more than ten times the number of troops had been killed within the first three years of the Viet Nam war. Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi of Iran recently spoke in the U.S. and said there were lessons America should have learned from Iraq and that if this world is, indeed, a global village, that George W. Bush cannot expect to be “the only sheriff of that village.”
We can see that we are at a point in Iraq where nothing will improve for the lives of their young generation until America abandons a unilateral war footing within their nation. Imagine being in your home after nightfall and armed strangers burst into your home, forcing you and your elderly mother into a corner at gunpoint. The war that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld assured the President could be fought cheaply and fast while ignoring the recommendation of General Shinseki and other top military officers has proven to be more of a destabilizing force in the Middle East than a new beginning for freedom.
The Generals are already talking about drawing down a limited number of troops at a time when there is not only no appreciable change, but even a deterioration of a stable Iraqi society. Look back and ask yourselves what we have accomplished with this mission? Before tackling and roping Saddam Hussein like hasty cowboys, we could have worked with the international community to confirm that there were no WMD and if need be, to have acted as a unified multilateral force to remove him from power, thus ensuring that peacekeeping forces from around the world could have provided the adequate level of security to allow NGOs to do their part in bringing education, relief, and democratic support to the young people of Iraq. We didn’t do that, and now we have what we have – a disaster for which Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks did not responsibly plan.
The writer Zelda Fitzgerald said that, “by the time a person has achieved years adequate for choosing a direction, the die is cast and the moment has long since passed which determined the future.” This war against terror is a war of ideas. We are not convincing young Iraqis to hold onto their hopes for the kind of society in which they care to live, and time is not on our side. We must not allow the die to be cast for a hopeless future. This moment must not pass without a change if we want our children to someday look back in history and see that peace and stability were achieved in the Middle East before the scourge of nuclear war brought the world to its knees.
The war-weary “Mako Generation” in Iraq had hoped America would fulfill its promise to them just as Americans had hoped that their President and his administration would not mislead them in order to garner their support for the war. I am not happy to know that the young people of Iraq have lost so much hope and that they struggle with worsening civil and security conditions our nation has played a major part in creating.
As an American citizen, I would be utterly ashamed if my nation did not recognize where we have gone so very wrong and strive immediately to create conditions for peace and stability within Iraq. It will take a major change in our foreign policy focus. A sudden change doesn’t have to end capitalism as we know it or send the markets reeling, as some market fundamentalists might irrationally fear.
American investors who have sheer financial interest in the continuation of our morally-wrong “same-old” course in Iraq today should throw off their avariciousness in support of new and creative ways to make an honest dollar while supporting America’s reclaiming of its reputation as an honest, trustworthy, supportive, and cooperative partner in the international community. Our entire nation would benefit, especially when wasted tax dollar that go toward unnecessary war would be filtered back to our own domestic needs. When Democrats worry about false pressure to become “tougher” on national security, what they should really consider, for the good of our nation and all nations, is a “wiser” national security.
In a new globalized society living in a nuclear age, “Wise” is “The New Tough”.
Let’s get wise and end this war as we’ve known it and move toward a course that will work. The “Mako Generation” is depending upon it and so are the “Gen Yers” of our own nation who we hope will someday be cooperative partners in peace with these young Iraqis.