Almost everyday the newspapers are filled with accounts of violent activity in Iraq: a. car bomb here, a suicide bomb there, gunfire at a checkpoint, and an outbreak of outright hostilities on occasion. We know the victims of these attacks are usually either Iraqi or American personnel serving in either the armed forces or security services.
The newspapers say it is the work of faceless creatures called insurgents – or even worse, radical fundamentalist Muslims. They never offer any explanation as to possible reasons for these people to be fighting against the American forces that occupy their country except to say that they are insurgents or fundamentalist Muslims – or even scarier, both.
In other words, the only reason they pick up weapons against the Americans is because of who they are, not because of anything that’s been done to them. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that for the ten years prior to the invasion, the country got steadily poorer as the embargo and the Oil For Food programs steadily stripped the country of any means of generating income to pay for infrastructure, health care, education, and other things we take for granted.
It doesn’t have anything to do with hospitals being bombed, museums being looted, and Iraq’s natural resources (mainly oil) being sold into private American hands – the money from the sales mysteriously disappearing. The idea had been to sell off Iraq’s assets at bargain prices to American interests and use that money to rebuild the country.
If there had been any sign of hope, or progress towards rebuilding, things might be different, but what are people supposed to believe when they read reports of hundreds of millions of dollars going missing that was earmarked for rebuilding? An initial audit from one city showed this happening, and who knows how widespread it’s become in the interim.
What would you think if the people who were behind the violence weren’t doing it out of some fanatical Muslim belief? What would you think if they were people who were reacting to the treatment they’ve received at the hands of people they believe don’t give a damn for them or their lives?
Put yourself in the shoes of the average twenty-something Iraqi for a few moments. Now add in that you’re treated with absolute disdain in your own country by people who can’t speak your language, who don’t understand or respect your traditions, who constantly yell at you in a language you don’t speak, and who tell you what to do and how to behave.
In your eyes, they desecrate your places of religion. They act like your culture that has existed for thousands of years is insignificant. In their eyes, you are less than a person. It seems to you that for no reason at all they invade your house and kill your friends, if not your family, whenever the mood strikes them.
Doesn’t anybody find it odd that a person whose father was put to death by Saddam Hussein has become one of the biggest opponents of the American opposition? Wasn’t the point to liberate people like him from the tyranny of Saddam? If that’s the case, why have they, over the course of the occupation, taken up arms against the Americans?
Could it be because they are tired of the way they are being ignored in their own country? Could it be that, although they are grateful for the release from Saddam Hussein, they would like to have some say in how their country is put back together? Maybe they don’t want all their natural resources sold off to the highest bidder so that when they do have self-rule, their economy is in foreign ownership.
We like to say the reason behind all the violence is outside forces like Iran stirring up trouble, or it’s people who’ve been promised paradise if they die on the battlefield. Our politicians and the “Muslim Experts” will recite this information by rote if you push the right button. “They hate,” we say in shocked disbelief, as we shake our heads at the wonder that anybody could hate the glorious West with our sacred cows of material wealth and self-indulgence.
Sometimes I wonder how so many people can have their heads that far up their asses and still be breathing? What reason have we ever given the Arab world, especially Iraqis, to like us? Try putting the situation on the ground for the people living in Iraq for the past sixteen years together with the insurgent activity. Can you see any connection between the two? If not, I’d say Western myopia has gone from pathetic to dangerous.
If you kick someone in the ass long enough and make them feel like shit, then they’re bound to snap sooner or latter. They don’t need to be fanatical this or that; they just need to be ordinary human beings who have been pushed too far and live with violence everyday. If you grow up in a world where everything revolves around bombs and machine guns, then you might start thinking this is the only means of problem resolution.
I’m the last person in the world to condone violence, but there are times I can understand where it comes from. The mistake the West keeps on making is that we are constantly pouring gasoline on a fire. We have to stop responding to violence with increased violence and begin owning up to our share of the responsibility for creating the situation and circumstances that led to the violence.
We in the West have to stop thinking that our way is the only way and learn to meet people half way. We need to start making an effort to understand other peoples instead of lumping them all together as “different.” We are the new kid on the block in terms of civilizations and yet we act as if any other way of being is inferior to ours, if not wrong.
Where do we get off judging anybody else and their way of being? Even amongst ourselves we can’t reach any conclusions about how best to live our lives, so how dare we try to impose anything on others? What gives us the right?
I don’t support the activities of terrorists of any stripe — whether they have homemade bombs used to wipe out anybody who happens to be in the vicinity, or they drop bombs from airplanes thousands of feet above that wipe out whole city blocks indiscriminately — but we need to stop thinking of the people who are called terrorists by our press as faceless beings to be dismissed as “fundamentalists” or “insurgents.”
There are humans behind those labels and the quicker we start putting faces to them, the quicker we will be able to bring the violence to a halt. I may not approve of either form of terrorism, but I can understand one better than the other. If my country were invaded by a foreign power, I might fight back with any means at my disposal, too.