- I was lying in bed this morning, relaxing as I had no
plans for the day. At approximately 8:30am, a huge blast rattled my hotel
windows for the second time in three days.
- Just a few blocks away on Karrada Street an IED had detonated
between two Humvees, killing an Iraqi civilian in the busy shopping district.
Yet another innocent Iraqi killed, reminding everyone in Baghdad that anyone,
anytime, anyplace is subject to the same fate. Reminding us all that there
truly is no security here.
- The crowd around the blast during the aftermath had mixed
reactions. Many people were rightly questioning why the resistance fighters
are so willing to jeopardize the lives of innocent Iraqis.
- But after a short time an older man asked to speak, and
as everyone listened he pointed to the American soldiers milling about
the blast sight and said,
- "Those are the terrorists! If they weren't here
to begin with, none of this would be happening!"
- Most in the crowd nodded in agreement. Then about 20
men and boys crowded around the American soldiers, who were waiting for
nearly an hour for another patrol to come assist. The patrol who finally
did show up had gone to the wrong grid, of Baghdad. Such are the problems
with bringing in fresh troops.
- In the three hours following this attack I heard three
large blasts around Baghdad, none of which were reported. This evening,
as I stood atop my hotel, a huge blast and flash caught my attention to
the northeast of central Baghdad, again not reported.
- So it's been an average day in occupied Baghdad; attacks
on patrols, unreported blasts, automatic weapons fire in the streets at
night, huge petrol lines, and flickering electricity.
- It makes me wonder how people in American would react
under similar circumstances. How would people react to having to wait 6-10
hours in a line to fill up their car or SUV? If they had to absorb gas
prices that had risen 1,000% in less than a year? If they had flickering,
unreliable electricity in their homes for months on end? If their city
was occupied by a foreign military who were storming the homes of your
neighbors who fought against the illegal occupation? If you didn,t want
to fight them, but still faced the daily threat of being blown up by someone
who was resisting? If you couldn,t send your kids to school because of
the very real possibility of them being kidnapped, raped, or blown up?
If America had 60% unemployment and it was rising? If you knew your occupier
was going to stay indefinitely?
- How would Americans react?
- Just a thought.
- I learned that the Amiriyah Bomb Shelter has been closed
by the Americans, due to the fact that an Islamic Fundamentalist group
was keeping it open. I am glad I went when I did a couple of weeks ago,
for when monuments/schools/buildings are closed and/or occupied by the
Americans here, they have a tendency not to reopen.
- I also learned that the only reason the 16 school children
who were detained by the Americans in the same area were released within
24 hours because Sheikh Wadah Malek Alsdid of Amiriyah went and spoke with
the Americans at their base.
- Meanwhile, the occupation of attrition continues to take
its toll on US soldiers here. According to the Pentagon, the total number
of wounded soldiers and medical evacuations from the invasion and occupation
in Iraq is nearly 11,000. Also according to the Pentagon, 461 troops have
died, there have been 8,581 medical evacuations for non-hostile causes,
and 2,273 wounded.
- Many US troops are complaining of having literally no
contact with the outside world. The soldiers I spoke with yesterday in
Samarra asked me, "So what is going on? We don't know anything."
- They told me they don't have email or phone, and have
no clue as to what is happening in the rest of Iraq, if other soldiers
have died, let alone back at home in America.
- I've also heard so many complain that they feel like
they are in a prison on their base, for the only time they can leave the
base is to go out on a patrol, which is always, needless to say, extremely
dangerous. They are working ridiculously long hours, having very little
time off, and never have any idea when they will get to go home.
- Everytime I've asked a soldier when they get to leave
Iraq, they respond with either,
- "I have no idea" or something like, "Man,
why'd you have to ask that? I don't even want to think about that."
- Thus far, the number of soldiers killed each week has
not diminished since the capture of Saddam Hussein. In the first nine months
in Iraq now there have been 461 US soldiers killed. From the years 1962-1964
in Vietnam, there were 392 US soldiers killed.
- We hear so much in the news about how many billions of
dollars the occupation of Iraq is costing the US taxpayer, but this sounds
so trite and frivolous to the human cost of innocent Iraqis dying everyday,
and US soldiers being killed or wounded every day.
- There have been the usual fighter jets flying over Baghdad
today and this evening, the usual helicopters skimming the buildings at
times, a huge Chinook rumbling low over Baghdad, and the ever present random
gunfire in the streets as the night pushes into the latter hours.
- All this aside, it feels relatively calm, which for life
in Baghdad means yet another storm of violence is near. Tomorrow, New Years
Eve, already has a few of us rolling our eyes with dread and as a friend
says, "I'm keeping my calendar open. Tomorrow my plans will make themselves,
I'm sure of it."