Another Grinding Day
Of Occupation

By Dhar Jamail

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."



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