Letter From Iraq

Issue section: 

Ahmed Ali reports from Baquba on the treatment of Iraqi people at the hands of the US military.

The presence of US forces in Iraq had a massive impact on Iraqi people right from the first day of the occupation. Iraq has spent two decades in the darkness with an eight year war and a 13 year blockade and United Nations sanctions.
At the time of the US invasion, Iraqis were put to the test. Very few passed. How to pass became a crucial dilemma. It was connected to our understanding of the real world - a world that believes in the absolute power of the US. In effect those who gave in to this reality passed.

Those who did not pass, those who resisted, suffered the daily harassment of the occupation. The relationship between Iraqi society and the US forces was mutual - the absence of trust.

Iraqis now have plenty of experience with the US forces' conduct in Iraq.
Throughout the past five and a half years we have witnessed every kind of violation of the law. The occupying US soldiers have no respect for Iraqi civilians, and in turn have no respect for the law itself.

US forces behave as if they are superior to the Iraqi people in every way. Every soldier acts like he knows the US has absolute power over the world.

One dark night US forces stormed the home of a civilian, claiming that he was a weapons dealer. His young wife and his two year old kid watched terrified as the soldiers took the man outside his home and shot him. At this his scared wife raised a cry of fear in the darkness. A neighbouring family heard her and rushed to help.

Going to help a neighbour in distress is a respectable part of Iraqi tradition. At the time of the attack the village was regularly being threatened by militants. The father of this neighbouring family thought that the militants were attacking their neighbours. So he took his gun and rushed out to help and defend them. As he was coming from the main gate of his own home he received a bullet to the head and fell dead.

He was followed by his 17 year and 16 year old sons. Both suffered the same fate. The brother of this father then followed his brother and sons and tragically became the fourth to be killed.

In one night, one family lost four members. The suffering caused by this great disaster led the bereaved wife to a breakdown.

US forces meet no resistance when they storm or detain Iraqi civilians. So, the question is always asked, when the US troops don't abide by the rule of law, who stands up for the right of Iraqis to be treated with respect?

When US forces drive around in the streets they do it aggressively, crashing through civilian vehicles without even turning their faces to look. Thousands of claims for compensation from US forces have been filed, but they are just ignored and left on the shelves.

Military vehicles and tanks crush everything in front of them. Farms and gardens, walls and parks are all destroyed. When US forces move into an area they leave nothing but destruction behind. The constant sound of fighters and helicopters affects everyone. When Iraqi children hear these sounds they put their hands over their ears and cry.

So Iraqis want to catch their breath, to get some rest from war. Some hope the new US administration may bring better days. They hope for an administration that will put an end to their suffering of death, displacement and occupation.
I believe that whoever comes in, the strategy is the same. Americans have pinned their hopes on Barack Obama, but many Iraqis do not. For some here though, Obama's election signals a victory to them. They see the party of President Bush - the leader of the invasion that destroyed their country - defeated. So there is some hope that an old page will be turned and a new horizon glimpsed.