Echo

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hi,

Well, I am tempted to say it. It may sound vain and distasteful. But, really, this new strategy, haven’t I suggested something of the sort three years ago? It would have been much easier then, but as they say, better late than never.

On the personal level, we have suffered some terrible things at the outset of this New Year. The oldest of my cousins, who is almost a couple of decades older than me, met his death by a terrible accident involving American troops. This is a problem that has occurred so often that really requires reconsideration of the way that M.N. forces are deployed. This was particularly painful as this man was one of the most harmless and peaceful of all, a man who has never hurt anybody, a man with a large family and a man who has born the full brunt of the lean years of these last couple of decades. He had to venture out in his old car in one of these dangerous neighborhoods of Baghdad to do some shopping for his family. In his whole life he never drove his car faster than an exasperating crawling speed. He always created a traffic jam behind him. As he became quite old, his sight and hearing became very weak. We don’t know what happened exactly, he must have panicked; he must have misunderstood something. All we know is that he was shot by American troops. I don’t bear any grudge against these guys. They are placed in a terrible situation. They feel threatened and can hardly distinguish a terrorist from an innocent wayfarer. This is a problem that requires solution, but the solution is easier said than done. This is the terror and terrible difficulty of urban warfare. And it is precisely this that the terrorists are counting upon.

Another incident involved a dear old friend of ours, the family dentist, a brave man, who went everyday to work in his dental clinic, ignoring all the dangers and stubbornly going on with his usual daily routine as though there was nothing happening outside. The street where his clinic is situated is a well known location in Baghdad for the private medical community. Some of the best known medical practitioners used to work there, and the place used to be bustling with patients and people, especially in the afternoons and early evening. Nowadays, it has become almost deserted after doctors, dentists and pharmacists became favorite targets for kidnappings, extortion and murder. This man just kept on going. We were always worried about him and wondered about his courage and tried to talk him into more caution; he just smiled and shrugged off our concerns. Well, at last they got him. They broke into his house, took him away together with his three cars parked in the garage. After few days, we heard that they are demanding a big sum, and most likely it is going to be paid, and even then there is no guarantee for his safety as has been the case so often. In such cases the ordinary citizen has no one to turn to. Police protection for ordinary people is something of the past, a historical memory, you might say. Well, here it is; the sad situation that we have to admit and tell the world.

Another recent incident; a young man, a friend of my son, was shot in the head in our up-town neighborhood; for no sin other than being a Sunni. Our neighborhood which used to be so pleasant and peaceful before has become within the red zone, and people are deserting their erstwhile elegant homes.

The cancer is spreading, and the ordinary decent and peaceful people just can’t continue their existence. Baghdad is being taken over by ruthless gangs and blind terror. The accursed Zarqawi plan has worked. It is not difficult to make mischief, and there is nothing for the Sadamo-Ladinists to be proud about. For history’s sake, if we have to consider chronology, the destruction of the holy shrines at Samara marked the start of a new phase, the start of a steeper descent into sectarian strife and civil disintegration. Of-course it is mainly a deliberate plan of the "Sods" (a short name that I coin and will use henceforth for this motley collection of Saddamists, Al-Qaeda types, and other “insurgent groups”. It is the point when the Shiites, especially in Baghdad, started to retaliate, ignoring the advice and admonitions of the moderate religious leaders such as Al-Sistani. And it is usually the innocent and the weak who suffer, of both sides.

So much precious time has been lost. I don’t mind saying it. I, personally in this blog have sounded the alarm long time ago. Safeguard Baghdad, I said. Protect the ordinary people I said. Safety of the ordinary people is the key to the safety of the troops and the general security situation, I said. But tragically, so much precious time was lost. I tell you, it would have been easier then and much more difficult now. I don’t say that nothing was done. A lot was done, and it must be admitted that you cannot safeguard the capital without some degree of control of the provinces, and a lot of work was done in the provinces. The situation in the Anbar, for instance, is drastically different today than it was before, and in a positive way. This was due mainly to the struggles of the American forces, after so many trials and tribulations. At long last the Americans are beginning to understand better the psychology and the nature of the people there. And indeed, the situation in Baghdad, in a way is the result of successes there and the influx of “Sods” into the capital after having been driven out of the Anbar.

Yet there is this new American strategy, and the new security plan. We have to admit that for the ordinary people of Baghdad such announcements have lost much of their credibility due to successive failure of previously much trumpeted similar attempts. Nevertheless, deep down, there is a faint hope that something different might be achieved this time. And, you know, nothing succeeds like success. Any kind of appreciable change in the dismal situation will have a huge uplifting effect. If security in Baghdad can be restored to some bearable level, and if basic services, i.e. electricity, water, garbage collection etc. can be improved to something less absurd than the present levels; then this will have a tremendous effect completely out of proportion with the actual size of the achievement. For you know for someone who is drowning, anything that can keep him afloat will produce a surge of hope. And this surge of hope can have beneficial ripple effect. Well, hope is the stuff of life. Life without hope is not possible. So let us hope and keep our fingers crossed. And at least President Bush is still there, fighting and persistent and knowing well the stakes and not shirking responsibility. Let us hope that the famous saying of Churchill ones again proves right: “The Americans always end up doing the right thing after committing all the mistakes” (or something to this effect)

Wa Al-Salam Alaykum

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