Have you ever applied for a job all the while knowing that you were now a marked man? Or perhaps the better question would be, have you ever believed in something so strongly that you would put your life on the line for it? Welcome to the life of an Iraqi citizen.
Continuing a terrifying trend of targeting civilians volunteering for Iraqi enforcement agencies, terrorists in Iraq two weeks ago carried out a vicious two-pronged attack on police forces and police applicants, killing 59. Such violence undermines the ignorant optimistic banter we hear on a daily basis nowadays, yet represents far more than simply another low point in this terrible affair. Rather, it stands as a testament to the courage of the Iraqi people and their determination to overcome all the challenges that have been unfairly placed on their shoulders.
Throughout the entire build up to this travesty of a war, George W. Bush reasoned to the international community that Saddam Hussein, with his phantom arsenal of WMDs, posed a threat to the free world and must be stopped. This singular theme carried all the way through Congress’ regrettable October 2002 joint resolution, that granted the president his blank check for murder.
But then Bush did a funny thing, and started dispensing intermittent sound bytes about freeing the Iraqi people amidst his usual rhetoric. Then the bombs started errantly cascading down onto the civilian populations of Baghdad, and we bore witness to the primetime special newly-dubbed: Operation Iraqi Freedom.
That’s pretty catchy, isn’t it? One could almost get the impression that Bush actually felt some empathy for the Iraqi people. In fact, his concern for the everyday Iraq civilian has been so overriding that, in only two and a half years, he’s overseen the indiscriminate murder of over 13,000 of them.
I’m not quite sure what was going through the minds of the Bush administration. Maybe Bush began to realize how cherry-picking intelligence wasn’t the most reliable source. Perhaps waxing poetic about the Iraqi people was simply a contingency plan.
Whatever his intentions, it is now his only substantial footing in this conflict. If he wants to avoid being remembered as one of the world’s great failures in leadership, he’d better hope that when all is said and done, the Iraqi people will truly be free. Right now, it’s not happening.
What is happening is that the number of daily attacks on Iraqis and coalition forces has increased from 40 back in May to 70 this past month. Now the scheduled elections for January 2005 have been called into question out of security concerns for any registered voters.
In addition, the total amount of slain policemen after this latest attack has grown to nearly 800 – out of a force of 130,000. This casualty rate is only slightly under that of the United States military forces in Iraq. Yet, while surely a troubling indication of the ferocity of the terrorists, it is far more telling of the Iraqis’ intense passion for a free country. And therein lies one of the most tragic developments of this debacle.
We have allowed our own agendas to blind us time and again – liberals and conservatives alike. Iraq is a nation in turmoil, and has become an icon representing either all that is right or wrong with the make-up of our own nation.
Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that Iraqis are mired in a stirring struggle in the fight, our fight, against terror. Iraqis are stuck in an impossible situation between two feuding fundamentalist regimes; the radical Bush administration and the growing network of radical Islamic clerics.
When will we see that Iraq is an actual nation inhabited by people leading lives not so dissimilar to our own? Instead of dehumanizing their efforts by means of empty political catch phrases, we should be honoring their bravery. Regardless of whatever rosy picture Bush likes to paint, this is the real Iraq and the reality of the conflict it never asked for.
Noah Potvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.