|December 28, 2004|
Iraq: A Silenced Majority
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
From Interviews With My Family
Since my return from this fall's busy touring schedule, I have been able to reach my family in Iraq regularly for the first time since the beginning of the war. One of the most important things we can do for them, and for the people of Iraq, is to counteract the unjust dehumanization of their entire nation of people, by giving voice to the silenced majority there who want peace. This silenced majority rarely makes it in the mainstream press because they are not killing people, and because they neither support the US occupation and its puppet interim government, nor the minority of reactionary extremists in their own country, who are on our front pages every day. And so, I've decided to begin a series of reports on what "ordinary" life is like in Iraq through interviews with my family and their friends.
I come from a large Sunni family originally from Nineveh, but now spread between Mosul and Baghdad, and I am grateful to report that all of my nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles are alive.
If you listen to Democracy Now!, you may have heard my Uncle Ghazi's voice the last time I did. My uncle Ghazi was Chief Electrical Engineer for the entire country until he retired in the nineties. The last time I heard his voice, it was crackling through a small bedside radio on the day the invasion began, when Amy Goodman interviewed him from his home. I shall never forget laying there, hearing Ghazi's unshakeable, dignified voice, when Amy asked him what he and his family planned to do, "Will you leave town, or...?", and he responded, "What can we do? We are expecting our first grandchild in the next two months -- we will gather the family and take them into the basement until the bombing stops." Arundhati Roy, also on line from India, burst out in tears thoroughly disturbed that Americans could hear such a testimony and not do everything possible to stop the war that would begin a mere three hours later. Still composed, Ghazi went on to say that he did not blame all Americans for the acts of their administration ... he understood how a people, any people, and in this case the Americans, can be systematically disinformed.
When I reached my cousin Omar at home in Baghdad last week, he said his father had been stranded in Mosul since the siege on Fallujah. Ghazi had gone to our family home there to be with my aunts Zeineb and Butheina for Ramadan feast. He told my father that when the siege on Fallujah began and the "freedom fighting" (or "insurgency" as it is called in the American media) spread to Mosul, the whole town shut down, everyone too afraid to go out, no businesses open, as though the place were deserted. Speaking with my father from their family home, Ghazi reported that now conditions are so bad, that the vast majority wishes Saddam Hussein were back in power...it was better then, even for the majority who either endured or tolerated, as my family, but did not support the Baathist regime.
Four of my aunts and uncles are doctors in the main Hospitals in both Baghdad and Mosul. From contact with them, I can only imagine what it does to a doctor's heart to try to heal, knowingly in vain, a people who now may have become the first victims of irreparable, long-term geno-contamination in human history: Already at the Conference on Nuclear Arms in Hamburg, Oct. 2003, Dr. Katsuma Yagasaki, Prof. of Science at the University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, reported the US had dropped the equivalent of 250,000 times the radioactive nuclear waste dropped on Nagasaki in Iraq. Different from Nagasaki, however, the contamination in Iraq is widespread, dispersed over entire regions of the country, bullets, strewn casings, armor, fragments, shrapnel... all containing radioactive waste.
From scant reports and video that leak past the mainstream embargo on images from Iraq, we can only assume that Fallujah has been leveled like Dresden was in the 2nd World War. At an event coordinated by Veterans for Peace at New York City's Community Church this past Sunday at which I sang, the Nation's correspondent Christian Parenti described why the siege on Fallujah was such a critically huge mistake: it was a city with more Mosque's than any other city in Iraq, beloved across the religious spectrum. Now many of those Mosques are no more than rubble, and the total $82 million magnanimously pledged by the US to rebuild the city would scarcely be enough to rebuild more than a couple of these churches alone.
But the truth is, Fallujah's damage is far worse than meets the eye. The entire city could very well be a permanently uninhabitable radioactive zone, yet we hear about the noble efforts of the US to move the 250-300,000 inhabitants back in to live in the now poisoned homes, water, earth, and air. I reflected on this with my friend Dennis Kyne at the School of the Americas Protests a couple weeks ago. Dennis, a Gulf War II vet and former Fort Benning medic, was trained by our government to detect radiation sickness from Depleted Uranium in American soldiers using the weapons the government itself had given them to use. Why are the top administration and military officers in the US knowingly allowing irreparable, widespread, and lethal contamination of Iraq to occur? Is it intentional?
Men in my family have been military officers since the days of the Ottomans. My great uncle, Selahuddin Sabagh, was a leader of the Four Colonels Revolt against the British in 1941, perhaps the single most pivotal incident in the anti-colonial movement that spread thereafter throughout the middle east and North Africa as a call to independence. Sabagh and his four colleagues were publicly hung by the British-installed regime as a message against the Iraqi will for freedom.
It is an understatement to say that the Iraqi and Mesopotamian struggle to be free of forced rule has a long history. The giant-sized presidential campaign posters of interim prime minister and US-backed former Saddam Hussein strongman Ayad Allawi, shown going up around Baghdad on today's cover of the New York Times, don't fool the citizens of a politically evolved society. The average Iraqi citizen is much more aware of the workings of power in politics and media than their Fox-News addicted American counterparts. Iraq is a land where Democracy has its oldest roots, where Hammurabi's code of law pre-existed Moses, and came 1,700 years before Christ, where Christianity, and subsequently Mohammedism, became popular as revolutions against economic imperialism 2,000 years ago, where the Ottoman Empire led the world in religious tolerance in the days when Europe and its foundling United States were in the throws of Inquisitions and Puritanism. This is a land where war, after war, after war, has been waged for the cause of economic imperialism since the beginning of time, while the majority of families huddled with their children in their basements, waiting for God to bring an end to greed, once and for all.
My father and uncle have told me over and over again how in their childhood, their friends were Shia, Kurdish, Jewish, that they lived in the same neighborhoods together without incident, in deed even with joy. They insist, knowingly, that their cultural landscape has become increasingly violently divided by domestic and foreign imperialist power which needs to divide to conquer, and keep the nation under control for the interests of power.
The ordinary Iraqi, the silenced majority, is not fighting in the Mahdi Army, or for the insurgents, or joining the American-installed governing authority and its 'police.' The silenced majority, like my nephews and nieces hiding in their basements, hoping they can just go outside, or get to school again, or get food, water, electricity regularly again, know in their hearts that it is economic imperialism itself that suppresses them, and that the US Government and military are pawns for corporate interests. They understand the cause of global justice all too well. They know their enemy is a globally endured system in which the ability for some to have more power and wealth than others creates and sustains a legacy of dominance, divisiveness, oppression, violence, and hatred to maintain power.
From this perspective, the American military, the Baathists, Ariel Sharon and Likkud Israel, Bin Laden, al Sadr, or Saddam Hussein, are all cousins in an endless parade of foot soldiers for the same problem: the system of economic dominance we all live under that requires oppression. When I asked my family what they thought was the only way to peace in Iraq, they answered, " the only way for peace in Iraq, or on earth now, is through a total revolution in society. One no short of the dream which Christ, Mohammed, and all the prophets spoke of, in which real equality brings an end to this entire unjust way in which we all live together."
Yours in the belief that another world is in the making,
Stephan Said, aka Stephan Smith
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Stephan Smith is an Iraqi-American artist and activist whose new album "Slash and Burn" is out on Artemis Records. His song "The Bell," or "Daquat al Nakous," with Pete Seeger, Dean Ween, and DJ Spooky has become an anthem for the global antiwar movement. http://www.stephansmith.com, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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