Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Americans Left

On the NY Times Baghdad Bureau Blog, Mohammed Hussein, an Iraqi employee of The Times in Baghdad, discusses the American troop withdrawal as seen from the Iraqi streets. The name of his neighborhood has obviously been withheld because he fears for his safety as an Iraqi journalist.

“The Americans left.” Those were the first words I heard from my wife when I passed through the front door of my house. It was like a shock, I can describe it as somebody showering me with chilled water. They have not gone from my country, but they have gone from my neighborhood. Over the last week, they began transporting their equipment and appliances and they finished this week.

No-one can deny that their presence during the past 11 months has brought peace again to my neighborhood. Even my neighbors and friends who do not want the Americans in Iraq agree with this concept. Before, it was like a jungle filled with Al Qaeda and Mahdi Army, each fighting the other. You can say it was a battlefield for everyone who wanted to take revenge or to inflame sectarian feelings. I remember that day in winter of 2006 when I was driving back home I saw a white car parked in the middle of the main street of my neighborhood, the doors of that car were open and the glass smashed, riddled by bullets over each inch of its body.

Near the car there were two bodies on the ground. When I approached closer I found the bodies of two professional tennis players, I had interviewed them weeks earlier. Just the luckiest people survived those black days. Anyone was a potential target. At that time we were trying not to come out of our houses, just in urgent cases. Our deadline to return back home was before sunset, otherwise you would disappear for ever. Even the front gate of your house would not open at night.

I still remember that day in the winter of 2006 when my neighbor phoned me to ask for a syringe to inject his son with antibiotics. I spent 30 minutes thinking ‘how I can deliver that syringe?’ despite the short distance between my home and the other house. Then I tied the syringe to a brick and I threw it, to land in garden of my neighbor.

As an observer I admit the situation is fragile and I assume many others agree with me. Until this moment the situation is not clear enough in Iraq because U.S. forces are showing up in Baghdad’s neighborhoods. What would happen if they would not show up any more? Here in Iraq some Iraqis think that Americans should stand with Iraqis to find a solution for such a tangle, a dilemma. To get more guarantees from the government in case they leave.

Most of the Iraqi government thinks that the Americans have done enough, and their mission is accomplished; they are fully convinced this is the best time to regain their complete authority, forgetting that it was the Americans who removed the former regime. By American hands. Maybe Americans will look at this in a different way from me, as they are paying with their sons’ blood, and wealth.

As an Iraqi I can understand that is most painful for a nation which has spent billions and more than 4,000 lives for an unseen target, those weapons of mass destruction which they were looking for.

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