Artist Steve Mumford is back with another installment of his Baghdad Journal. He discusses one conversation with an Iraqi friend, who described his meetings with a western activist:
“We disagreed about everything. She wants to have solidarity with the Iraqis against the American occupation. I said to her, ‘Do you realize that if we were talking this way last year about Saddam we could be executed for it?'”
“Then she tells me something that is really kind of ignorant and offensive. She says that the Iraqis on the governing council are traitors. I tell her, no, I think they are some kind of heroes. I did not get really angry at her; she had been shot in the leg by soldiers in Israel, where she was protesting — for some reason I felt I had to be gentle with her. But you know, at least Israel is a democracy. We could learn some things from it.
“Look, sure the Americans have their interests here,” Naseer said. Everyone has their own interests! We do not ask anyone to be noble. But right now the interests of the Americans coincide with the interests of the Iraqis and we are benefiting from it.
However, Mumford notes that his friend’s views are not universal:
I know that opinions on the streets of Baghdad are wildly divergent, and many resent or at least question the American presence here, particularly in the face of efforts by the army and the nascent Iraqi police force to provide security against the rising tide of crime and terrorism.
Trying to measure the success or failure of the occupation is like the proverbial group of blind men attempting to describe an elephant: each person tends to see the war and its aftermath differently, through the prism of their own ideology and experience. Some people talk about the children who died as a result of the sanctions, some talk about the thousands of Iraqis murdered by Saddam.
Watching the BBC here in Baghdad, I get the impression that the war has left a state of worsening chaos throughout the country. Walking through the streets I often have the opposite feeling. Then a bomb goes off somewhere and I brace myself for worse times ahead.
The whole essay is good, and the pictures are good too.