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January 26, 2005

Scenes From The Dark Before The Dawn

Only moments remain until that long-sought day when free elections will finally be held in Iraq. To give you some perspective on what everyday life has been like for these amazing people, read the words of Alaa:

...we are getting tired, however the events develop so fast that it is difficult to ignore them and think about anything else. During the time that I took off, I lost some acquaintances and distant relatives. Two very fine young men were shot in front of the shop they owned as they were closing down to go home, they were distantly related to me. The Assistant Dean of the medical college of Baghdad, a relative of a close friend of mine was gunned down as he drove his daughters back from college. This was a fine and brilliant man and only 45 years old, and besides he was the only man in a house full of old and young women and girls. The women are now left without anybody to look after them and horribly traumatized. Another old friend of mine, a prosperous and successful engineer and contractor was murdered near Abu Ghraib leaving a big family behind.

Thus, the daily massacre of completely innocent people goes on. The very best people in society are targeted. The hardest hit is the professional middle class. Many Doctors and professionals are closing down their very profitable businesses and escaping outside the country.

One might expect people living in such conditions to snivel and run for cover. Not so. Their spirit is far from broken:

These zombies are at it again. As if all the murders and mass graves of the past are not enough they continue their orgy of killing and torture under the very nose of the MNF and the Iraqi security forces who are themselves victims of the most atrocious massacres. Any assumption that we are dealing with human beings is completely wrong. These are monsters and must be dealt with as such.
As for the elections, they are doing their best to intimidate and threaten people. What can be more abominable than this; openly intimidating people from participating in the first truly free elections in the history of not only Iraq but also probably the entire region. And what lame excuses they give! The security situation? But it is you gentlemen who are responsible for the havoc. And; what guarantee can there be if the elections are postponed that the situation will not get worse? In fact, we all know that you will do your damn best to aggravate it further in the vane hope that you might achieve your vile objectives. Fair elections cannot be held under occupation! : As if we ever saw any fair elections when there was no “occupation” for almost a whole century when your minority clan was lording over the people. Besides, Palestinian elections were recently held under Israeli occupation, and we did not see anybody objecting. You are not telling us that the Israeli occupation is better than the presence of the MNF who have liberated the country from your tyranny. Oh, and they want a precise timetable for the MNF to leave. That, we assure you does not stem from any patriotic sentiment. You can be certain that within few hours from the departure of the last American soldier, the old Saddam military and security apparatus will reemerge from their holes, reinforced this time with the vampires of the Bin Laden clan and their likes. The pogrom that would ensue then would be a horror unparalleled in the entire history of genocide and mass murder. In fact, it would be merciful, if our American friends “nuke” the whole place before leaving (to use the cute expression I have read somewhere). That would eliminate the scum while giving the rest of the population a quick death, which is better than the horrible torture that could await them; a kind of mercy killing, you might say: Euthanasia.

Well, I am sorry, but these are horrible thoughts for the New Year. Nevertheless, do not go thinking that we have weakened. This time America is right, and the Iraqi people will never allow the clock to be turned back. No matter what sacrifices are required: We Shall Overcome.

Love to all our friends in America and elsewhere: You shall be proud of the Iraqi people, your grateful friends.

Amid the chaos, the rumble of engines is heard:

Somewhere in central Iraq an aircraft lands delivering goods that aren't made in country. Nothing unusual in that; go to any bazaar in this land and you'll find imported items outnumber those manufactured locally. Years of brutal dictatorship, UN sanctions, and ultimately war to end both have left this nation's manufacturing infrastructure less than intact, to say the least. The task of rebuilding is a daunting one, made more so by factions that would see to it that success is limited, that progress isn't made.

That's the future, at least the future as those with any sense of optimism see it. For now forklifts scurry quickly up the lowered cargo door and hoist pallets of material then return to their starting points, unload and climb for more. A forest of pallets forms on the pavement, soon to be loaded on trucks for transport away from the relative safety of the airbase. Now empty, the plane taxis away to retrieve another load. Now full, a convoy of trucks departs for other locations around the country, the drivers will quite literally risk their lives to get this material to its intended destination.

The forklifts stand by as in the distance the drone of another approaching aircraft signals their job is far from over.

The scene is repeated in various locations around the country. The payload? The material thought worth dying for by hundreds of men determined to move their nation forward? Election material, of course. The future history of free Iraq is being written. Across the country the people express a commitment to democracy, a determination to vote. Should they see the reports from America they must be stunned; stories of "disenfranchisement" from here and there where the weather was bad and many voters felt the wait in line was just too long, thanks. This is America? Could these people actually be somehow related to the men and women in uniform here in Iraq? Those who are shoulder to shoulder with the people of Baghdad, Mosul, Basra... delivering the ballots, manning the checkpoints, ever vigilant for the appearance of the "former regime loyalist" and the "foreign insurgent" determined to inflict the rule of the knife on a population that has never known anything but?

Lines are drawn. On one side, the people of Iraq, the majority of Americans, the freedom loving people of the world. On another are those who would behead them all in the street. A more well-defined definition of good vs evil has not been seen in modern times. The final days approach.

The second plane opens it's cargo ramp. The forklifts roll. Elsewhere a convoy exits a gate, moves to a highway, drivers and gunners scanning ahead, left right...

Elsewhere another driver waits, his vehicle sitting low on its axels, 500 pounds of explosives weighing it down...

Despite all the blather about how democracy is doomed to fail in a heterogeneous Iraq composed of competing ethnic and religious factions, Blackhawk shows us just such a patchwork of different races, ethnicities, and creeds: the United States Marines Corps. It seems somehow fitting that this should be so - the military, after all, is America's most successful melting pot. Where there's a will, there's a way.

An Iraqi freelance journalist speaks out on the elections:

I was really skeptical of this whole election thingy. I mean, who can people vote into first place when car bombs are rocking the city every day?

Can I trust the police to provide security if they themselves are being blown up every few hours?

How can anyone trust all those people running for election when some of them are still going to the country in the east to get instructions and when their militias are roaming the streets? But yesterday, when I was in one of Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods, I saw a man in his 50s, thick glasses resting on his nose—he was a communist handing out election literature in the middle of a Shiite neighborhood. I thought, "He will be killed in two seconds," but he wasn't, and people were nice, stuffing his fliers in their pockets and walking on. You have to remember that this is a country where people are killed sometimes just because they show the wrong ID card at the wrong checkpoint.

I think what matters for me is the fact that people will go and vote—if they dare to. I know lots of people will, and that is what really matters. This week, we have to worry about whether people will vote or not. Next week, we'll worry about the result.

And back in America a mother of two Marines contemplates the price of freedom:

My thoughts turned to my own sons; two of them serving their country as United States Marines. My firstborn, just starting out as a newlywed, he and his young wife together again after his deployment to a war zone in Iraq. My middle son, newly engaged and so vibrant with life, his own deployment on the very near horizon. Their youngest brother, so intelligent and creative, still undecided on how he's going to leave his mark in life, but ever thankful of his brothers' contributions toward the freedom of his own future.

Less than one week later, I sit in front of my computer, tears slipping down my cheeks as I think on our next generations. I am contemplating two young lives in contrast, lives out of sync. Two young men on the edge of forever, ready to cultivate the fields of tomorrow with their best efforts. How each young spirit chooses to plant their seeds in the fields of tomorrow can be so greatly different. And oh, how differently their offerings do flower.

I'll call the first James. James is twenty-three. He is a bright young single college student, well-liked and enthusiastic about life. He grabs every golden opportunity America gives him. Not much thought is given to the inner workings of these opportunities, and James avails himself of his birthright to complain about his government and voice his criticism freely. James considers himself a patriotic American. He like so many proudly proclaim discontent with our country, and he never has to miss the chance to share those views. No problem with that, right? If you see something you don't like, isn't it a responsibility to say so?

Our second young American is named Steve. Steve is about the same age, married with a new young baby. He could have gone to college right out of high school, but felt a need to do more with his life first – to give back to the country he so deeply loves. He became what few Americans can ever dream of becoming - a United States Marine. He said goodbye his loved ones and deployed to Iraq.

Two men, two choices, each with the freedom to choose what path they can walk to make our world a better place.

I got a call last night from a close friend, a call I really didn't want to receive. Our Marine Corps Family has suffered yet another loss. Steve has died. One moment, our world had a hero – the next we were irrevocably poorer as a nation. When Steve passed on, his wife held one of his hands, his commanding officer the other. Nestled on his bed, close to his heart, was his little son.

Overcome with grief, she muses...

Such young faces. The faces of young America, the future of our nation resting so easily in their strong hands. So much promise, so many dreams. How each young spirit chooses to plant their seeds in the fields of tomorrow can be so greatly different. And oh, how different their offerings do flower. What will spring forth from these seeds?

Will it be a waste of fertile ground sown with weeds of selfishness…or the hardy blossoms of freedom, gently and lovingly planted in hope for the next generation? With these Marine mother's eyes, I focus on the sons and daughters we have so lovingly guided on their path, knowing as surely as we know their good hearts, that our future is in good hands. Steve will always shine as the best kind of American to me. He was here for such a short time, but his accomplishments are as lasting as if he'd lived for a hundred years. There's more worth to be found in that one warrior's brief life, that one gentle man's loving sacrifice - than we ever can hope to see in the other's example; a solitary, immature man's selfish, aimless journey. I can only pray that James' kind learns to be grateful to the extraordinary men and women who fight and die for them. If they don't, what kind of legacy do they hope to leave behind when their chance on this earth is past?

There's no way to know what will spring from this great adventure: this attempt to bring hope to a region denied it for too long.

The price of freedom is indeed great. For those who have none, the cost of living without it is incalculable.

Posted by Cassandra at January 26, 2005 07:57 AM

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Comments

Amen.

Posted by: Cricket at January 26, 2005 10:20 AM

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