A Preferential Option for the Iraqi People

Here is the last paragraph of Dahr Jamail’s book, Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq:

If the people of the United States had the real story about what their government has done in Iraq, the occupation would already have ended. As a journalist, I continue to hold out hope that if people have knowledge of what is happening, they will act accordingly. If people in my country could hear the stories of life under occupation and put themselves into the Iraqis’ stories, they would understand. I hold that hope because the stories of Iraq are our story now. Whether we accept that or not, it is the truth. The water from the Euphrates runs through all our veins. [291]

An American horrified at the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Dahr Jamail went to Iraq to see the occupation from the point of view of the Iraqi people. Unlike the patriotic journalists embedded with U.S. troops, Jamail embedded himself amidst the Iraqi people.With great bravery, what he attempted to do was to listen, transcribe, and relay these Iraqis’ stories and perceptions to us. In the United States, given the ubiquity of the slogan “support the troops,” people tend to focus overwhelmingly on our soldiers, their fate, their well-being, their PTSD, and their families. In his book, Jamail gives us an opportunity, in less than three hundred gut-wrenching pages, to listen to and take in the voices of Iraqis under U.S. military occupation.

To give you a small taste, I have culled a number of quotations from men and women Dahr Jamail spoke with in Iraq. Ask yourself, how often have you heard such voices and questions in the New York Times or Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, heard them on NPR, or seen them on ABC?

Do you think all these people, these innocent people being killed by the Americans, don’t have families that are now joining the resistance? [21]

So what are the people to do? It [the attack] is not an action, what you have seen is a reaction. If the occupation power continues to hurt and humiliate the people here, every man will become a bomb. [25]

[Another man approached me with the two children of his brother, killed by U.S. gunfire, by his side.] This little boy and girl, their father was shot by the Americans. Who will take care of this family? Who will watch over these children? Who will feed them now? Who? Why did they kill my brother? What is the reason? Nobody told me. He was a truck driver. What is his crime? Why did they shoot him? They shot him with 150 bullets! Did they kill him just because they wanted to shoot a man? That’s it? This is the reason? Why didn’t anyone talk to me and tell me why they have killed my brother? Is killing people a normal thing now, happening every day? This is our future? This is the future that the United States promised Iraq? [29]

The largest tragedy of the invasion and occupation is the devastation of the people of Iraq. We were hoping for relief, but so far it has only been more suffering. [39]

The Americans are the ones who create the terrorists. They say they will kill all the terrorists in the world, but they are actually creating more terrorists. [42]

The Americans are creating the terrorists here by hurting people and causing their relatives to fight against them. Even this little boy will grow up hating the Americans because of their policy here. [78]

Why are we called terrorists? This is our country. These are foreign army tanks in our streets killing our people. We fight against this and we are called terrorists? They are the terrorists. [116]

[The stream of patients slowed to a sporadic influx as night fell. Maki sat with me as he shared cigarettes in a small office in the rear of the clinic.] For all my life, I believed in American democracy, he told me with an exhausted voice. For forty-seven years, I had accepted the illusion of Europe and the United States being good for the world, the carriers of democracy and freedom. Now I see that it took me forty-seven years to wake up to the horrible truth. They are not here to bring anything like democracy and freedom. Now I see it has been all lies. The Americans don’t give a damn about democracy or human rights. They are worse even than Saddam. [I asked him if he minded if I quoted him with his name.] What are they going to do to me that they haven’t already done here, he said. [139]

I was against Saddam. I was jailed by his regime in 1996 for making pastries because at the time sugar was being rationed due to the sanctions. But the U.S. policy now in Iraq will fail 100 percent. No people here support them now. [147]

Of course the Americans are bombing civilians, along with the revolutionaries. One year ago there was no revolution in Fallujah. But they began searching houses and humiliating people, and this upset people. The people became angry and demonstrated, then the Americans shot the demonstrators, and this started the revolution in Fallujah. It’s the same in Sadr City. [150]

The Americans don’t care what happens to Iraqis. [151]

Here, one would have to distinguish between terrorism and resistance. Terror was unseen here before the invasion. In Fallujah, it is not terrorism, it is resistance. [152]

The crimes against humanity in Palestine are shown daily on television. This does not indicate that the current U.S. administration is committed to democracy of human rights. How can the United States, a war criminal in Palestine, be accepted as a state-builder in Iraq? [152]

This is the way the Americans are freeing Iraq? America’s freedom is killing Iraqis. Fallujah is becoming another Palestine! How long will we have to live like this? [161]

When the Americans start patrolling on Monday, even more people will fight them this time because there are many who seek revenge now. [164]

When we tried to go to our mosque, the snipers shot at us. [165]

[He asserted with justifiable pride that Fallujah was the first city in Iraq that the U.S. military had left because of the resistance rather than through negotiations.] We hope all cities in Iraq become as liberated as Fallujah is. [193]

Abu Ghraib attacked the dignity of the Iraqi people. Did America not become barbarians from killing Indians, Vietnamese, Central Americans, Afganis, and bombing us and our young children. Who now have psychological scars? If these did not reveal the true barbarian nature of America, then Abu Ghraib certainly did. I never liked Saddam, nor did I support him, but at least under the dictator there was order and some basic services. Now there is no order, no electricity, no fundamental stability. [195]

The mujahadeen are fighting for their country against the Americans, who are the occupiers. We all accept this resistance. [204]

How can we live like this, we are trapped in our own country. You know, Dahr, everyone is praying to God to take revenge on the Americans. Everyone. [230]

We need electricity to run our pumps to be able to irrigate our farms. At the moment we are having to carry water in buckets form the river instead and this is very difficult for us. They say they are going to make things better for us, but things are worse. Saddam was better than this, even though he executed three of my relatives. [261]

I watched American soldiers force naked Iraqi women into a cell. I heard the screams as the soldiers raped the women. [261]

We don’t want this freedom of the Americans. They are raiding our homes and terrorizing us all the time. We are living in terror. They shoot and bomb us everyday. We have sent our families to live elsewhere. [261]

The high commissioner for elections was appointed by Bremer, so how can we have a legitimate election under these circumstances? This election only serves the interests of the occupier, not Iraqis. This is only propaganda for Bush. [267]

Dahr Jamail’s book should be widely read and meditated upon. It ought to be discussed at mosques and churches, in high schools and universities. And it ought to lead more of us to take deliberate and daring action to speak the truth about the occupation, interfere with its functioning, and highlight the immorality of the corporations benefiting from its lethal effect on the ordinary Iraqis with whom Dahr Jamail shared so many precious, exhausting, and frightful months.


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