This is a weblog kept by an American currently in Iraq - here's part of it:
Yesterday, the 29th, began with my awaking to the
reaction of Bush's State of the Union Address. I had
originally intended to join others in the group in
watching the Address at Al-Jazeera's bureau at 5am. It
was easy to figure what would be said. I slept in. As
I reached the hotel lobby after waking, I ran into
Joneed. "It was the closest thing to a declaration of
war, without declaring war," he described it.
Mary, another member of the group who stayed up to
watch the speech gave an even more ominous tone. She
explained that as she saw it, because Bush implied the
US would attack unilaterally, the attack would
certainly come without warning. "If he is doing it
alone, why would he warn anyone who might oppose it?"
For the first time in my entire stay here, my stomach
I really could just be walking down the street to find
a 2,000lb JDAM bomb on top of me without warning. I
always presumed that there would be a zero hour, to
allow for last minute preparations. It gave me pause
(as I suppose it would anyone, the moment they entered
this country...) I presume for now that the window of
safety at least extends to February 5, when Powell
addresses the UN Security Council. Plenty of time to
buy some water.
For the rest of the morning, we acquired a text of
Bush's speech and proceeded to laugh at its content.
Yet most people clearly were simply sickened by it.
Notions of Bush?s administration caring for all life,
pursuing liberty, and feeding the Iraqi people become
stark jokes to me now. Not like they ever weren't
before, but it seems apparent that if Bush's speech
writer could spend just half a day in the slums of
Baghdad, the world could change.
We were to take part next in a demonstration at Al
Mansour Pediatric Hospital organized by the Greek
branch of Medicines du Monde. The immediate response
to Bush in Baghdad was to be thrusting in his face
images of those he is willing to kill. Unfortunately,
the logistical end broke down, and while we showed up
to the hospital, we were unable to find the
demonstration ? perhaps due to the numerous hospitals
situated in the large complex. I went on my own to ask
around the area (normally a minder is needed to even
visit a hospital), asking along the way if anyone had
seen a wayward group of Greeks. At one point I
mistaken for being a participant in a seminar, and was
ushered into a medical lecture in Arabic.
The day was salvaged by a return to Al Bayt Al Iraqi,
the arts and crafts gallery/house where we had been a
few days before. Here I met Naira, an elegant and
articulate Iraqi woman in her 80s. She studied
religious philosophy at the American University in
Beirut, and her children and other relatives lived
around the world. With a great-uncle who was an
Ottoman Pasha that played a key role in the 1908 Young
Turk rebellion, she came from a rather distinguished
family. While most of her descendents were Turks
involved in politics, she was proud that her father
was a farm owner instead (who then had to sell most of
it with the land reforms after Iraq?s Ba?ath
revolution). "I am through with politics," she
asserted. "I connect with people by understanding
Naira gave me a critical lesson in Iraqi identity, one
that I had little pondered before. Westerners like to
think of Iraq in terms of its oppressed Kurdish
minority in the north (most of whom live in total
autonomy now) and the Shia majority that live under
Sunni rule in the central and southern regions. While
this cookie-cutter regionalism works for people like
Bush, Naira had a different perspective. "I am more
Iraqi than Arab," she whispered to me, jokingly afraid
that the hostess, Amal, would take offense. As Naira
is part Turkish, Kurdish, Persian and Arab, she is
content with comparing Iraq with the sort of melting
pot of America, to a degree. "They think there are
just Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south?
These people are everywhere," she explained.
Dana, of our group at one point asked her of her
secret to her youthful old age. "I never go to sleep
hating anyone," Naira promptly stated. "Even those who
would harm me - I never end a day with a grudge."
At around 7pm, the owner and hostess invited us to
attend a short presentation on architecture. "You will
see, we Iraqis are not all hospitals and sick people,"
Amal said as she introduced Dr. Sahar Il-Kassi. Dr.
Kassi, a short, balding permissive man, offered us a
slide show of his work. It was only a ways into the 3D
graphical renditions of his recent plans that we
understood just how significant he was. With award
winning designs in Germany and elsewhere, he had just
finished designing almost a dozen university
buildings, mostly in the city of Kufa.
Dr. Kassi's premise was a "blend of the old and the
new," where he mixed classical Arabic and Sumerian
styles with contemporary design. Frank Lloyd Wright
was one of his major inspirations, and many of his
houses greatly reflect that. With his impressive
university plans, most already in construction stages,
the dual-concepts came across with modern white
functional structures emerging through classical
facades, sometimes literally.
Such works, which I would perhaps take only nominal
interest in elsewhere, strike a strong chord in Iraq
for me. Daily it becomes more and more apparent that
this is a nation used to being on the cutting edge of
the developing world and well infused with
contemporary thought. It is as if a class of college
students were forced to repeat the third-grade. Such
potential sits here screaming for the opportunity to
join the world community.
There's a ton more - take a look.