I kept checking Baghdad Burning every couple of weeks for months and months since Riverbend announced that she and her family were leaving, but after a while, I stopped and then forgot. But she came back on the scene with two long posts last autumn, from Syria, one in August and one in September. They are brilliant as usual; sad, but full of spirit, angry but loving and forgiving (not of America, though.)
21 February 2008
17 May 2007
Riverbend's last post on Baghdad's Burning concerned the infamous "wall". She is right about the link between walls and concentration camps, or at least walls and racism. I always associate walls being built to divide a city with the early 20th century days of Atlanta's Jim Crow, a history I absorbed rather than being specifically taught (no I am not quite that old, but I am old enough to have seen de-segregation getting under way.) Walls were built on the "black" side of "white" neighbourhoods to prevent easy passage through the privileged environs. A lot like apartheid, or a literal rather than symbolic ghetto. Interesting that this presents itself as a "solution" to the ilk of the American "advisors". But anyway.
In the Guardian, Riverbend posted a more personally dramatic announcement: she and her family are planning to leave Iraq, as so many others have done recently.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 17:51
05 July 2005
16 June 2005
Because I have not been keeping up with my blogging and, more importantly, my blog reading, I missedRiverbend's blistering rebuttal of Thomas Friedman's ill-informed (and as Riverbend says, incredibly arrogant) NY Times article Outrage and Silence. Don't you miss it, too; this is really vital reading.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 05:11
21 April 2005
I missed this post on Baghdad Burning almost three weeks ago; it was when I was having a combination of stressed out overwork and a dodgy computer problem, so my blog reading was severely curtailed. But it's worth referring back to. I was in America myself last week, and even being in Britain for years and being used to British newscasts (which Riverbend would probably also find to be quite sanitised) has caused me to look askance at the American news that I used to assume was normal. It's not normal, though, it's annoying, puerile and mostly pointless. I can only imagine what it's like to people in a place like Iraq. Yet another abysmal failure at winning hearts and minds, I'm afraid.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 19:47
10 March 2005
Riverbend's latest post at Baghdad Burning starts out with some opinions about the killing of Nicola Calipari and then segues into an anecdotal account of a horrendous confrontation between doctors and Iraqi National Guardsmen in a hospital, and thence into discussing the inadequacy of Iraqi officials under the occupation. It ends up with a piece of Iraqi folk wisdom, hence the rabbit thing:
“Tireed erneb- ukhuth erneb. Tireed ghazal- ukhuth erneb.” The translation for this is, “You want a rabbit? Take a rabbit. You want a deer? Take a rabbit.” Except we didn’t get any rabbits- we just got an assortment of snakes, weasels and hyenas.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 23:39
13 February 2005
Another infrequent post from Baghdad Burning's Riverbend. This one contains a Baghdad-eye view of the elections and a story about a visit to the Ministry of Education, where Riverbend was admonished by a strict Shi'a official for not dressing appropriately.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 18:14
22 January 2005
02 January 2005
Riverbend has fired up the generator and at the cost of precious fuel sent another despatch from Baghdad:
There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated.
Another problem is the selling of ballots. . .
Yet another issue is the fact that on all the voting cards, the gender of the voter, regardless of sex, is labeled "male". Now, call me insane, but I found this slightly disturbing. Why was that done? Was it some sort of a mistake? Why is the sex on the card anyway? What difference does it make? There are some theories about this. Some are saying that many of the more religiously inclined families won't want their womenfolk voting so it might be permissible for the head of the family to take the women's ID and her ballot and do the voting for her. Another theory is that this 'mistake' will make things easier for people making fake IDs to vote in place of females.
All of this has given the coming elections a sort of sinister cloak. There is too much mystery involved and too little transparency. It is more than a little bit worrisome.
American politicians seem to be very confident that Iraq is going to come out of these elections with a secular government. How is that going to happen when many Shia Iraqis are being driven to vote with various fatwas from Sistani and gang? Sistani and some others of Iranian inclination came out with fatwas claiming that non-voters will burn in the hottest fires of the underworld for an eternity if they don't vote (I'm wondering- was this a fatwa borrowed from right-wing Bushies during the American elections?). So someone fuelled with a scorching fatwa like that one- how will they vote? Secular? Yeah, right.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 17:17
19 November 2004
Riverbend had this appalling story in her latest post. It's covered, and I know this because she linked to it, at Yahoo. But I am searching my massive list of US blogs and a few British ones and so far I have found nothing which indicates to me that the Western media is either censoring the story completely or, what's worse to contemplate, nobody is that interested. Although I don't have the links handy, Jeanne has posted about a couple of similar incidents in the past; at least they happened on the street and not actually IN A MOSQUE! Arkhangel has come back to the blog world (for which I am thankful, as his posts are some of the best in my usual reads) to discuss, very eloquently as always, the mosque-desecration photo story that I mentioned earlier.
Taken all together, this seems to illustrate a trend. That the worse things go for the Americans, the more they keep doing the same incredibly stupid and dangerous and cruel and unnecessarily ignorant things in Iraq, in a shocking downward behavioural spiral that feels and smells like a decaying empire. I am with Riverbend on this one - it makes me physically ill. Unlike Riverbend, I don't live in the middle of it, trying to survive. Sister, my prayers are with you daily.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 22:01
13 November 2004
The BBC news website is carrying daily eyewitness accounts from inside Fallujah, filed by a journalist who lives there and is trapped inside the city. There is no water, no electricity, no food, no medical care at all. People are burying their children and parents, when they die from stray gunfire, falling buildings or disease, in their gardens, and some bodies are just left out in the street. I got this link from Riverbend of Baghdad Burning, and also this report from aid agencies, all of whom decry the "taking of Fallujah" as an unmitigated human rights disaster. Riverbend calls it genocide and I do not dare to disagree with her.
More on Fallujah: American Samizdat has republished a shocking picture of armed and booted Marines resting between the labours on the "plush red carpet" of a despoiled mosque. Here is what zeynep has to say about that:
Somebody please tell Lt. Brandon Turner that he's insane, that the Pentagon is insane, whoever is allowing the marines or any American soldiers "rest" on that "plush red carpet" with their shoes, uniforms and machines guns is insane. Does anyone understand anything about religious feelings in general or about Islam in particular? Have they spent even half a day watching a documentary or two about Islam and noticed that people carefully and respectfully take their shoes off before entering a mosque, where they will kneel and put their head on that carpet? (Those "plush red carpets", by the way, are prayer rugs, or "sajjade." And you don't step on them with your combat boots, especially inside a mosque, and smile for the cameras unless you really want to fight to the death with up to a billion people.)
Seriously, this is either the most arrogant, incompetent, ignorant occupation, ever, or the most clever, insidious, skillful effort towards bringing about an apocalyptic world war. Are they asleep at the awheel, drowning under their own ignorance, or simply want to end life on earth as we know it?
Jeanne of Body and Soul was also shocked by this picture and her comment on it is tied back to the speech G W Bush made in the National Cathedral days after the 9/11 attacks, in which he claimed a sort of avenging god-hood.
My god is bigger than your god. Beyond that symbolism, can anyone explain what the point of attacking Falluja is? Does control of that city matter if it angers the rest of Iraq?
The liberal blogosphere is pretty united in its shock and horror at this picture, and yet the liberal media in the US (I haven't checked it out but I haven't seen it here) apparently do not see anything noteworthy in it, merely using it as backdrop to more of their tame reportage of the military's view of the war. It's really a case of parallel universes.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 07:41
15 October 2004
Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0 tells about the realities of journalism in Iraq. You can't go into the Green Zone without a pass, and passes are only issued in the Green Zone. And they're all afraid to go out, anyway. And it's the first day of Ramadan.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 10:24
18 September 2004
I am posting from Berkeley California today. It has been a while and I have missed being online, reading my blogs and posting. So, on logging into Bloglines, the first site I read was Riverbend's and, as usual, I was utterly bowled over. She is discussing here her feelings on watching Fahrenheit 9/11.
I was caught up in the film from the first moment, until the very last. There were moments, while watching, when I could barely breathe. I wasn’t surprised with anything- there was nothing that shocked me- all of the stuff about the Bush family and their Saudi friends was old news. It was the other stuff that had an impact- seeing the reactions of Americans to the war, seeing the troops in Iraq being interviewed, seeing that American mother before and after she lost her son in Iraq.
Ah, that mother. How she made me angry in the beginning. I couldn’t stand to see her on screen- convincing the world that joining the army was the ideal thing to do- perfectly happy that her daughter and son were ‘serving’ America- nay, serving, in fact, the world by joining up. I hated her even more as they showed the Iraqi victims- the burning buildings, the explosions, the corpses- the dead and the dying. I wanted to hate her throughout the whole film because she embodied the arrogance and ignorance of the people who supported the war.
I can’t explain the feelings I had towards her. I pitied her because, apparently, she knew very little about what she was sending her kids into. I was angry with her because she really didn’t want to know what she was sending her children to do. In the end, all of those feelings crumbled away as she read the last letter from her deceased son. I began feeling a sympathy I really didn’t want to feel, and as she was walking in the streets of Washington, looking at the protestors and crying, it struck me that the Americans around her would never understand her anguish. The irony of the situation is that the one place in the world she would ever find empathy was Iraq. We understand. We know what it’s like to lose family and friends to war- to know that their final moments weren’t peaceful ones… that they probably died thirsty and in pain… that they weren’t surrounded by loved ones while taking their final breath.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 02:35
26 August 2004
William Rivers Pitt's article "Your Children Are Burning" asks why the two parties locked into the presidential dogfight are contesting a war that ended almost 30 years ago, when young Americans are dying right now in two wars that nobody wants to talk about. And then he lists those who have died in August 2004. And then he talks about those wars:
$24 billion in U.S. tax money has been allocated to 'rebuild' Iraq. According to Christian Parenti, who has reported from Iraq on the reconstruction process for The Nation magazine, "Only $5.3 billion had been allocated to specific reconstruction contracts as of late June 2004. According to a report from the White House Office of Management and Budget, of the $18.4 billion reconstruction honey-pot approved last fall only $366 million had been spent by late June - that is, invested in Iraq. Instead of creating 250,000 jobs for Iraqis, as was the original goal, at most 24,000 local workers have been hired."
"Most amazing of all," writes Parenti, "the OMB report showed that not a single cent of US tax money had been spent on Iraqi healthcare, water treatment or sanitation projects - though $9 million was dithered away on administrative costs of the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority. Most of the little that has been invested in healthcare, water treatment and sanitation has come from Iraqi oil revenues, managed for most of last year by the Development Fund for Iraq, a US controlled successor to the UN-run Oil for Food program. In all, the CPA spent roughly $19 billion of Iraqi oil money - on what exactly is not quite clear."
And we wonder why there is an 'insurgency.' We wonder why a nobody named Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as an Iraqi version of Thomas Jefferson, fighting the good fight against imperial usurpers. We wonder why so many Iraqis flock to his banner, pick up a weapon, and shoot Americans.
Sit in the dark for a year, be unemployed because all the jobs have gone to non-Iraqis, have no place to see your children schooled, have no place to bring your children if they get sick, drink water that tastes like something you squeezed into your toilet, and stand a good chance whenever you step outside of being shot by a sniper, blown up by a laser-guided bomb, or run down by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and you might think about picking up a weapon, too.
This is how terrorists and suicide bombers are created. Desperation is the seed, time is the fertilizer, and rage is the crop reaped by American soldiers sent far from home to die because they were lied to, as were we all.
This is, perhaps, the most galling aspect of the whole Swift Boat Veterans nonsense. It has distracted us from realizing that our children still burn in Iraq, while simultaneously insulting every veteran who was given a medal for service in action. It implies that medals awarded for service in Vietnam somehow do not count, which when taken to the end of the argument, implies that medals awarded for service anywhere do not count.
How many medals did George W. Bush earn to allow him to make this frontal assault upon those who served in his stead a generation ago, and those who serve now in the free-fire zone he placed them in with his deceptions?
When a person puts on the uniform of the United States military and swears an oath, that person is promising to sacrifice their life for their country. The only promise they expect in return is that their life not be spent for no good reason. That promise was broken.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 21:27
01 August 2004
Riverbend is back! And what excellent timing. I wanted to post something from someone outside the Green Zone, to balance my sister's post. Because while, as I said, I basically agree with all that she said, to be fair, she is in a relatively protected situation. And her letter does not really address the thing that this blog has been about - a truthful and unflinching attempt to apprehend the lives of other people in often appalling situations. Such as those described by Riverbend today.
"I get emails by the dozen from people crying out against the abduction of foreigners. Endlessly I read the lines, 'But these people are there to help you- they are aide workers…' or 'But the press is there for a good cause…', etc. What people abroad don’t seem to realize is the fact that everything is mixed up right now. Seeing a foreigner, there’s often no way to tell who is who. The blonde guy in the sunglasses and beige vest walking down the street could be a reporter or someone who works with a humanitarian group- but he could just as likely be ‘security’ from one of those private mercenary companies we’re hearing so much about.
"Is there sympathy with all these abductees? There is. We hate seeing them looking frightened on television. We hate thinking of the fact that they have families and friends who worry about them in distant countries and wonder how in the world they managed to end up in the hell that is now Iraq… but for every foreigner abducted, there are probably 10 Iraqis being abducted and while we have to be here because it is home, truck drivers, security personnel for foreign companies and contractors do not. Sympathy has its limits in the Iraqi summer heat. Dozens of Iraqis are dying on a daily basis in places like Falloojeh and Najaf and everyone is mysteriously silent- one Brit, American or Pakistani dies and the world is in an uproar- it is getting tiresome."
I think, or I hope, this also explains why I pray for my sister's safety even though she is in a place with powerful security and armed guards, not to mention air conditioning and cinnamon rolls and coffee. Because she is there trying to do good work, and it is necessary for Iraq to get through this time of being "mixed up", and the more Brits and Americans of good will and high moral character can be there to help, the better. Even though I agree with Riverbend that greater priority should not be given to deaths of Americans over the far more numerous deaths of innocent Iraqis, everyone gives greater priority to family. So my thoughts and sympathy and prayers are with both my sisters, Cindy and Riverbend.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 16:28
01 May 2004
Baghdad Burning's latest post is her stunned and furious reaction to the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib prison.
"All anyone can talk about today are those pictures... those terrible pictures. There is so much rage and frustration. I know the dozens of emails I’m going to get claiming that this is an ‘isolated incident’ and that they are ‘ashamed of the people who did this’ but does it matter? What about those people in Abu Ghraib? What about their families and the lives that have been forever damaged by the experience in Abu Ghraib? I know the messages that I’m going to get- the ones that say, 'But this happened under Saddam...' Like somehow, that makes what happens now OK... like whatever was suffered in the past should make any mass graves, detentions and torture only minor inconveniences now. I keep thinking of M. and how she was 'lucky' indeed. And you know what? You won't hear half of the atrocities and stories because Iraqis are proud, indignant people and sexual abuse is not a subject anyone is willing to come forward with. The atrocities in Abu Ghraib and other places will be hidden away and buried under all the other dirt the occupation brought with it."
Posted by Deb Ramage at 08:50
01 March 2004
01 October 2003
This is the follow-up to the "sheikhs and tribes" post in Baghdad Burning from Monday. It really should be called "veils and hijabs" rather than "cousins and veils" because the main point is a) that male cousins do not force Middle Eastern women to wear veils and b) Westerners often call a hijab a "veil" even though they don't look at all alike. And they conflate veils, burqas and other garments that are not even "Islamic" but simply the traditional modest dress of a particular culture. Read this blog, so you won't be in danger of making ignorant, culture-bound mistakes. I did, and I am a better person for it.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 20:06
29 September 2003
12 September 2003
Baghdad Burning has several really good posts today; I recommend it. I have had her on my blogroll for quite a while, but I just thought I would bring her to your attention today.
Posted by Deb Ramage at 19:38