First Impressions of Baghdad
You should take these first impressions of Baghdad with several grains of salt. The first being I have only been in the city for seven days and have never been to the Near East before. The next grain is that I have only been a CPTer for fifty days having just taken the training in Chicago in July and August 2004. The final grain is that I have no previous background in peacemaking, having spent the last ten years working for a natural foods company and before that having spent the remainder of my adult life as a musician.
“Do not lie and do not do what you hate.” (Gospel of Thomas v.6) This saying of Jesus, as is the case with so many of his teachings, seems so obvious. Yet the longer I consider it the greater its subtle truth becomes.
It has become increasing evident to me that after stripping away all the rationales for the US invasion of Iraq, what is left is the reality that the current U.S. Administration felt compelled to invade from a basis of hate. I can envision them saying, “Saddam is evil. We hate evil. Therefore we need to rid the world of this evil man and his cronies.” I can see that actions taken by Saddam could lead them to feel hatred towards him. He and his associates built palaces and enclaves where they lived in luxury while across the Tigris River was a slum where over a million residents of Baghdad lived in poverty and squalor. He maintained control of the country by devoting huge amounts of material resources to his military and security forces, a decision that allowed the infrastructure of the city to deteriorate. And most hateful of all was his use of imprisonment and torture to keep the population of Baghdad living in a state of fear.
My impression of Baghdad in my first seven days is that most of the American and Iraqi interim government officials have sequestered themselves in palaces and enclaves, which has served to disconnect them from the majority of the population. These officials are devoting a significant amount of material resources to maintain both military and contracted security organizations while the already marginal infrastructure continues to deteriorate. And in the continuing cycle of hatred –creating- more -hatred there are elements of the society that are using terrorist tactics to try to destabilize the American forces and the interim government. Their actions and the response by the American forces keep the population in a state of fear and uncertainty. An insurgent mortar round aimed at an American target might just as well fall into a residential area. If a person is unlucky enough to live in an area where insurgents are suspected of living, he or she might his or her own life and property are at risk when an Apache helicopter launches its vast arsenal of lethal weaponry.
Do not do what you hate, what you hate, what you hate, what you hate, ….