Tuesday, May 17, 2005

It Was a Fairly Quiet Day in Baghdad

17 May 2005. In Baghdad today, four clerics (three Sunni and one Shi’a) were assassinated. The bodies of two other Sunni clerics who had been abducted last week were found. A suicide car bomber detonated his vehicle in the Abu Cher market killing nine Iraqi National Guard troops and injuring twenty-eight civilians. Two engineering students were killed when a bomb (or rocket) struck their classroom at a local school. The dean of a high school in the Shaab neighborhood was assassinated. One judge, two officials from the Ministry of Defense and one official investigating corruption in the previous Interim Government were assassinated. In all, thirty-one dead, forty-two injured and seventeen abducted. Rumors abound in Baghdad about who is responsible for all the attacks but no one has claimed responsibility. And yet compared to some days in recent weeks here in Baghdad the number of dead and injured was fewer in number. So comparatively speaking it was a fairly quite day here in Baghdad. Children walked to their schools and people went to work. Shops opened for business and the seemingly endless parade of military, police and private security vehicles went about their business.

Imagine if these events took place in one day in Washington, D.C. or London, England. A state of emergency would be declared (Baghdad has been under a state of emergency for almost six months) and martial law would be imposed. Many civilians would probably stay home and some might leave the area. There would be nothing else on the media except coverage of the bloodshed. Life as normal would cease, as the populace would look to their government for leadership in bringing the chaos under control. The populace would demand that this complete breakdown of the social fabric be mended immediately. But eventually the populace would look for answers. Why did these horrible events transpire? What led up to this total meltdown of civil society? Who created this nightmare situation?

Why? What? Who? The 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the ultimate nightmare of any society as being “the war of the all against the all.” Such is the state of existence here in Iraq. When the U.S. led invasion tore away the façade of the state of Iraq a torrent of religious, ethnic, tribal and cultural tensions that had festered for generations was unleashed. I have not heard one person say that Saddam was a wise or revered leader. But I have heard many people say that while they lived under the threat of violence with Saddam, they prefer that life to the bloodshed, chaos and anarchy that surrounds them now.

No one seems to offer a solution that does not entail more guns, more restrictions on basic human rights, more soldiers, more barbed wire and concrete barricades, more “security” and less freedom. Sooner or later the insurgency will run out of suicide bombers and weapons. Sooner or later the ringleaders will be captured or killed. But what will remain will be one of most restrictive, oppressive police states in the world.

“Spreading freedom and democracy.” “The war of the all against the all.” It was a fairly quiet day in Baghdad.

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