January 11, 2019
War Stories: An Iraqi Child’s Experience
I was only 2 years old when it began. War. Definition: a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/war) This wasn’t what it was, a war involved a fight between two parties but we were not given the opportunity to fight, however this is what they called it, the iraq war. When in fact, it was an invasion, a hostile invasion led by the most powerful and largest army of the world. An invasion, that led to the the causality of almost a million civilians, the displacement of 3 million Iraqis over the world, and destruction worth 60 billion American dollars. (https://www.businessinsider.com/iraq-war-facts-numbers-stats-total-2013-3) . March 20, 2003. The beginning of the end. The end of a corrupt government regime. The end of Saddam Hussein. The end of quiet nights and the end of my life in Iraq (and the beginning of my identity crisis)??? It began on March 20, 2003, when President W. Bush announced the beginning of military operation in Iraq claiming that the purpose of it is to ‘disarm Iraq, free its people and to defend the world from grave danger’. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/war-in-iraq-begins). What was the purpose of this war? What was the purpose of murdering thousands of innocent civillians? What was the purpose of the wrongful improsenmetn of innocent men at Abu Ghraib? What was the purpose of these war crimes? The United States of America falsely accused Saddam Hussein of the possession and construction of weapons of mass destruction and gave him 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war. Hussein chose the latter, which altered and changed the lives of 35 million Iraqis. I was one of them. I can clearly remember the grating sounds of American tanks rolled into Baghdad, when the suicide bombings began, when the air rides prevented us from feeling safe in our own homes. This continued for over a year until the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, however, removing Hussein was just a byproduct of another objective: dismantling the state and replacing it with a dysfunctional and corrupt semi-state that was occupied by U.S troops for the following decade. I should not have such disturbing memories at four years old but I still remember sitting in my father’s car mesmerized by the size of the tanks, I still remember the taped windows on our houses, I still remember fleeing to my hometown Babylon when the air raids were too dangerous. Ironically, the one thing I don’t remember was my own room in my own house, mainly because it was too dangerous for me to sleep in my own room. Yet, I still remember the checkpoints we had to go through to get home, to Baghdad. A place I was born, a place I had a home in, a place I had family in. A place tarnished by war and corruption, a place I haven’t been to since 2005. I won’t lie and say that I miss it because I don’t. According to my father, his sudden decision of leaving was because of me. He always tells this specific story about how I used to talk in my sleep and utter these exact words: the Americans are coming for us. I’d like to believe that I was primarily the reason why we left but I also think that he was tired of the inability to feel safe, living every day in fear not knowing whether we’d live to see the next day. I think as a child, I did not know what was happening around me then, I have gathered the majority of memories about it by relying on stories from my family, but I have seen the after effects of the war with my own eyes, I’ve seen the corruption, I’ve seen occupation and I’ve seen the disregard the U.S troops and the world has towards Iraqi lives. They claimed they were there to stabilize it and protect civilians, yet where were they when ISIS invaded half of country almost 4 years ago? They weren’t seen ‘protecting civilians’, infact their government was the one supplying the terrorist group with guns and bombs and claiming they did not wish to get involved. I wish the war did not affect me, I wish that I was still surrounded by family back home, I wish I did not feel like an alien wherever I went, I wish I belonged. My family and 5 million Iraqis were displaced to a variety of foreign countries in search of sanctity, and away from death. As in individual, facing such hardships forced me to be able to adapt easily, it forced me to be tough and independent, and it forced me to be cautious. I was one of the lucky ones, I left before it was too late, yet there are millions of children who are affected by war, children who were confronted with violence, fear, loss and pain too early, too soon. Essentially, I developed the mentality of not letting everything affect me, which led to some description of me as ‘detached to my emotions’ simply because I’ve seen so much bad things, to the point where not anything affects me, funnily enough, hearing bombs all night for 4 years led to my fear of fireworks and being uncomfortable with loud bangs. I’m not telling you this for sympathy, I’m not telling you this to end wars, because who am I to end wars? I’m telling you this because there will always be wars, but this war taught me everything about being a human being. It taught me compassion, it taught me about ordinary people who could be heroes, it taught me the meaning of sharing, but most importantly, it taught me love. Love. an intense feeling of deep affection. An emotion that increased even during the destruction, death and chaos. As Iraqis we share the same emotions towards our destructed country, as Iraqis we still stand together in the face of corruption, as Iraqi’s we still have hope, but is hope enough? Call me controversial but I can’t lie and say I don’t have a deep sense of hatred towards the U.S troops and their government, I can’t lie and say that I sympathize with them, because the whole world sympathizes with them. You can search the iraq war 2003, and the majority of the articles that will come up are regarding the soldiers and the PTSD they faced after the war, but do they ever mention the PTSD of the civilians? Their deteriorating mental health? You see pictures of dead American soldiers being brought back to their country in coffins with the American flag draped over them. They honour these soldiers but for what? Bombing us? Killing our civilians? Wrongly imprisoned our men? In fact it was estimated that between 150",000 to one million Iraqis, civilians, have died as a result of the US-led invasion in 2003. That number is in stark contrast with the 4",486 US service members who died during that same window of time. American soldiers were brought back to their countries with honor because they fought for it, then how is it fair that Iraqi bodies were dispensed in the streets with no honour whatsoever? We live in a society that has been a witness to so many wars, so much death, yet till when will be continue to serve as bystanders? Till when will we stay asleep, not paying attention to the atrociou tragedies occurring around the world. It’s not just Iraq, it’s Palestine, it’s Syria, it’s the Congo, it’s the Sudan. When will we wake up and save our children? There was this one picture of the war that struck with me the most.It was a picture of An Iraqi child jumps over a line of hundreds of bodies, in a school where they have been transported from a mass grave to be identified. It was rows and rows of piled bodies, covered with white sheets and each body had a number written on it because that’s all they were reduced to, numbers, human beings with no identity. And the reason why this pic resonated with me the most, is because, there were all these bodies, and a child, an innocent child around the age of 6 or 7 is jumping over them. A kid that young should not see such horrific images, a kid that young should not be surrounded by bodies, bodies that were dispensed in a an abandoned school. It saddens me to think that this school was filled with dead iraqi civilians rather than young children eager to learn, children that have their whole future ahead of them. It was us kids who were the victims of the dire political situation in our country it was us kids who were neglected by the United Nations, it was us kids who lived in violence and watched the American’s raid our houses while we were sitting in the living room watching Tom and Jerry. It was us children who suffered the consequences of the invasion of Iraq which is often referred to as a ‘mistake’, or ‘accident by the United States. It was a crime. And those who perpetrated it are living their lives in their safe counties, continuing their lives, and forgetting about is. Yet Iraq is worse that it was during Saddam Hussein’s reign, which is what America’s war wanted to achieve. They stripped us of our power and our safety and retreated without acknowledge the damage they caused. There is a moral imperative to help Iraqi children lead normal lives. The US-led war has caused tremendous damage to the public health infrastructure and to the social fabric in the country. Although the war against Iraq has ended, the ruthless attack against Iraqi children continues.
But it’s time to make a difference, it’s time to open our eyes and save our society, it’s time we protect our children, Because no child should be part of war. Ever.