Back on October 21, President Obama made the announcement that troops in Iraq would come home by the end of the year. A DC cynic, I didn’t think it would actually happen despite having voted for the President thinking he could do it. Surely, something would happen in Congress, messy economic policy fights would take precedence, blocks would be put up – I just couldn’t believe it.
Much to my delight the past few days have seen heartwarming footage of homecomings, vague hints of victory in speeches while highlighting grim death and injury tolls with financial costs attached, and appropriate thanks to the million plus who have served. No ridiculous banners, no ticker tape parades, but still a sigh of well-deserved relief for many Americans. From the 99% civilian population, we say thank you. And, no one better than Mrs. O to have your back:)
How some Republicans could think this a bad day, a bad idea, a failure, is literally beyond me.
Such a stark contrast to that 19th day of March 2003, memories of which came flooding back. I was in London, adjusting the antenna on our 1970s television set in our glamorous, shag-carpeted and freezing cold, student flat. Friends were clearly divided among the rooms. Our living room was angry, upset; the flat down the hall of Americans seemed much more supportive of the war, citing American power. We hadn’t voted for George Bush back in 2000, the first Presidential election for many of us. It didn’t bode well for our generation to start off with that political legacy and we knew it. My first Presidential vote wouldn’t be cast until a year later since I had only become a citizen after the first Bush victory. I vowed then and there not to vote for him as I ate my Sainsbury bread, cheese, and a pint of Strongbow.
The month before I had a prime seat to watch and participate in the anti-war protest. The BBC had stated it was attended by nearly a million people. I thought, naively, if millions around the world had opposed the horrible undertaking of another war, it wouldn’t happen. I had not actually completely opposed the siege on Afghanistan, despite my pacifist nature, understanding that attacking the first real place I knew as home required some sort of retaliation. Iraq was just unnecessary, unproven, unpredictable. There was a sick feeling in the room amongst the poli-sci students.
Once a place I had never thought about, never studied, I think I know names of more cities in Iraq than I do Wyoming. I can’t believe that after nearly nine years, the situation appears to be as similar as it is different in Iraq and actually worse in the States. Various reports of post-war Iraq have been filtering through the media over the past few days. I hope people don’t forget about the country we invested so much of our national resources into simply because there’s no American bloodshed to follow. Iraqis are still worried, still dying, building and still re-building. Still dealing with an American presence as well, with thousands of ‘contractors’ staying behind. Such a vague operational title, I’m wondering if their work will be as empty. It doesn’t make sense to have 10,000 Embassy-endorsed people doing…well, what will they be doing exactly?
The pictures of Baghdad and Fallujah certainly look more peaceful than before, but you can still see the fear and confusion in people’s eyes about their future. I want to say there is hope in some of their faces too, but it remains to be seen what will be done with that hope. In a year that’s seen so many fresh starts, so many uprisings, Iraq should certainly one of the most closely watched. Oil is always king in the Middle East, but will it actually reign supreme here? In a country with frequent power cuts and the remnants of bombs from years ago still in a shattered state, infrastructure will have to become reliable and cooperation, even reluctantly, would most have to exist – two crucial items that seem to be missing. Iran has certainly had a huge presence in their neighbor’s house for years, but the ‘guests’ are leaving now, leaving room for the neighbors to actually come over. Does it now mean Sunnis will be in the position Shiites were in for the past thousand plus years? I wonder if the borders will be more open now, for legitimate trade in goods and services. I wonder if a more stable economy could overcome socio-political differences as much as an economic downturn highlights them.
Where were you when the war started? What do you think will happen in Iraq? Would love to hear everyone’s stories!