IRAQ REFLECTION: Normal

in:

CPTnet
1 December 2005

IRAQ REFLECTION: Normal

by a CPT Iraq team member

[Note: The following reflection was written ten days ago by a CPTer no
longer in Iraq.]

I saw a headline on the Internet the other day. It read, "Iraqis seek
normalcy in the midst of chaos." I did not read the article, but I guessed
that it might describe some of the ordinary activities of an Iraqi
day--going to and from work, shopping for groceries, playing with one's
children, watching T.V. All of these "normal" things, in the midst of war
and chaos.

But the truth is, chaos IS normal in Iraq, and people live with it as best
as they can. Here are some examples of what has become "normal" in Baghdad:

When I went to visit my young friend A. last week, I found her in a state of
anger and grief. She fought back tears as she told me that her neighbor was
killed in the suicide bomb that shook the area a few days ago. "He had two
little children, twins," she said. "And a baby on the way. Why? Why do
they kill us?"

She answered her own question: "The terrorists came because they wanted to
kill Americans. But now all the people who die in the explosions are
Iraqi!" Then this playful sixteen-year-old, who loves music videos and
dancing, shocked me speechless with her words: "All of this is from Bush!
He has a black heart; he has no fear of God; he loves war. If I could, I
would stab him in the heart and drink his blood. By God, I would!"

It may seem strange to Westerners that A. does not just blame the suicide
bombers. But more and more, people's grief over the unrelenting state of
chaos is turning to anger and blame of the Western military powers, which
they recognize have provoked the influx of terrorists to Iraq. This is
normal.

My room had perfect ventilation the other day. It got a nice breeze,
because a mortar probably aimed at the Green Zone landed on our roof instead
and broke about half the windows in the apartment. It shattered four water
tanks and spewed shrapnel through the railing. Thank God, none of us was on
the roof at the time. But I think of all the families in this country who
have not been so lucky, whose little ones were caught in the crossfire.
This, sadly, is also normal.

How easily I get used to this state of "normal." I have to remember that
this new "normal" is just that --new. Before, Iraqis experienced the chaos
of economic sanctions, a repressive government, the 1991 war, and the
Iran-Iraq war. The terrorist bombs are a new chaos. On the other hand, the
state sponsored commando units, blanket detentions, and extra-judicial
torture and killings are both old and new.

People in North America always ask me what is the solution. The
constitution? The elections? Withdrawing the U.S. troops? While I believe
that some of these things (such as removing the U.S. troops) would be steps
in the right direction, I do not believe that any of the above will provide
a final solution. The only lasting solution is to promote nonviolent change
in the human heart. As long as we rely on might of arms and weapons for
"security," Iraq and the rest of the world will never be secure.

Both the oppressors and the oppressed--all of us-- need to transform our
hearts from easy violence to courageous nonviolence, from hatred and blame
to compassion, from greed and oppression to justice. And when we do
change--then maybe peace will be normal.