Posted by Jeremy Brown
Zeyad, the Iraqi dentist who blogs from Baghdad at Healing Iraq, reports that fighting has moved into Baghdad. Zeyad finds himself at the heart of a very frightening situation and he blogs a first hand report that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up:
Fierce fighting has been going on in several areas of Baghdad for the last 4 hours. I was supposed to leave for Basrah this morning, as soon as I walked out of the front door I was face to face with ten or so hooded men dressed in black carrying Ak-47’s and RPG’s. They had set up a checkpoint right in front of our door.
We watched them from behind the door with my mother frantically trying to get us inside. There was an exchange of fire and someone was bellowing “Where are the National traitors? (referring to the National Guards) Let them come and taste this.” More shooting followed.
First, I think I can speak for all readers of this blog in saying I hope Zeyad and his family stay safe during this turmoil.
My next reaction, now that the wave of sympathetic fear has made its journey through my gut, is to zero in on the single phrase, among so many jarring phrases, that I am convinced characterizes what is going on now: ‘hooded men’.
Here in the U.S. even White northerners like myself don’t need to be reminded to be put off by the image of hooded militia running through residential neighborhoods looking for people to slaughter and terrorize.
Here is a look back at the ‘race riot’ in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921:
This happened in the racially and politically tense atmosphere of northeastern Oklahoma. The area was a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity at that time.
By June 1, white mobs had invaded the segregated black part of town and destroyed the Greenwood district, known nationally as the “Black Wall Street” for its economic success. Hundreds of people were killed; dozens of businesses, 1,256 homes, many churches and a hospital were destroyed, in an area covering 35 blocks. Estimates of the dead range up to 300. After the governor declared martial law, black people were rounded up by the National Guard and put into the baseball stadium. Several black families, such as Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher’s, fled for more peaceful cities.
Contrast the target of U.S. military operations then with the targets now. Again, Zeyad:
A jet fighter was now screeching over our heads and it let off some flares apparently in an attempt to scare away the ‘Mujahideen’. They left their positions for a while and slowly people started to come out. Parents nervously dragging schoolchildren behind them and youngsters who were undecided whether to move on or return home.
American troops now control all of Fallujah and have found extensive evidence of terrorist and criminal gangs using the city as a headquarters. Evidence was found of torture chambers, and video sets used for filming the execution of kidnap victims. Moreover, the body of a woman, thought to be foreign aid executive (Care International) Margaret Hassan, was also found in Fallujah. A video of her murder was recently released by her killers, and it appears that the killing was done in Fallujah. Without Fallujah as a “safe area” for keeping hostages, killing them, and getting away with it, the terrorists have to do their dirty work in cities where there is a strong police presence, and nearby American troops. That’s what’s happening in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities right now. The gangs are trying to control neighborhoods in these cities, and are not succeeding.
There’s no denying that the current flareup in the fighting is disturbing to read about and is a horror for the people involved in it. But I don’t see how anyone can deny that this is a struggle for the advancement of Iraq’s future as a free, potentially democratic state. This is a struggle that we have every reason to hope will succeed and, I think, much justification for being cautiously optimistic about.