Friday, March 30, 2007

The Corner of The Doomed

Baghdad, like many of the world's big cities used to be alive, day and night. In spite of wars, economic sanctions, brutal regimes, Baghdad used to compete with cities like New York, which is known as the city that never sleeps. All kinds of goods were available and all kinds of shops can be reachable. Pharmacies, shops, bars, bakkeries, clubs, offices, you name it, many stay open till late night and some close around sunset, but open very very early. The baghdadis have a habit of teh desire to go out and socialize with each other around the year. There is no speific season for that, and no specific age group for taht either. The afternoon time, before sunset is regarded as the peak. Women go for visits, they either sit together in the garden of their host, or in the living room. Neighbors go for short visit to each other, many have a habit of standing at the outside door of the house and keep on having different conversations. Young girls and boys used to go for a walk in twos or threes or fours to the shops near by and spend the time talking while walking around in the neighborhood. Kids used to gather in small groups too, each group play their favorites games at a corner of one of the houses at the cross-road of two branch streets in the neighborhood. The same goes for teenagers and even adults who made their own meeting points at similar corners close to their houses. In many neighborhoods, the corner of a certain group became like the property of that group. Everyone in the neighborhood knows that this corner is where that group always meet. It was not hard for mothers to look for her son, in this case, because she knows that her son is with his group at that particular spot. During secondary school, I had my own group too, and we had our specific corner to meet, talk and spend time with each other from the afternoon to late hours of the night.

We used to call it ‘the corner of the doomed’, or ‘the corner of guys with bad luck’. The reason for me and a number of boys from the same neighborhood used to call our meeting point like this simply and generally because we considered ourselves at that time to be possessed with bad fortune regarding life and future. We had dreams of the future, but we were certain that our dreams were far from being reachable. However, we never considered ourselves as pessimistic or desperate or anything similar to such, and we were determined to enjoy every minute we spend with each other. One of the main events took place, which made an impact on the way our group made was when we graduated from secondary school. In Iraq, joining university in certain study field depends on the grades someone makes in the final baccalaureate exams. All of us studied very hard, and we had our expectations of the grades we might get from the final exams, but none of us did get the study field we dreamed of.

The person who came up with the name ‘corner of the doomed’ or ‘corner of guys with bad luck’ was the most outspoken guy among us, Hasan. He was a very tall, had a dark skin, with very tired dark brown eyes and curly hair. His father died during the Iraq-Iran war, an event that devastated him and his family altogether. He was not only the most outspoken person among us, but also the one who always comes with the most hilarious jokes. In fact he used to throw jokes in the middle of any conversation that made us explode laughing.

Omar was another guy in the group. He was a very short thin guy, as if he is ill or something. When people see him they wonder if he ever ate food in his life, but in fact Omar was a guy with a huge appetite. He was Hasan’s closest friend, we all had great friendship with each other but Omar and Hasan were like blood brothers. They also laugh a lot, and find any opportunity to have fun. Omar was an extreme person in the way he really manipulates any kind of conversation to make it laughable.

Mazin, was the contrast to Omar and Hasan regarding size! He was the fat boy with baby face, and he was known for his bad temper. He was a type of a guy who likes to show off and tell strange stories which for the rest of group were a little bit over the top of reality – sometimes exaggerated. Despite that, everyone loved him, because there was no harm coming from him with such stories.

The fourth guy was Zyad, a very handsome blonde guy, with little freckles on his cheeks and under his eyes, which made his blue eyes like glowing because of the shades these dark freckles were making. He was always with roasted sunflower seeds in his pockets. Zyad was a new guy in the group, one year only before joining our group since his family moved to our neighborhood. His father is Iraqi, whom I have never seen him, only once – he is always out for work, and his mother was from another country. Mazin and Omar introduced Zyad to the group and from the first moment he was like we know him for years. However, Zyad was most of the time busy with his family, so we don’t see him that often compare that with the other guys. His family depended on him a lot for shopping or bringing them from a place to the other. Sometimes he sneaks minutes before going out of home, and have a little talk with us while his mother, sister and little prepare to get out and wait for him in the car.

In addition to the five of us, there was a boy called Nebeel who used to join us for a little period of time. He was the neighbor of Zyad. From the beginning we all realized the real reason behind Nebeel’s desire to join our group. Nebeel used to hang out with another group of boys, much younger in age. He wanted to prove to them that he is a man and has been accepted by older guys like us in the neighborhood. In addition, Nebeel was the eldest among his brothers and sisters, and his father has put a lot of ego in him, which turned into a sort of arrogance, too much for a boy in his age! It didn’t last that long, unfortunately, for Nebeel to realize that he was not welcome, and gradually he started to pull himself out of the group and get back to his old group. He hated us for that!

There were other guys from the neighborhood who joined us and didn’t like our company. Some stayed longer than the other, but the five of us remained as the permanent members of the doomed boys!

After the end of the final baccalaureate exams we thought that we should take care of our health and do some sporting: by go jogging, doing exercises using weights and other types of exercises. I noticed how Mazin was the most motivated among us, because he was thinking of losing weight. Omar and Hasan were doing it for fun more than anything else, Ayad did not like the idea that much, but he joined us. There were two other guys from our neighborhood, both named Mohammed, wanted to do the jogging part with us, and a cousin of mine who is obsessed with sport and fitness also joined. Every night, at around 10 or 11PM we used to meet at the door steps of my house, with shorts, t-shirts, tracksuits and sport shoes. We used to go jogging from my house towards the main street, run outside our neighborhood and around it for one hour (sometimes more) then back to the same spot. Each one of us managed to bring fitness tools and gadgets with him. We used to put all of them together in the garden of my house before the jogging and when we finish jogging we take them out and begin doing exercises. We kept on doing that almost for the whole summer before stopping due to being occupied with the papers and procedures of enrolling ourselves into university.

Omar was very proud of his father’s new car, a big American milky Chevrolet. One evening we decided to go for a ride around Baghdad at night. It was the five of us, plus other guys from the neighborhood and a cousin of mine. In that case, Omar’s father car was not enough for all of us, so I took my car, Zyad took his car and we drove through the gorgeous streets of Baghdad. We went to Al Karrada, to Al Mansoor, through the highways around Al Ghadeer. We lost each other somewhere near Zeyyone district, but we found each other on Palastine Street where Omar parked his car. Zyad was parking behind him. All of them were out of their cars, the music of Adel Ugla’s ‘choby’ was coming out loud from Omar father’s car and all of them were dancing. I stopped my car behind Zyad’s and joined the dancing party till the song finished and like children we jumped back in our cars after deciding on the next stop. We went to a small café in Al Wazeerya, which opened recently at that time. It was around 1am and all of us decided to drink fruit cocktails. It was refreshing on that hot summer night. Afterwards we decided to take another ride in Al Adhamiyah, some thought of having a mixed grill in the open area opposite the mosque of Abu Haneefa, but we decided that it was too late so we continued our way back to our doomed corner. Each one of us parked their cars in the garage of their houses and rejoined the group for another hour before one after the other start yawning and the chitchat becomes less and less.

We love music, so much! We used to exchange audio and video tapes of different kinds of music. Mazin and Hasan shared with me love for hard-rock and heavy metal music, but they were not die hard fans for such music genre as I am. Zyad loves Turkish music and pop music of bands like A-Ha and Modern Talking. Omar was more into pop Iraqi music, such as of Adel Ugla, Ismael Al Farwachy, Raed George and others. We used to sit either in one of our cars and listen to an album or someone brings a small stereo player (mostly it was Omar) and listens to the music we love. Sometime, we used to go to each other’s houses when all family members are out. We spend a nice evening together listening to music and chitchatting about everything till we hear the main door open or notice the lights of the car signaling us to call the night off. I remember how Hasan once asked us to come to his house after his family went out to visit his aunt. Omar has just got a copy of the first Adel Ugla album and Hasan wanted us to go to his house and listen to it. While the music was playing we were staring at each other with astonishment because of the nice music arrangements and the melody of the songs on that album. The same thing happened on a number of occasions at Omar’s house, especially when his father is out with his new wife – Omar’s mother died in an accident when he was a little child.

Speaking of music, Hasan was very thrilled when he bought his new guitar from a relative. He was so eager to play western music such as of the Eagles, but he also wanted to play Iraqi songs of Adel Ugla and Ilham al Madfay. He asked me one afternoon to bring my guitar and meet at Mazin’s house with the rest of the group. We sat in the garden and we tried to play. After a little, Hasan could not hide his great frustration when discovered how bad quality his guitar was made of. He stopped playing, turned the guitar quickly on its side, and began playing with his fingers the rhythm of the song I was playing on my own guitar. We laughed very loud of the speed he turned the guitar into a percussion, he shrugged, a big smile on his face and said “why I am not surprised? Aren’t we the guys with bad luck?”

During summer we decided to go to the forests of Mosul, in the north of Iraq. We decided to go by train. This time, two other friends from the neighborhood joined us. It was a wonderful trip in the meaning of the word. At night we took taxis to Baghdad central station, we wanted to take the night train so we arrive early in the morning, take a tour in central Mosul and from there we go to the forests. There were no empty seats, because the train was packed with soldiers either going back on leave or re-joining their units somewhere. We sat on the floor between two compartments, the seven of us, like in a small cage, no one was comfortable with the positions each one was taking, but we didn’t care, we were just happy. It has been years, many years since that trip, but I will never forget our happiness. The boys’ eyes were sparking with joy, with the feeling of freedom, and of friendship. We started talking; making jokes, sharing the food we took with us, laughing at each other. Then we started singing and clapping, our voices became louder and louder when suddenly the glass door of one of the compartments opened, and a huge guy storming into us. He had a thick long moustache to each side of his chin and wearing dark olive military uniform. His face was steaming with anger, and with his teeth showing the level of that anger he said: if you are not going to stop making noises, I will wipe each one’s head with this metal floor. WE WANT TO SLEEEEEEP, for God’s sake!” we looked at each other with shock, silennnnce, and when the angry soldier left, we started singing again, but the singing was like whispering and the clapping was like touching the tips of fingers, which even made us laugh hysterically.

We arrived around 6am in the morning. We were so hungry and wanted to have breakfast. We went to a small public café. There was an old man wearing traditional dress sitting at a very small metal table drinking tea. He looked at us with disgust, I don’t know why! The guys noticed him too, but didn’t pay attention to him, but from time to time one of the guy’s checks out the old man: he was still staring at us with hatred! We asked the man standing and working behind the counter if he has any breakfast to serve. Immediately the old man snapped at us and said: we don’t have anything, go away! We realized later that the old man maybe the owner of that café and maybe seven people coming at once on an early morning is something the café couldn’t handle. Maybe we were wrong and the man didn’t like strangers!! We went to another café and ordered what we call in Iraq “laham ib ajeen” (like a small pizza with minced meat on it and rendered with some spices). We had to wait for 20 minutes till the fist batch came out. We were seven and the order at least two or three of Laham ib ajeen for each. However, no one did like the food, neither the tea they served. We didn’t care because we were hungry.

After some time roaming the streets of beautiful Mosul till the afternoon we decided to go to the forests. The Mosul forests are a huge area alongside the river Tigris with scenes beyond imagination. We walked for almost an hour trying to find a nice place to sit. We found one on the banks of the river, and we could still see from a very long distance the many trees of one of Saddam’s palaces hiding in between. We decided to go for a swim before eating. One of the guys who joined us on that trip didn’t want to. He decided to sit and enjoy a nice cold drink, and watch for our stuff while we were swimming. After few minutes I had enough of swimming, splashing water at each other, and doing water-wrestling, came out of the water, took a t-shirt and sat opposite my other friend. We heard a movement and tens of cows came out of the forest’s trees heading towards the river and alongside its banks. Some of the cows remained in the water for a few minutes, cooling down or something and the guys were in the middle of all this… we could see from a distance how there eyes were wide open staring at our direction and around them. They didn’t know what to do. They were like paralyzed inside water covering them till chest. They didn’t move until the whole flock passed by entirely after around ten minutes. The big laugh began when they came out; the water at that spot became dirty because of the cows, so when Omar came out there were some ‘strange objects’ stuck to the sides of his thighs. We were laughing at the bad luck that made us swim at that moment in time and at that spot in particular.

Anyone knows Mazin knows also that he sometime disappear for a day or two. Sometimes he just disappears for a week, especially when he has exams. However, one time no one saw Mazin for almost a month. We got worried so Omar and Zyad decided to go to his house and ask his family about him. His mother came out, she told the guys that Mazin is at a relative house outside Baghdad. Yet, no one of us did buy that, especially with the strong feeling all of us had that Mazin didn’t go anywhere, not even didn’t leave the neighborhood. Even one of the guys told us a couple of days later that he saw Mazin in the car with his father! They even said that Mazin was trying to hide himself from the rest of the group when the car passed by! We were like between laughing at the situation and angry because we didn’t know why he was behaving in that way. After almost two months (I think it was more than that) Mazin suddenly appeared! It was not Mazin we know, as one of the guys put it “this is half Mazin”, because of the enormous weight he lost. We realized that he wanted to come out with a different look, and surprise everyone with this new look. In fact, Mazin did not only change physically, he is also changed the way he talks and deals with things. He was calmer and more subtle. In the beginning such a change was strange for us but later we got used to it, especially when from time to time he is back to his hot temper.

We used to talk about everything and anything. We used to talk a lot about English language and translation or words, especially related to songs lyrics or sentences from a certain movie. We used to make fun at the way some movies were subtitled. Politics and criticizing the regime of Saddam was also one of the topics, but it was a sort of hush-hush discussion.

We used to talk about girls, but we never talked or discussed or shared issues about our own girlfriends. We knew that Omar was in love with a girl, but he never mentioned her, not even let us knew where she is from (our neighborhood or lives in another). We were sure that Mazin had no girlfriend, and he was the most outspoken about that subject among us. However, everyone in the group knew about Hasan’s love for a Kurdish girl used to study with him at college. They were very close friends, even after their graduation, they kept on seeing each other from time to time till the moment she was engaged. It looked like love from one side! He couldn’t do anything about her engagement, especially that he was not ready for any commitment like marriage at that time, in particular after joining the army, so financially was not possible to marry a girl and make a family.

Part of our dreams were fulfilled by doing different crazy, funny and sometimes childish things, but like many guys on this planet, we had many more dreams and things we wanted to do, but sadly most of them were shattered, especially when we graduated from the university: we had to serve in the army. The corner of the doomed came to end gradually when some of us, in my case for example, had to join units very far from Baghdad, where I can only be back home for 7 days leave every 21 days. The army service period marked the gradual end of the corner of the doomed, indeed. We tried to fight the situation and be there when we can, but it was not complete like before, it was either one or two guys from the whole group were missing. We complained about it and we talked about it. We tried to find a solution, but there was no solution. At the end, the distance became greater. After a year in the army, the burden of reality started to show on our faces. We used to meet from time to time, but the eyes could tell; there was the same spark of hunger for life, but like before. We were not the same young men we used to be. Sometimes I thought that the daily meetings in the afternoon hours were the driving force that kept us together, and when these meetings became less and with less people, the whole group began to fall apart. But when I think of it more deeply, I come to the conclusion that we all shared dreams and when we began to see each dream of each person vanish one after the other, we realized that it was over. Our dreams were shattered because they were replaced by nightmares created by reality. That was our fate.

After I left Iraq, I kept in contact with some of the guys and with others who can bring me news about the doomed boys. Last I heard was that Mazin have been busy arranging his papers to leave Iraq, later I heard that he settled down in Amman, Jordan, but years later, I heard from some people that he went back to Iraq and married his cousin, and that he is still living with his parents in the same house. Zyad and his family moved away from our neighborhood shortly before I left Iraq, and from time to time he used to come and visit us. Years went by before I heard that he and his family are living in Turkey. Omar, gradually stopped coming to the doomed corner. Even no one heard of him after the second year followed graduation from university. The reason was that with the help of his father, he managed to serve his military time in a military industry institution on the outskirts of Baghdad. He used to serve long night shifts often, so he comes back at dawn time and sleeps for the rest of the day till the afternoon, wears his uniform and before sunset join his unit again.

The last person I saw from the group before I left Iraq was Hasan. It was on one night while I was driving my car. It was dark, so I couldn’t recognize him in the beginning. I stopped and asked him to get in. He was very happy to see me after that time, but he looked extremely tired and horribly sad, like someone with great burden possessing him. One thing didn’t change in him; throwing jokes in the middle of the conversation. He told me that his unit was in Baghdad, luckily, but he was threatened of a transfer at any minute because of some issues. However, that was not the real reason made him looked so stressed. Hasan was in love with the “wrong woman” like he put it! He met that “gorgeous woman” on street when her car was broken. He helped her and they became good friends, which was developed into a relationship, very deep one. It was like going through a beautiful dream in a harsh reality, but when they realized that reality, the impact was painful. In fact the consequences for this relationship coming out of its secret nature were extremely hazardous, because the woman was the mistress of one of the closest aide to Saddam Hussain himself at that time, and have one of the highest positions in the government political hierarchy! I was shocked, I couldn’t believe my ears, and I asked him if this story was one of his jokes, or that woman was pulling his leg, but he swore on his father’s grave that his lover was not lying, he even went with her to ‘her house’. After hours of talking he told me that he doesn’t know what is right and what is wrong; on one hand he loves her, and on the other he is so afraid of the situation. At the end of our conversation I asked him to keep in touch, to see each other more, and to think rationally about the whole situation. That did not happen, we didn’t see each other again, but I heard years later that he is still living with his family

The corner of the doomed was not only a place where young boys used to meet and have fun, making jokes and talk about things they love. Now and after all these years, the corner of the doomed became part of my memories, a reference to how our personalities and habits developed. Sometimes I wonder what my feeling will be if I travel now and go to that spot!! If the five of us meet now, at that spot, after all these years, will it be the same?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Four Years Ago

It’s been four years
since bombs fell from the sky!
Signs… to be liberated
from the demon that plagued the nation.
Children will have a shinny future.
Happy life to come, for the population

When the invasion of the United Satetes on Iraq began four years ago, I called my cousin in Baghdad. He described to me the magnitude of the bombardment, and how he and his family were terrified of the events to come. He told me the sound of the explosion is so loud that almost tear up his ears… “It has a different sound if we compare it with the bombings during the 1991 war… The impact is shaking… the bang it makes when it reaches the ground is deafening”. Well, that was the awe and shock the media kept on telling from the mouths of the US administration, but it was the Iraqi people who got it, not their brutal regime.

Betrayal is the reason, some say!
Others did not care
They’ve been trapped in the fire bay
Leaving behind their uniforms
Thrown into the water
Left lying there on the floor
Melted down within the crowd of frightened society
It is the best and only way to do

Not all of the people I was sitting with were happy with the pictures shown on 9 April 2003 of Iraqis gathering around the huge statue of Saddam in Al Firdous square with US tanks surrounding them and troops assisting them to bring that statue down. Actually, we all had mixed feelings; some were in shock of how easy Baghdad has fallen, some was sorry because it took an invasion to get rid of a brutal dictatorship, and some were relieved because the moment had come when they became sure enough that Saddam and his regime was gone, for good. However, when the American soldier put his country’s flag on the statue, agony filled up the hearts, and tears came rolling down from people’s eyes!

From the deep of the darkness
masses came out with rage.
Tired eyes, but full of joy
Burning pictures with breath of relief.
No trace of the demon
He ripped off the country and vanished
Strangers landed with eyes focused
And fingers trembling on the trigger
They kept on watching the country’s violation
Saluting chaos, except for the black gold mine

The whole country, its past, present and the unknown future has been looted immediately after the war ended. The looting was enormous, with no mercy burning, smashing, breaking, and even killing too place. The national museum, the central bank, presidential palaces, grocery shops, public libraries, the main TV station building…etc all were targets of looting, sabotage and revenge!

People in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq started to feel the fear of events to come. They have been victims of Saddam’s adventures and tyranny for decades, but they also realized for years to come that they became victims of different kind; this time they became the victims of chaos, invaders, terrorists and different militia groups. In spite of such horrible feeling, love for life remained an Iraqi instinct. If anyone wants to learn a lesson on survival in life, then he or she must have an Iraqi as their teacher. There are many examples of that: I was happy to see during the first months followed the end of the war ordinary people going to Saddam’s palaces and transform them into public parks. Such a thing has been noticed in Mosul, north of Iraq. I wonder if this still the case, because of what I heard that all these presidential palaces became either checkpoints or bases for US forces, they became government compounds.

For four years that followed the occupation Iraqis saw many new faces come to their country and go; people from big western enterprises, or groups of pilgrims traveling to holy shrines, or entrepreneurs from all corners of the earth who decided to try their chances thinking that Iraq with its economic potential can be their golden opportunity ever, spies, diplomats, medical groups..etc It didn’t take that long for many of those to realize that Iraq was far from becoming the flourish and stable country within the timeframe they estimated. Many ran away, many got killed, many were kidnapped and then released, and all that due to the increasing violence taking over every part of the country. Organized crimes, the flow of terrorists, and resistance against the occupier, the actions of the occupier, all were sources of death and sorrow. Around that time and until now the “smashing doors and storm in” has become the most familiar method to arrest the old and young, men and woman alike.

I was shocked not long after the war ended when I saw an interview on TV with a woman who was sitting on a sofa in the middle of a wrecked living room. Broken doors and smashed cupboards, clothes and books shattered on the floor around her. The woman was crying while telling the story of how the US forces stormed into their house and arrested her son and husband.

The son of that woman is one of my closest friends from childhood days.

Hail for freedom
Liberators bring humiliation with them
Dogs are barking
Belts and wooden sticks in their hands
Soldiers smiling
At the sight of degradation

Then the Abu Ghraib torture scandal took place. No one will ever write about the past four years would for a minute forget these pictures of terrified prisoners being humiliated when they have been forced by their liberators to pause naked in different positions. The whole case has been categorized, according to the US government, as an isolated incident uncharacteristic of American actions in Iraq! Still, no Iraqi will ever forget that the people who liberated them from the humiliation of their tyrant did the same to them. This incident followed by more, but committed by British forces in Basra. In the years that followed death squads, criminals and militias of all sorts committed more atrocities, which reached levels beyond imagination; girls were raped, men have been tortured, families were either executed at once or burned alive in their own houses.

Hail for democracy
Free to choose the leader
He will be the guide
he will be the preacher
Proud of the drying ink on my finger
Will it be a bright and future?
Or is it just a brainteaser?

Happiness did not last long when the opportunity has been given to Iraqis world wide to choose their government for the first time in their history, because of the way political parties behaved and the way political alliances have been formed. The majority of these political parties followed a path based on sectarian and ethnic grounds. I don’t blame them, because this how the first government has been formed in the post-war period and remained based on the same principle. On one hand, the elections proved to be successful only from one aspect; when Iraqis challenged terrorists’ threats and went to voting poles - Iraqis showed the whole world again their love for life instinct and their ability to survive, but they added to that another quality: their determination to build a better future for them and for their country. On the other hand, I, like many others talked to did not consider the elections entirely successful, because of the way different political parties conduct before and during the elections campaign: there is who boycott the process, another decided to take part later, a third decided to form some sort of an alliance with the wrong party, another decided to take the opportunity to press on separation from the homeland…etc

After the war ended in 2003 and until last elections, three Iraqi governments either were appointed by the US or have been freely elected. None has proven to be efficient or capable to handle the situation in a country devastated by war and violence. Some put the blame on the prime minister by being weak or ba’thist or bias to the Shiite majority on the account of other ethnic or sectarian groups. Some say that the prime minister is a good person but the people around him are giving the government a bad name because of corruption, black-male, secret torture of detainee, humiliation of people on check points and inside their houses…etc

The funny and frustrating thing is when we suddenly hear or see (on TV) that one of those politicians leaving Iraq and become in a semi-hiding situation in another country, and that he will continue the struggle and effort for his beloved country men and women!

2005 and 2006 were the years of grand exodus for Iraqis who escaped threats, kidnapping, killing, torture and blackmail. The majority of them left to neighboring countries such as Syria and Jordan and many thousands to Egypt, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. Big numbers of my relatives were among people headed and stayed in Syria. Some of those relatives went back to Iraq after few months, especially when they heard about the progress of Baghdad’s new security plan. Others remained in Syria, because of their children who already enrolled in Syrian schools. Sadly, some of my relatives did not escape inevitable death: A female cousin of mine died in a horrible car accident last year on the highway between the Syrian-Iraqi borders. She left Iraq with her husband, because of fear from the violence consuming people’s lives on daily basis. I remember her as a gorgeous little girl when I was in Iraq, with her gorgeous face, her white skin like clean ivory, and her cute little curls of her dark brown hair. She was 19 years old.

Despite the sorrow that engulfed Iraq, there were some happy moments related to the events took place during the past four years, but like many other occasions and events I mentioned before, happiness has never been completed. Happiness is like a very hasty visitor for Iraqis – Ilham al Madfaý’s song can apply perfectly to the way Iraqis live. However, I regard the capture of Saddam is one of my happiest moments ever, yet, I was terrified of the thought of him dying in prison like Slobodan Milosevic’s of Serbia before justice takes place. However, he stood trial and was sentenced to death. Was it a happy moment? Yes, but once again this happiness was doomed because of the “Muqtada… Muqtada…” chanting and all the fuzz about hanging him on the first day of the Eid.

I have a picture of the world
Its rules and regulations
written deep down in my fantasy
achieving them is the ultimate ecstasy
It’s my sacred obligation
Are you with me?
Or shall you be against me
Its for you to have the choice!
These are the rules of my sanity

On its fourth anniversary, President Bush of the United States did not come out with something new in his speech, he asked his people for more patience, though. He reiterated that victory needs time, and that “the situation in Iraq is getting better” and “we are making progress” in Iraq! I wish to believe that, but when two third of the Iraqi people feel unsafe after four years followed the US invasion, the only conclusion I can take is that progress in the eyes of the American president is far from been translated into reality on the ground.

This US administration kept on demonstrating one thing with perfection: Miscalculation! from the initial planning for the invasion and until this very moment: the Bush administration’s planning and implementation for this dangerously expensive adventure was simply based on past experience that goes back to the 1991 war. I am wondering if Bush, the father, was also present during the stages of putting plans for the war (there are no plans for the post-war, to be specific). One of the first actions taken were by the Pentagon; by establishing a new entity they called it “The Office of Humanitarian and Reconstruction Aid”. Its sole purpose was depending on two factors: the first factor is the Iraqi people. The Office of Humanitarian and Reconstruction Aid was to provide tens of thousands of tents for Iraqis fleeing their homes when the war begins i.e. provide shelter. The second factor to gather the thousands of Iraqi soldiers who will be captured or surrender to the allied forces, putting them in groups and enroll them into reconstruction projects or workshops planned for implementation after the war machine goes to silence. However, reality showed that neither thousands of Iraqis left their homes, nor thousands of soldiers surrendered to the allied forces. Another demonstration of perfect miscalculation when efforts by the US administration to form the Iraqi government immediately after the end of the war. One of the biggest mistakes was to form a government in Iraq based on any ethnic or sectarian ground. This move was solely supported and has been supervised by the notorious Paul Bremer. The consequences for such a move made Iraq on the verge of a civil war at any minute because power has been given to a bunch of people who either believe Iraq is Sunni or Shiite, and the good person among them either was killed (or threatened to be killed) or forced to leave the country for good.

One might wonder if the countless miscalculations by the US administration over the past four years gave reason can be regarded as the direct (or indirect) cause to rapture its own alliance of the willing, as President Bush calls it. With more opposition to the war in Iraq, countries like the Netherlands, Spain and Italy already withdrew from Iraq! In the meantime, the government of Tony Blair of Britain has brought some calm to the increasing angry voices among its people when announcing the withdrawal of some thousand troops out of Iraq in the coming months. In addition, this alliance might also cost some government leaders their political careers, such is the case with Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who already faced charges submitted by families of veterans for sending troops to Iraq: According to these families, the Prime Minister violated the constitution that indicates that Danish troops can only be involved in military combat when a either a threat to Denmark as a country exists, or when the United Nations gives permission for such an involvement.

The death toll kept on rising horrifically in 2007: Violence is eating up the population in markets, inside their houses and on the road. Violence is eating up soldiers who traveled thousands of miles through air and sea to fight and get killed based on lies and for no honorable purpose. Violence is eating up souls of brainwashed youth crossing the borders to kill others in the name of Islam, or to let be killed, thinking that suicide is the same as martyrdom.

Are we playing the role of God?
To judge, never be judged?
How can we lay down the rails…
And watch them fall out of the edge?
Cradle of all the civilized
Became a hole for skeletons to rot
Blind fighters from west and east
Trapped in red and fatal mud
Yet, Tigris will wash evil out
And the Euphrates smiles at the site
of the Gathering of the lovers of life
Cuddling with the seeds of faith
Through their sweat, with their tears
Garden of Eden is green again