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Iraqi professor: “Life became like a slow film in which everyone dies”

There is something curious about narratives on Iraq. They are always about a war or some catastrophe. If you were to reduce all these narratives into an Ur-narrative the result would be a universal tragedy of human folly. In such narratives, war ends only to give birth to another, ad infinitum. So why do I keep bothering myself with such big issues? I am no Cultural Policeman. After all, neither did I choose to be here, nor was I given the privilege to avoid witnessing this nightmare. Yet, there I was, a little man attentively listening to the roar of history silently sweeping over the ruins of a country forever doomed to be conquered by the nations of the earth, past and present.

Back in 2003, the madness and magic of the times had just broken loose after the dramatic Hollywood-like toppling of the dictator's statue in Baghdad and the endless chain reaction it started. Suddenly, we were faced with the full dread of that moment of existential impasse: the evaporation of the regime and all its apparatuses. Imagine that you wake up one fine April morning to find that all the cops, soldiers, Baathists, officials – everyone down to traffic officers and street sweepers vanished with a slight gesture from the hand of a mighty Yankee sorcerer. In truth, they simply left or took to hiding, fearing revenge or the impending meting out of American justice. Khaki clothes and weapons abandoned on streets were common sights, but they did not compare to the arresting scenes of children playing on abandoned ordnance and tanks. The thunder of air raids was silenced, except in the restless dreams of those same children.

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