Iraqi Blogger Riverbend’s 15 Lessons from a Decade of War Underscore Why War and Violence Solve Nothing
A scene from the Iraq War in 2007.
Photo Credit: US Military/Wikimedia Commons
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As Bostonians and American continue to reel from the bombing on Monday at the city’s world famous marathon footrace that killed three people and injured scores, one of the most famous bloggers of the Iraq War—a young Iraqi woman known as Riverbend—has returned after a six-year hiatus with a reminder that violence and war never solves anything.
Last week, on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. entry into Baghdad, the 33-year-old blogger wrote about the lessons she has observed in the past decade in her country, which she and her family fled. These lessons are a striking counterpoint and context for Americans to ponder—not just because our country led a war of choice in Iraq; but because the horror of the Boston attacks would be considered an everyday occurrence in Iraq.
What follows are Riverbend’s 15 lessons from a decade of war.
1. Life isn’t fair. Neither is death. “We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair- it takes the good people. Even in death you can be unlucky. Lucky ones die a ‘normal’ death… A familiar death of cancer, or a heart attack, or stroke. Unlucky ones have to be collected in bits and pieces. Their families trying to bury what can be salvaged and scraped off of streets that have seen so much blood, it is a wonder they are not red.”
2. A rich county can fall into poverty. “We learned that you can be floating on a sea of oil, but your people can be destitute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and children can be eating out of trash dumps and begging for money in foreign lands.”
3. Justice is a fable not a daily reality. “We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the private torture chambers.”
4. Selfishness and corruption rules. “We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.”
5. American taxpayers made some Iraqis rich. “We learned that it’s not that difficult to make billions disappear.”
6. Civilized society can easily collapse. “We are learning that those amenities we took for granted before 2003, you know- the luxuries – electricity, clean water from faucets, walkable streets, safe schools – those are for deserving populations. Those are for people who don’t allow occupiers into their country.”
7. Warmongers don’t stick around. “We’re learning that the biggest fans of the occupation (you know who you are, you traitors) eventually leave abroad. And where do they go? The USA, most likely, with the UK a close second. If I were an American, I’d be outraged... I’d stand in passport control and ask them, “Weren’t you happy when we invaded your country? Weren’t you happy we liberated you? Go back. Go back to the country you’re so happy with because now, you’re free!”
8. Militias are locked in cycles of violence. “We’re learning that militias aren’t particular about who they kill. The easiest thing in the world would be to say that Shia militias kill Sunnis and Sunni militias kill Shia, but that’s not the way it works. That’s too simple.”
9. The media fanned the flames of war. “We’re learning that the leaders don’t make history. Populations don’t make history. Historians don’t write history. News networks do. The Foxes, and CNNs, and BBCs, and Jazeeras of the world make history. They twist and turn things to fit their own private agendas.”