The Straight Word, Straight From an Iraqi Citizen, Final Installment
This is the answers to the questions below, submitted by you, my readers, have not been altered in any way. These responses are from straight from the mouths of, well, extraordinary Iraqi citizens, men who are willing to work to better their country.
Jay and Doc are brothers, and were both interpreters for my company during my time in Kirkuk. Along with their other brother, Bob, these three were the most outstanding three Iraqis I had the priviledge to work with. They were always punctual, motivated, enthusiastic, and prepared when we needed them to be. They truly want their country to succeed, and both their words below, and their actions on the battlefield are irrefutable proof of their patriotism, and I believe, representative of the main body of the Iraqi nation.
Jay, Bob, Doc; Shukran, A Salaam Alaaykum...Thank You, May Peace be Upon You.
You have forever changed my opinion of Iraq's good people, I count you among my brethren in arms,for you sweated and bled with us, so we could be safe, and you could be free.
Q. How do they see the future of Iraq in 10 years? Do they see a free country still growing or do they see a longer more drawn out fight for freedom between their own people?
A. Jay: I dont think a civil war will happen, because they have been trying to incite one for the last three years. Most people here are educated enought to recognize the dangers of that for this country.
[MDG] Do you still think it will be free in ten years?[/MDG]
Jay: Yes, I do.
Q. Are women being treated with any more equality now than they were before the fall? (All within religious guidelines I'm sure.)
A. Doc: Unofficially, its the same. It depends on the area, religion, and tradition. Ethnicity and religious affiliation has a affect. Some cities, suchas Baghdad, Dahok and Suleimania, it is more liberal, than say, Arbil or Mosul.
[MDG] What about Kirkuk??[/MDG]
Jay: Kirkuk is 'middle of the road' when it comes to the treatment of women. Ramadi and the Sunni triangle are the most 'conservative' where they have the least rights, along with Basra and southern Iraq.
Doc: Officially, Traditions take more precedence than the new law, but under the new law, they have equal rights.
Q. Do most Iraqis feel safer from random violence than they did before? (Not war related violece, but robbery, rape, etc)
A. Jay: It is worse than before. Saddam released all the criminals from all the jails before you invaded. He did it intentionally, because he knew that they would play a role in the insurgency. The terrorists are paying the common criminals to carry out the insurgency. Saddam knew they would help the terrorists, because the terrorists would pay them to set bombs or shoot rockets or mortars.
Q. Are Iraqi girls beginning to get the same educational opportunities that boys have?
A. They have always had the same rights to education. Nothing has changed in this regard.
Q. Is there anything that they have learned/gained from you guys (military) that you'll keep with them for their lifetime? (Culture, skills, knowledge etc)
A. Jay: Social skills...being around different people of faith, personality. We have leared to be tolerant of other people, and the knowledge that the regular American soldier is a good person.
Q. How do you view the world differently now than they did before?
A: Doc: We see the Americans in a different light. We saw the Americans as a 'bunch of jerks'. Now we see that the Americans are right. I want to keep working as an interpreter, because I believe in our cause. I believe in the way you (the American's and British) are dealing with the other countries.
Q. How do they want the people of the world to view them now?
A. Jay: There are a lot of people who think Iraqis are uneducated, and that we are always fighting each other, but that's not right. I just want to prove to the other world that the conflict here is POLITICAL, to the common man, the racial divides do not exist as large as they would lead you to think.
Q. What do they hope happens to Saddam? (put to death quickly, prison, long time waiting to be put to death, released and expelled, etc)
A. Jay: Exile is not an option. I don't want to think about Saddam. He is no longer in power, and that is the main issue. His punishment should be the rest of his life in jail, having to witness the growth of the nation without him, to see the people he repressed to take part in the affairs of state. I think he would suffer more seeing this country succeed. Death would be the endof his suffering.
[MDG] So you think it would be better to rub it in his face??[/MDG]
Doc: Death. There are still people who worship him, and want him to return to power.
[MDG] So you think as long he is alive, they will have hope that he will come back to power.[/MDG]
Doc: Yes, they will continue their activitiesuntil they know he is dead.
Q. If they could tell Saddam one thing, what would it be?
A. Jay: Why?
Doc: Any punishment you recieve could never measure up to the crimes you committed.
Q. Do they see the American and indeed the "Western" style of life as a threat to Iraqi's way of life.
A. Doc: We will retain our national identity, but we need their support, to take the good things. To learn from culture, technology, science, and such to improve our way of life, while still being myself. To share and aid in successes.
Q. Do they feel that they are Iraqi's first and whatever: tribal, religious, regional allegiance second. I guess what I'm after here is: Is there a strong Iraqi national identity?
A. Doc: I am from Iraq. Nowhere else. We are Iraqis, first and foremost. There is a STRONG national Identity.
Q. There are still a few people in America who believe we should not have gone into Iraq. What would your interpreters tell us to tell them?
A. Doc: They dont know the job that was done by the Americans. You did a very good job, and gave us our freedom.
[MDG]Some opponents of this war say itsa war for oil.[/MDG]
Doc: You deserve to be able to buy the oil, we know you are not stealing it. We are waiting for the country to become stable enough for the other civilian companies to come and help develop Iraq. We believe that Saddam was a threat to the world, and that the world is safer without Saddam in power."
Q. What did you think the Americans would be like before we arrived?
A. Doc: We knew you were coming to help us. We didn't think we were gonna steal, rape and pillage, or anything like that. Saddam spent a lot of time to make us think we were evil, to distort our view of America, but we didnt believe it. He showed us movies about your culture, to try and demean the US, but we knew it was just propaganda. It was like a miracle when you came here.
Q. What is his personal favorite moment with the Americans? (something like the tea party you participated in)
A. Jay: When we captured some bad guys who were kidnappers. The lady in the house told us that the bad guy was a kidnapper, on a general knock and search.
Doc: When you stop the bad guys. That is the best times we have, when you stop the people who want to stop the progress of Iraq.
Q. What is his personal worst experience with the Americans?
A. Doc: Bad attitudes toward the populace, sometimes a racist treatment, because of previous casualties, maybe.
Jay: We dont like seeing the AIF released after being caught and incarcerated.
Q. Once the insurgency is defeated and Iraq is peaceful, should the oil revenue go to the government, so they can waste it on subsidies and ill conceived projects and pork barrel, or should majority of it go directly to Iraqis in monthly payments?
A. Doc: We believe that the oil money should go to the people. It should go to government programs, and the excess that the government doesnt need to run itself, that the extra money should go to the people. Taxes arent required in that sort of arrangement.
(Just a note, and no insult to the submitter of the question...I wonder, since it is a predominately Muslim country, if they call "Pork Barrel" spending something else?!?!?!
This is my last post from the sands of Northern Iraq. Even though I may be on American soil when this actually is posted,it was completed and authored in Iraq.
To tease you about my next upcoming post of substance (I am sure there will be short, elated posts from my wife announcing my arrival in the USand finally at home), brace yourselves, you Anti-War folks, I have some words for you...and they are not nice.