War has become an everyday reality for humanity. Since 2001, the United States has been given a clear pass to start wars anywhere. It has drones and surveillance all over the world. The sovereignty of states across the globe means nothing to this global capitalist machine, which causes chaos and destruction everywhere it goes. One of these places is Iraq.
I have become friends with members of the growing Iraqi refugee community in the U.S. I traveled with one Iraqi refugee to Chicago to meet other Iraqis who had to flee their homeland due to war and met quite a few who had been shot by stray bullets. A Kurdish Iraqi I know still bears the scars of a car bomb on the right side of his body.
Wanting to hear an Iraqi perspective on the war that is still ravishing their homeland, I asked two Iraqis about their experiences. Because of their fear of the U.S. government, their names have been changed here to Abu Malik and Aziz.
Aziz is an Iraqi Turk from Kirkuk, an ethnically diverse city in the north of Iraq whose population is a mixture of Kurdish, Turkish, Arab, Sunni and Shi’a.
Aziz, a teenager when the war started, recalled his experiences in Iraq before the war: “In 2002, I went to Baghdad from Kirkuk for a trip. It was beautiful. I didn’t see what I see now, destroyed buildings and everyone carrying guns in the streets. It was wonderful.”
‘Life was good in Baghdad’
Abu Malik, nearly 20 years older than Aziz, talked about growing up in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. “Life was good in Baghdad. It was the best place to grow up. Yes, you had to be aware of the government officials, but it was a good life for us. We were allowed to move around as we pleased.”
Abu Malik described the initial bombing of Iraq: “I was home with my brother. My mother, father and sisters had left Baghdad, but we stayed to watch the house. We didn’t see any military, only bombing and bombing. They first hit government buildings. After one week…”
He looked to Aziz and told him something in Arabic. Aziz translated: “After one week, his brother was killed. He was not military or terrorist. He was standing on the roof of the house trying to see what was going on. He was shot 30 times and then hit by shrapnel.”
Asked what it was like before the war started and everyone was talking about weapons of mass destruction, Abu Malik responded: “At first we were all happy, Saddam was going to be out of power, and at first when the soldiers came in, we were all happy. But then the civil war started and the street wars.”
Were sectarian issues a problem under Saddam? “Under Saddam there was never really any conflict, and things were calm. Every now and then there might be a problem, but it would end very quickly. In Baghdad we all lived together, Sunnis and Shi’a. We did not hate each other. Baghdad is hard to control. It’s a very big city. The Americans could not control it. That’s why there was looting and street wars when the soldiers came in.”
What imperialism has wrought
Abu Malik said that from 2005, when the major civil war started, to 2009, he and his family would come and go from Iraq to Syria, Jordan and Kurdistan to flee the violence in Baghdad. He eventually came to the U.S. in January, where it has been an uphill struggle for him and his family to adjust to life here.
These two men have seen the hell of war in their homeland and are now having to reside in the very country that attacked theirs. They hold the U.S. accountable for the growth and advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as well as the infiltration of al-Qaida. They both told me they had never heard of al-Qaida or even seen a terrorist until the U.S. came to Iraq.
This is what capitalism has done. It has taken away their dignity and homeland. They now have to live as strangers in a land that devoured their family and caused division in their cities. The U.S. is the new Rome that conquers parts of the world for its own glory and advancements.
Iraq is not unique, unfortunately. If nothing is done to stop capitalist-imperialist aggression, Iraq will not be the last victim of U.S. terrorist aggression.
This article first appeared on Workers.org http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/07/16/a-conversation-with-iraqi-immigrants/