21 January 2006

Goodbye Blue Sky

While all hope and pray for the fate of Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter abducted in Iraq, here is a profile of her Iraqi interpreter who was killed.
Everyone knew him as simply 'Alan', or "Elin" as it is pronounced in Iraqi Arabic. Prior to the war, he owned a music shop in the best area in Baghdad, A'arasat. He sold some Arabic music and instrumental music, but he had his regular customers - those westernized Iraqis who craved foreign music. For those of us who listened to rock, adult alternative, jazz, etc. he had very few rivals.

We went to Alan not just to buy music. It always turned into a social visit. He'd make you sit down, listen to his latest favorite CD and drink something. Then he'd tell you the latest gossip- he knew it all. He knew where all the parties were, who the best DJs were and who was getting married or divorced. He knew the local gossip and the international gossip, but it was never malicious with Alan. It was always the funny sort.

The most important thing about Alan was that he never let you down. Never. Whatever it was that you wanted, he'd try his hardest to get it. If you became his friend, that didn't just include music- he was ready to lend a helping hand to those in need, whether it was just to give advice, or listen after a complicated, difficult week.

After the war, the area he had his shop in deteriorated. There were car bombs and shootings and the Badir people took over some of the houses there. People went to A'arasat less and less because it was too dangerous. His shop was closed up more than it was open. He shut it up permanently after getting death threats and a hand grenade through his shop window. His car was carjacked at some point and he was shot at so he started driving around in his fathers beaten-up old Toyota Cressida with a picture of Sistani on his back window, "To ward off the fanatics..." He winked and grinned.

15 January 2006

I ran out and saw planes were dropping bombs, I saw my home being hit

A missle attack directed at an Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan reportedly results in death for innocent women and children, and generates outrage in that nation, threatening U.S. relations with Pakistan.
'This is a big lie... Only our family members died in the attack,' said Shah Zaman, a jeweller who lost two sons and a daughter in the attack. 'They dropped bombs from planes and we were in no position to stop them... or to tell them we are innocent. I don't know [al-Zawahiri]. He was not at my home. No foreigner was at my home when the planes came and dropped bombs.' Haroon Rashid, a member of parliament who lives in a village near Damadola, told The Observer that he had seen a drone surveying the area hours before the attack.

'A drone has been flying over the area for the last three, four days, and I had a feeling that something nasty was going to happen,' he said in a phone interview. 'There was no foreigner there - we never saw a single foreigner here. They were all local people, jewellers and shop-keepers, who used to commute between Bajaur and their village. We knew them.'

The dead were reported to include four children, aged between five and ten, and at least two women. According to Islamic tradition, they were buried almost immediately. One Pakistani official, speaking anonymously, told The Observer that hours before the strike some unidentified guests had arrived at one home and that some bodies had been removed quickly after the attack. This was denied by villagers.

Imagine if the U.S. authorities, in pursuit of terrorists or other wanted heinous criminals launched an airstrike such as this on American soil. And that innocent women and children were slaughtered, as a result of an errant decision based on dubious data. What kind of intense outcry would erupt? Now picture a scenario where it was not carried out by the U.S., but by a foreign nation granted permission to carry out such an operation. Do you believe there would be protests and possibly riots over such a brazen act?

Why is it acceptable that the sanctity of human life is disregarded for natives of other nations, and such a destructive action defended by our political leaders?

However, a Republican senator, John McCain, defended the action on Sunday. "We have to go where these people are, and we have to take them out," he said in an interview on CBS television. While expressing sympathy with the anger in Pakistan, he added: "I can't tell you that we wouldn't do the same thing again."

Ooops, we made a mistake, and we'll kill many more innocent people too, fighting in a country where we are not at war. Or we are at war with every nation, and can do whatever we please, despite the collateral damage inflicted in an open ended, Orwellian "war on terror".