Saturday, April 15, 2006

"We Are Not Animals -
We Are Iraqis"

Reporter Franklin Raff tell of an encounter he had with an Iraqi officer:

An Iraqi officer of significant rank approached my translator as I quietlytook notes near the banks of the Euphrates River, at a combat observationpost named COP Dunlop. He knew I was an embedded American. He had a sense,perhaps, that I was a sympathetic soul, and he wanted to pass along anurgent message.

We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. I learned he was an educated andsuccessful man, an accomplished soldier, and quite knowledgeable about theaffairs of the world. He had served under Saddam. He openly spoke about thelikelihood of corruption in the new Iraqi Ministry of Defense. We spokeabout black-market arms trading, ancient smuggling routes, and the problemof porous borders.

We even discussed personal matters, and the question of his taking a secondwife. (I told him the one about a thousand pair of panty-hose hanging fromKing Solomon's shower-curtain.) We had a reasonably long and genuineconversation about matters of importance to all men. And at a certainmoment, he grew a little uneasy and blurted out what he had wanted to sayfrom the beginning:

Why do you people not tell our story? Why do you not say what is going on?

Why do you come to our country and see what is happening, you see the schools and the hospitals and you see the markets and you eat with Sunni and Shia soldiers – everybody eats together, everybody works together

you see that Saddam is gone forever and we are free to speak and complain.

You see we are working and eating together and fighting together – Sunni andShia – you see what we are building here, you see the votes we make as onepeople. Then you say to the world about a great war and horrible things andhow we are all killing each other?

We are not animals! We are Iraqis.

Look around you! Look!