Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Remembering Katrina, Remembering Iraq

My younger sister was telling me a while ago, after I started this blog, that reading my accounts of life in Baghdad, and reading a Palestinian lady's accounts of life in Gaza, made her lose a certain respect for the people of these nations. Reading about the crazy violence, and the random kidnappings and murder, made her see these people as rather uncivilized people.
That was never my intent when I started this blog, and as I continue it today. But I realize that my sister's words do not only reflect her feelings, but those of many people who are bombarded by daily images and stories of bombings, lootings, kidnappings, terror and violence in these hotspots.
But I must say that such behavior is not necessarily endemic to these people. It is a result of a catastrophe that has left Iraq, and any other country in its same shoes, in complete chaos, the result of having no government, no governmental authority, no leader, no law in place.
That is what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrine hit it exactly one year ago today, on April 29, 2005. I remember watching the news of this natural catastrophe which hit the Gulf Area, in between the few moments of quiet I had while caring for my then newborn daughter. I remember the images of chaos, the dead bodies floating in the streets, the people begging for help on national television, the looting, the guns going off randomly, the National Guard threatening not to come to the city if individuals did not stop using random gunfire to defend their belongings; the horror of having your home destroyed in seconds, of losing your loved ones and not knowing if they were dead or alive, ...
At that moment, all I could think of was... Iraq. This is Iraq. This is Palestine. This is every land and people that have been destroyed by a catastrophe. This is America getting a taste of what it is like to be left without law and order. It doesn't only happen in the Middle East, it happened right here, in the heartland of America. When I saw the looters who had to steal food to survive (or not), when I saw people having to take the law into their own hands, defending their homes and businesses from randoms looters, all I could think of was life in Iraq today. This is what a state of chaos and lawlessness does to a people. It leaves them to fend for themselves, some stay true to their goodness, in others, it brings out the worse.

I was looking over pictures today of New Orleans then and now, just to remind myself of some of the horrors that these people went through. I saw a horrific picture of a body floating down the water-flooded streets, unclaimed and unburied for days. I saw a picture of a man standing in front of his oriental rug shop, with a large hand-made sign reading, "Don’t try. I am sleeping inside with a big dog, an ugly woman, two shotguns and a claw hammer…." I saw a picture of a makeshift grave for an elderly woman who had been killed in a hit a few days after Katrina. Her body was left unburied on the side of the road for five days. I saw a picture of a family standing with a large sign which they waved at the helicopter flying above, begging for help. I saw pictures of human misery, and I hope they never recur to any race of people, here or abroad.
What happened in New Orleans, or Iraq, or Palestine, can happen anywhere. We are just fortunate that we are not living under the circumstances that these people are living under, or we might very well see the worst in our fellow neighbors and friends. May God protect us from all catastrophes, natural and man-made.

26 comments:

magda said...

Fatima
I couldn't agree more, human beings are identical under the skin, we all bleed, we all feel pain anger sorrow compassion and elation, placed under similar circumstances I believe we all behave in the same way, It is very dangerous to judge others when we have no idea how we would behave in their situation, I think the saying is walk a mile in their shoes.

Ray, Chicago said...

No one from New Orleans tortured their victims before they murdered them, as Sunni and Shiite muslims commonly do. Arab behavior is completely unconscionable in Western eyes. Arabs are subhuman. There is simply no correlation between Katrina and what is happening in Iraq.

Fatima said...

Ray,
Sunni and Shiite Muslims do not 'commonly' murder each other, nor torture each other. What is happening in Iraq is not the norm, it is the by-product of some crazy force that has been unleashed in Iraq after this American occupation.
Many believe that it is the result of a force attempting to destabilize Iraq, and/or prove that the American occupation/'liberation' was unsuccessful.
Proof that this is not the norm is that you have many bisectarian families in Iraq, Shiites married to Sunnis and vice versa. Everyone in Iraq will tell you that what is happening today is not how they lived for centuries.

You also say that 'Arab behavior is completely unconscionable in Western eyes'. Well, what about the violence that sporadically turns up in Ireland or between the Basques and Spain? Or even what occured decades ago by Hitler? Is that much different than what is sadly occuring today in Iraq?

Also, I was watching NBC news on the 29th of August, some coverage of Katrina. The newscaster stated that 'Katrina aggravated racial tensions' in New Orleans. Many blacks, including the movie director Spike Lee, believe that the white leaders of New Orleans misbuilt the levees on purpose, so that something of this type would occur, and force the poor blacks out of the city. All of this on NBC News. Racial tensions can eventually lead to unrest in the city, but thankfully, law and order has been restored in New Orleans, unlike Baghdad. To call a whole race of people 'subhuman' is quite ignorant, racist and 'nazist' on your part.

Anonymous said...

I would like to correct Ray by saying that not all people in the mideast fit his stereotype. Case in point the Christians throughout the area who have suffered disproportionately since the days when islam came out of the desert. When was the last time you saw or heard a mideast Christian using violence against others?

I love Munich said...

You are absolutely right Fatima .. it's all humans!
Ray - how can you generalize and say "ARABS (as race) are subhumans"!! This this a racist statement which not only reflects your apparent mindset, but does greatly discredit you as well in front of the readers. Shame on you!

dancewater said...

people in New Orleans after Katrina were raped.... is that not torture?


and some were raped and murdered... not as many as the corporate media would have you believe, but it happened.


I personnally think if Americans were put under the same stress as Iraqis we would be much more violent. I hope I never find out if that belief is true or not.


America is at peace with plenty of resources for everyone, and yet we have the highest murder rate of any first world country..... and we have less guns than they do in Canada!


No American has any right to look down on the violence of other countries or cultures... not while we are one of the most violent countries on the planet.

No other country has done "shock and awe" since the 1940's.

dancewater said...

that should be "less guns per person" than Canada.

and a heck of a lot more violence!

dancewater said...

"When was the last time you saw or heard a mideast Christian using violence against others?"

There was a Christian in Saddam's cabinet. Saddam used violence.

I believe Christians participated in the civil war in Lebanon.


It would be extraordinary if Christians in the Middle East did not participate in violence.

If it is true, then I sure wish they could get those other Christians - the blood thirsty Christians - to stop using violence around the world. Particularly in the USA.


I'm sick of Christian terrorists.

seeking truth, dc said...

oh how ignorant some people can be. So incredibly sad.. I would hope, you know.. living in America, one would be smarter and actually research.. having the absolute freedom and will to do so unlike so many unfortunate people living all around the world.(say.. in Iraq, for example because they are in complete and utter shambles and chaos after being through a catastrophic, inexcusably unjustified war and whatnot) but aside from that: ray, buddy.. you need to get your facts right before you state them. Please try to do so next time.

p.s- don't stereotype the rest of your fellow Westerners.. we're not all like you, thankfully.

Fatima said...

You make good points, dancewater. In Baghdad, I fear carbombs, kidnappings, political assassinations. In the US, I fear carjackings, random murder, burglary, rape. No other country in the world has such high incidences of rape and daily murder and pedophilia.

miraj said...

Statistics says five cars are being stolen every hour in America; four women out of five get attacked by her lover, boyfriend or husband.

That is under normal circumstances where there is a government and security which makes me wonder what would happen if they had a Saddam for 35 years with a 15 of horrible sanctions included and over 3 years of crazy terrorists entering the country from all directions.

Joel said...

Fatima and Miraj,

While I was opposed to our attack on Iraq and would withdraw our troops tomorrow morning, and while I empathize with the problems you both have, and while I agree that all lives are equally important and that the premature death of anyone is a tragedy, I think you both of now gone too far.
Fatima: No reasonable person would be concerned about your concerns in the U.S. except, perhaps, if one lived in a terrible slum. I certainly never worry about anything of the kind for myself or for my daughter and my grand daughters.
Miraj uses totally made up statistics of the kind usually found on Arab television. I dare say in the U.S. women are treated as well as anywhere else in the world, and maybe a lot better. Certainly they are treated better thanin most Arabic countries where, in essence, they are slaves of their husbands and lot allowed to live lives of their own. Women have come along way in this country and, perhaps, still have a way to go.
As one of your other replys stated, at least in this country one is free to do the research. That can hardly be said of any country in the Middle East perhaps with the exception of Israel.
The plight of the Iraqi people is both terrible and frustrating, as your blog shows. But don't damn all Americans in your frustration. And don't make up statistics. Yes, we have Bush, but you had Saadam. As bad as Bush is, I'd rather have him than Saadam, and Bush will be replaced by a new president elected in 2008 in a more or less democratic election. Can you suggest a ruler in the Middle East who will be replaced that way, again excepting Israel?
The big lie is one of the most destructive forces in the world. Don't do it.

Joel said...

Fatima and Miraj,

While I was opposed to our attack on Iraq and would withdraw our troops tomorrow morning, and while I empathize with the problems you both have, and while I agree that all lives are equally important and that the premature death of anyone is a tragedy, I think you both of now gone too far.
Fatima: No reasonable person would be concerned about your concerns in the U.S. except, perhaps, if one lived in a terrible slum. I certainly never worry about anything of the kind for myself or for my daughter and my grand daughters.
Miraj uses totally made up statistics of the kind usually found on Arab television. I dare say in the U.S. women are treated as well as anywhere else in the world, and maybe a lot better. Certainly they are treated better thanin most Arabic countries where, in essence, they are slaves of their husbands and lot allowed to live lives of their own. Women have come along way in this country and, perhaps, still have a way to go.
As one of your other replys stated, at least in this country one is free to do the research. That can hardly be said of any country in the Middle East perhaps with the exception of Israel.
The plight of the Iraqi people is both terrible and frustrating, as your blog shows. But don't damn all Americans in your frustration. And don't make up statistics. Yes, we have Bush, but you had Saadam. As bad as Bush is, I'd rather have him than Saadam, and Bush will be replaced by a new president elected in 2008 in a more or less democratic election. Can you suggest a ruler in the Middle East who will be replaced that way, again excepting Israel?
The big lie is one of the most destructive forces in the world. Don't do it.

miraj said...

I really don't want to waste my time with you joel but the numbers I used i heard on Oprah Winfrey show. Go dig yourself and you'll find them there although I know you would keep blabbing even if the numbers were approved by your white house itself.
With all the child molesting , women sexual harassment and all the crimes inside your society you should be thankful to God that you didn’t have Saddam but some maniac who points out all his energy to hit other countries , better for you solve your internal problems better than sitting in your peaceful houses with your nice pets around you and complain about Iraqis killing themselves.

walla ghair kheesa u jayeen brassi!!

seeking truth, dc said...

joel.. you, too buddy.. you say that women have come a long way in this society, right? I'm sure the all the prostitutes in our wonderful country would agree. Women have come a long way in America only to find themselves becoming slaves of men, as you say the women in the Arab countries are. The clothing you find on most women today is just a minor example of how women have become slaves of men.. allowing them to feast their eyes, as well as (I'm quite sure) their minds. (women who complain of getting sexually harassed for wearing a micro skirts and bust-enhancing tops.. hmmm.. I wonder why that happened.) So women in America have worked so hard only to degrade themselves even more, unfortunately.. where in our media.. it teaches women that becoming a secretary is such a great thing, whereas you won't find many trying to teach their daughters to reach for higher goals. It teaches women to dress "sexy" to get the attention of all men (that is not to say that women will dress this way for their own little excuses, but that's another story..), while it teaches men to be "masculine" and controlling.. they are above women. Possibly some, I won't say all of America is like this, but I would grant to say that it is the majority. So basically, women in this country don't have much more freedom than women anywhere else in the world.. nor do they get treated any better.. it is difficult and upsetting for me to say so.. but it is the cold truth, and we can't escape it.

Anonymous said...

"As one of your other replys stated, at least in this country one is free to do the research. That can hardly be said of any country in the Middle East perhaps with the exception of Israel." umm.. I don't think so.. there are so many advanced countries in the middle east other than occupied Palestine that have more bountiful sources for research and study, you just don't know it because you have been living in America all your life and are kept in a bubble. You should get out more.

"But don't damn all Americans in your frustration. And don't make up statistics. Yes, we have Bush, but you had Saadam. As bad as Bush is, I'd rather have him than Saadam"

It didn't look like she "damned" Americans to me. I think she had stated before that she was an American herself, and not even from Iraq. Why would she damn herself? And finally, as for you preferring Bush over Saddam, honestly- what is the difference? They've both killed the same amount of people, both are power-hungry, trigger-happy, and dumb. The only exception is one had a funny handlebar type mustache. (probably dyes his hair black) OH.. and forgot one last thing, both are also drunkards. =)

EdoRiver said...

Hi Thoughts!
Just to add my 2 cents (what is the exchange rate? ;-)
Miraj, I wouldn't be surprised if the stats are right. They sound reasonable. So, we are just giving you some of that good ole American tough love that we give each other here, all the time...we are being as violent and aggressive with you folks as we are with our own women and children, no discrimination.

And on top of that we expect the woman we rape to thank us for doing her a favor.
If she doesn't, then we think she was just "asking for it" and getting what she deserved.
For our women and our children, "Spare the rod and spoil the child". So, we are making sure we don't spoil you in Iraq...Isn't that nice?

Am I being sarcastic? Somewhat. America is filled with a little of everything (The ACLU sees to that ;-). I wouldn't say we are any better than anyone else as a society. BUt I would say we have the greatest mixed bag of tricks of anyone I know out there. I'd bet we have more variations than anyplace else.
But the problem, and I think it exists everywhere, is how do you tell the compassionate ones from the ones who are just full of talk? It isn't easy, and in my opinion Hollywood has made it worse ;-)

Joel said...

It is probably useless to reply again, but a few comments seem appropriate. Anyone who gets her statistics from Oprah can't be all good. The statement that four out of five woman in the US are attacked by their husbands, lovers or boyfriends is ridiculous on its face. I would not classify myself as an expert on women's status, but I certainly know more than any of my critics on this site. I am, for example, a former member of the Executive Committee of Planned Parenhood and I have fought for women's rights in this country all my life. I have only one daughter and she has two daughters who are my grandchildren, so I certainly care. I don't think women have achieved absolute equality in the US, but they are a hellova lot better off in the US then any Moslem country I can think of. These comparisons between Moslem countries and the US are odious. I think the US has created a tragedy in Iraq which, unfortunately, is fueled by stupid religious wars in that country. It reminds of Gulliver's Travels in which the war between the two neighboring islands was over which end of the egg to open.

seeking truth, dc said...

you spelled Muslim wrong, Joel. And that is not true, your statement about women being treated a lot better. Have you ever been to a Muslim country before? If you have ever witnessed mistreatment of women in the Muslim world, then whoever is inflicting that mistreatment is not acting like a true Muslim. Do you know how Islam treats women? Perhaps not, because you make judgements and stereotypes, saying all people in Muslim countries treat women horribly. I won't disagree, there are many women treated wrong in many countries.. but I would venture to say that it is mostly culture messed up and strewed into whatever people want it to be, not Islamic tradition. Obviously you have not read Islamic scripture where it says that women are like precious pearls and are to be treated as such. Yes, its true.. and there are so many Muslims who practise this, its just that our media never shows it and instead decides to share the small portion of idiotic, asinine, vulgar Arab men who don't know how to treat women and think that they are all high and mighty.

Joel said...

Seeking Truth, I did not say that all women are treated badly in Muslem countries. People are people every where. I did say that in general women in this country are treated better than women in Muslim countries as a rule. For example, they are not required to hide their faces and are not prevented for working, or, for that matter, as in Saudi Arabia, even driving. No I have never been in a Muslim country, but the facts seem undeniable. And thank you for the spelling correction, although "Muslim" is only one of alternative spellings in English.

chet said...

Joel, how do you figure that women in the US are treated better. I wished you tell that to my neighbor of mine whose husband has been beating her and finally broke here leg. Please tell my youngest daughter that she is treated better when she was raped and thrown into a ditch. She will never be the same and her face is a mess. Her eye socket was crushed and yet you say they are treated better. Tell that to my eleven year old grandaughter who was sodomized and now that guy is still walking the streets and has been for the last three years since it happened. Tell that to three year old Diana who was murdered by her father. That is just in the little area I live in and is not the slums.

Fatima I agree what you had to say. As an American I think some of them don't want to look in there own backyard. They are definetly in denial.

seeking truth, dc said...

I'm sorry, joel.. but not the whole Muslim world is Saudi Arabia. And the whole covering of the face thing is not even mandatory.. its a woman's choice.. let's just leave Saudi Arabia and previous Taliban- controlled Afghanistan out of this of course, because what they're doing, (forcing people to do things against their will) is not in Islamic tradition. There are so many Muslim women who are treated the way that they are supposed to be treated, and I can assure you.. its way better than how women here in America are treated. Also, about the way Muslim is spelled, I was only correcting you because this is what the majority of Muslims use to write about themselves. So I was just doing it in respect. When you type "Moslem" it sounds out the way we Americans say it .. which is pronounced wrong.. so yes, just a little tid-bit. Sorry, I have weird habits, its the English major in me.

Anonymous said...

I am trying to get Iraqi bloggers to broadcast on youtube.com. Please think about doing this Fatima. The world needs to know the truth in Iraq.

Wendy said...

And that is not true, your statement about women being treated a lot better. Have you ever been to a Muslim country before?

I am a woman who's been to Muslim countries before, including Iraq.

Joel is right. There is absolutely NO QUESTION where I'd rather be--in America. Debating it is even laughable!

Furthermore, you hear about rapes and abuse in America because they are REPORTED and the victims aren't shunned as they are in other places. I daresay that rape and abuse is NOT reported and prosecuted to the extent that it is in free, liberal countries like America.

I also find it humorous that people who get their "facts" from TV talk shows have the nerve to ask Joel if he's ever been to a Muslim country. Pot, meet kettle.

Meanwhile, all I hear is anger from Iraqis, but never any real action to put a stop to the violence. It's impossible for me to believe that there aren't SOME people who genuinely want peace for all, and at the same time know one or more of the violent animals in these "militias." Silence signifies consent, as they say. How many mothers or fathers know what their sons are doing? How many wives? Are those mothers (etc.) so powerless as to be completely unable to influence their sons?

And if they don't even bother, as far as I'm concerned, they aren't as "innocent" as many of you would have us believe. Period.

I don't expect you, Fatima, to stand up to a complete stranger in some militia, obviously. But the fact that you and other Iraqis do so much MORE complaining about America than the militias that are slaughtering your brothers and sisters is more than a little distressing. It sounds like "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," as though you are subconsciously lending moral support to the violent militias (terrorists!) by choosing to instead complain about Americans as they do.

Anonymous said...

wendy, I'm sorry, but you're not educated enough for one to argue with.

Anonymous said...

I don't make it a habit to post comments on my wife's blog but I thought that it would be important to add a few facts to the discussion:

1. Regarding Iraq, please note that Iraqi society is one composed of 3-4 distinct generations of people. These generations generally were born between the periods of 1945-1990. If you take a look at Iraq's history spanning these dates you will notice that the society has undergone one violent revolution after another. It did not have a quiet period of development save maybe the mid 1970's when Iraq was heading toward a period of great prosperity, then Saddam attacked Iran, and that war persisted until 1988 two years later he invaded Kuwait the result of which was a decade of crippling sanctions and hardship on Iraqi society. The point I am trying to reach is that these generations know nothing but violence, revolution, hardship, and warfare. It cannot be expected that they somehow turn a new leaf and simply embrace democracy forgetting their encumbrances.

2. Those advising the US during the 1990s and towards the buildup to the war were people who had been living outside of Iraq for decades and had no idea about the reality of Iraqi society and its social fabric. They convinced the Administration of certain false premises which led to the unrecoverable policy mistakes and eventually the bad situation we are in today.

3. To say that not enough people are speaking up against militias is to truly not understand the dangers that these militias pose to civilians in Iraq. To cite an example, during the past elections one of my friends voted for the Shia religious list even though I know he is secular, when I asked him why he said that if he did not do it he would be divorced forcefully from his wife and would be excommunicated. On another occasion right in front of me, a member of parliament threatened an Iraqi Brigadier General with militia retribution. It is in the interest of the religious parties to not have a reconcilition or they will lose their basic support.

These are just a few points that people might find noteworthy.

Finally, I have to go because my wife has asked me to cut up the garlic for an invitation tomorrow ;)