Monday, October 22, 2012

Another Cost Of War: All The Riverbends

I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

Wikiquotes: Babylon 5 - (Marcus Cole)

A little over five years ago, I wrote this about the blog of a young woman from Iraq:

For those who don't know who Riverbend is, join the club. I know of her, but like most people who read her blog Baghdad Burning, I wouldn't know her if she was standing right next to me. That might be her picture on that book cover. Then again, it might not be for all I know. Nevertheless, like many of her readers, I felt some relief when I read this at Juan Cole's site[.]

Riverbend Has Left Iraq

It has now been five years since her last post in her blog, when she wrote this:

Syria is a beautiful country- at least I think it is. I say “I think” because while I perceive it to be beautiful, I sometimes wonder if I mistake safety, security and normalcy for ‘beauty’. In so many ways, Damascus is like Baghdad before the war- bustling streets, occasional traffic jams, markets seemingly always full of shoppers… And in so many ways it’s different. The buildings are higher, the streets are generally narrower and there’s a mountain, Qasiyoun, that looms in the distance.

Bloggers Without Borders

As I noted at the time, Syria was the most popular destination for Iraqi refugees. At one time, there were millions of them there.

Riverbend's last post went on to say that she was in Damascus, at least briefly. Where she ended up, and what happened to her, is a mystery as far as I can tell, because nothing has appeared from Riverbend since. She might be dead, in hiding, or just not interested in communicating with the rest of the world - given the information we have, it could be any of those. Either way, she's a casualty. Her life was changed in terrible ways by our invasion of Iraq.

Salam Pax, another Iraqi blogger who wrote at his eponymous blog, remained in Iraq as late as 2009. In March of that year, he wrote this, referring to an AP article entitled "It’s Fear That Keeps Baghdad’s Peace":

I know AP has numbers to back these claims up and, hey, just look at us. My aunts and uncles, four Shia families, and us we haven’t dared go back to our homes in the west of Baghdad, now declared Sunni. The first time we went to visit since 2005 was last month and it was depressing. So few of the old neighbours are still there and it feels so much less vibrant than the inner Baghdad neighbourhoods..

The Fear

He wrote that he was initially offended by the title, but eventually decided that it was largely true.

So maybe Riverbend and her family were right to leave Iraq for Syria. Unfortunately, now Syria is creating its own refugee problem, because it is involved in a civil war that has dragged on for a year and a half, and looks to drag on a good deal longer:

Up to 335,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the United Nations, ten times more than in March, but the real figure could be as high as 500,000, a U.N. refugee agency official said on Tuesday.

The UNHCR said last month that up to 700,000 refugees may flee the violence in Syria by the end of the year, four times higher than its June prediction.

Most of those fleeing are taking refuge in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Up to 335,000 people have fled Syria violence - UNHCR

One potential refugee destination is noticeably absent: Iraq. Five years later, things are not yet safe enough in Iraq for people to flee there from a war zone.

Which brings us to the opening quote from Babylon 5. We, the United States and a few allies, invaded Iraq for no good reason. The people of Iraq hadn't attacked us, nor had its government. Yet we invaded the country, turned it upside down and shook it until it broke apart, then left the pieces on the ground to fix themselves. Estimates vary widely, but anywhere from a couple of hundred thousand to a couple of million Iraqis died in the aftermath of that war. We created more than four million refugees, many of whom have tales as tragic as Riverbend's. And for what?

Yes, it was President Bush's fault that he had people tortured so that he could make the bogus case for the war in Iraq. But it's not his fault that will happen again, nor is it his fault that our government is still committing war crimes. It's the fault of the current occupant. Yet I'm told that I simply have to vote for this guy, that it's the mature thing to do.

As Marcus Cole pointed out, the universe, or at least our little corner of it, is a cold and uncaring place. We're a product of that universe, and we Americans have clearly learned to fit right into it.

Afterword: I'd like to thank One Fly for reminding me about this in a comment yesterday. I'd intended to write something, but had pretty much forgotten about it. He has some thoughts on this as well, as you might imagine. And he's right - the war against Iraq was a crime against humanity, a crime we have steadfastly refused to admit to, let alone address, as a people. Even as progressives, the record is pretty sorry. To them, it appears that if a Democratic President does something, it must be legal, including covering for another administration's war crimes.

UPDATE (Apr. 14, 2013): Riverbend has posted an update to her blog, Baghdad Burning. Apparently, she and her family have been refugees ever since her last post in 2007.


One Fly said...

I think this girl had much more to say but can't or won't for any number of reasons none of which are good.

I hope someday though.

Cujo359 said...

I can say from personal experience that there may come a time when, even though it seems like there's still lots to say, you don't have much interest in saying it anymore. It depends on the person, I suppose.

Unfortunately, the only information we have is lack of information. We can imagine a great many reasons why she no longer writes (maybe she got married and doesn't have the time?), but given where she was and what she wrote about, I too, fear the worst.