As if to add insult to injury, with over 400 Iraqis killed in violence during the first two weeks of the newly sworn in Iraqi “government,” US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made a surprise one day visit to the newest US colony.
After visiting northern Iraq which has been spared the brunt of the ongoing violence, Rice traveled to the heavily entrenched “green zone” in central Baghdad where the U.S. “embassy” is located. She addressed a crowd in the former Republican Palace, the perfect setting for her symbolic visit to Iraq where more and more Iraqis are referring to the devastating occupation which has beset their country as their new “bloodocracy.”
“We are so grateful that there are Americans willing to sacrifice so the Middle East will be whole, and free and democratic and at peace,” she announced before she returned to northern Iraq in her huge contingent of military helicopters to the mountain stronghold of Kurdish Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani before exiting the war ravaged nation.
Rather than a welcoming parade with ticker-tape and rose petals for the US Secretary of State who was one of the architects of the invasion, 34 corpses of men shot, beheaded or with their throats slit were discovered across Iraq today.
Other aspects of her warm welcome included drive-by shootings in Baghdad which claimed the lives of a senior Industry Ministry official, his driver and a prominent Shia cleric as well as a dual-bomb attack in Baquba which narrowly missed taking the life of the governor of Diyala province (but took the lives of four others in his convoy). A second bomb was delivered five minutes after the first by a man running on foot towards the convoy who then detonated an explosives belt.
When ambulances arrived medical workers found body parts strewn about in pools of blood and shattered glass as they attended to 37 wounded Iraqis.
Not only are the vast majority of Iraqis in Iraq vehemently opposed to the ongoing occupation, but in Amman those I met at the ‘Between the Two Rivers Trucking Company’ today were just as angry about the occupation.
Inside the large office of the general director of the company, drivers from Baghdad, Baquba, Sadr City, Fallujah, Ramadi and Basra, Sunni and Shia alike, crowd about glasses of hot tea to take turns venting their frustrations amidst my questions.
Prior to the invasion they used to make 4-5 trips between Amman and Baghdad per month. Now they make one trip per month, primarily due to the fact that prior to crossing the border into Jordan they are forced to wait in a line several kilometers long…for 18 days. This is due to, what they believe, unnecessary harassment by Jordanian border authorities.
They sleep in the cabs of their trucks as the line inches closer to the border, and when a driver from Basra tells me that if they leave their trucks at night they are shot at by American soldiers, I glace across the room to find all of the men nodding in agreement.
None of them are content with the situation.
“All of our problems are due to the Americans,” says Ahmed, a driver who has been trying to get supplies into Ramadi, “The soldiers have surrounded the city for so long, there is one entry way in and all of the people of the city are suffering. The Americans brought all of these problems with them.”
The subject of civil war is broached, and Mohammed, a Shia driver from Sadr City blurts out, “The occupiers are creating these problems between the Shia and Sunni, but they will not divide us! All occupations only mean destruction and suffering!”
Again I look around the room filled with seething Iraqis and find them nodding once again.
Ahmed raises his voice over the others and with eyes seething with anger asks, “My cousin is in al-Qaim, and he just told me the Americans have destroyed so many houses in that area and killed women and children!”
All of the attention in the room shifts to the large, mustached man wearing a brown dishdasha as he continues.
“They are entering our houses where women and children are, and this is totally against our traditions and culture. They must leave our country immediately!”
It isn’t only the Iraqis in Amman who are opposed to the brutal occupation of their country. Most Jordanians I’ve spoken with over the last week feel likewise. As an older Jordanian man from Palestine told me two days ago at my hotel, “The Iraqis must resist this occupation now, or they will end up like the Palestinians.”
In the office of the trucking company, the mood is that of searing anger, frustration and urgency.
Hamad, a Shia man from Basra enters the discussion and states, “I have seen them destroy three farms in Diyala! Why can’t they stay on their bases like the British do in the south? If they would just stay on their bases things would be so much better for us.”
“With my own eyes I’ve seen the Americans, when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb open fire on all the civilian cars around them,” exclaims Mohammed.
At this everyone begins talking at once, the anger raising their voices.
Over the din Rathman, a driver from Fallujah demands, “If Bush is a real man, he should walk down the street alone!”
“Insh’Allah [God willing] Iraq will be the graveyard of the Americans,” adds Ahmed, “Qaim is three small villages and with all their planes and tanks they still fail to control it. If they were brave they should attack one or two villages without planes and helicopters and tanks and fight man to man!”
A Shia driver from Hilla, a small city south of Baghdad, sternly says that the US is “the mother company of terrorism.”
My interpreter Abu Talat, my friend Aisha and I decide it’s time to excuse ourselves. Several of the men follow us to the street as we wait for a taxi, continuing to make their statements as we wait. They are anxious to continue, seeing my pen as an outlet for their frustrations as I continue to take notes.
“Why is the media not talking more about al-Qaim,” asks Ahmed, as a taxi approaches and begins to pull over to collect us.
“We strongly advise the American people to pressure their government to leave Iraq,” says a man from al-Karma who asks to be called Ali.
As I begin to step into the car he asks, “We are now free of Saddam Hussein, so did the Americans come as liberators or acquirers?”