Fayyad in Baghdad: It is no Longer Baghdad

Juan Cole

Posted Oct 3, 2005      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Fayyad in Baghdad: It is no Longer Baghdad

By Juan Cole

Al-Sharq al-Awsat carries a long, anguished and meditative piece by Maad Fayyad, an Arab journalist normally based in London, on the occasion of his return to Baghdad for the third time since the US invasion.

I don’t have time to translate the entire thing, but perhaps he will publish it in English.

He says from Baghdad, “Here is Baghdad . . . But which Baghdad is here? The Baghdad that we do not know and which we do not want to be like this. I wonder—did the Mongols descend on it only yesterday, led by the captain of catastrophe and devotee of death, Hulagu Khan, such that it was transformed into debris?”

He says he is looking out of a helicopter window. He sees buildings below that look like the peaks of a historical city, except that circulation in the streets is lazy and mournful. But then the rubble stretches into the distance, punctuated by mountains of garbage clearly visible from the air. Even the formerly upper class districts were mired in fetid lakes of rancid water, swirling around once proud mansions. In the 1980s, Baghdad had once received an international award as the world’s cleanest city.

He says, “I search for Baghdad in Baghdad, and do not find it.” Once the snooty capital had given birth to a verb, “to baghdad it up” [tabaghdada], meaning to put on insufferable airs and act superior. Today the only persons bagdading it up in Baghdad are those breaking civil, religious and tribal law with impunity.

“As for the law, it does not exist here. Most of the persons I’ve met in Baghdad say frankly, ‘Iraq is living without a state . . . without a rule of law . . . with power going to the strongest . . .”

He says that the last time he was in Baghdad, during the election season at the end of January, he only heard about bombings when he read about them in the newspaper. Now things are different.

“When some friends heard that I had arrived, they warned me not to go out into the streets: “We don’t want to know your location, and you must not tell anyone where you are residing. There is more than one group that kidnaps and kills nowadays.”

An official of the Iraqi government tells him, “I am a prisoner in my office and my house, which lies in a secure district, but I canot visit the house where my family lives for fear that I will be abducted.”

The government is nowhere to be seen, he says. The government does not control the streets, the militias do. You cannot tell the guerrillas from the police and the army, since all of them wear the same uniform.

Cole: The piece is a shocking indictment of American misrule. Bush has turned one of the world’s greatest cities into a cesspool with no order, little athority and few services.

Juan Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan - Visit his blog http://www.juancole.com

Originally published at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article10479.htm and reprinted in TAM with permission of the author.