Monday, April 23, 2007

Our Friends

[posted by Callimachus]

Forgive my long excerpt from this post at American Thinker. The whole piece is much longer, but this is its heart. As a journalist, I always catch myself and step back from a story or picture when I find myself thinking, "people need to see this." In blogging, the opposite is true.

I only wish it were possible for the author to give us pictures of these Iraqis (though I understand why he can't). He limns them in words, but I would want pictures, of the smiling and squinting at the camera variety. And I would want every anti-war blogger and journalist to keep them tacked up on the corkboard beside his computer as he writes. Ideas have consequences. Words have consequences. However you feel about how we got here, we are here, and people's lives hang in the balance.

Before the troop surge began, my friend Nabil's brother-in-law, a resident of Jordan, was shot in the head while he was visiting Baghdad for a week to help with Nabil's wedding plans. He was killed by a terrorist simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A month prior to that event, Nabil and his parents fled their long-time home when they received a note, wrapped around a 9mm bullet, commanding them to leave their neighborhood in 24 hours or be killed. (Based on what had happened to some of those in Nabil's neighborhood who had ignored similar threats, he knew that he and his family had half that time to gather up a few possessions and leave, if they wanted to live.)

If the Democratic Party is successful in effecting a premature troop withdrawal from Iraq, Nabil and most of his family will likely be killed because of their religious affiliations and because Nabil has been employed by Americans. (You might want to know that Nabil is one of the most decent men I have ever known.)

Another friend, Ahmed, had a suicide bomb explode so close to him that his clothes were shredded and he lost his hearing for a time. After that had happened, his parents begged him to leave home. They told him that for his own safety, he should never return there, even for a visit. A few months later, Ahmed's girlfriend was placed on a death list for having been employed by an American company.

Ahmed is smart, funny and resourceful. He is young, and his vibrant girlfriend - soon to be his wife - will likely be killed, along with him, if the Democratic Party succeeds in affecting a premature troop withdrawal from Iraq.

My friend Sadeq, who has worked hard for years to make his home nice for his wife and children, lost all his possessions, but fortunately not his family, when a terrorist drove an explosives-laden vehicle into the garage beneath his Baghdad apartment house and detonated it while he was at work. We took up a collection to help him, but being the ever-classy guy he is, Sadeq refused to accept the money, even when I tried stuffing it into his pocket. A year before his home was destroyed, Sadeq was wounded by a sectarian killer who brutally shot him in the back. Still, Sadeq continues working tirelessly to build a future for his family. But there likely will be no future for either him or his family if the American Left and Democratic Party succeed in affecting a premature troop withdrawal from Iraq. Because of his history of working for American companies, Sadeq will likely be hunted down and murdered by terrorists if Iraq is abandoned before law and order is established.

My dearest friend, (more of a brother to me), Amin, has been very lucky. Smart, brave, loyal and cool under pressure, at the height of Iraq's violence he stared down death many times and survived. Since the Bush security plan has significantly quieted Baghdad's streets, I fear much less for his life. But if the American Left and the Democratic Party get their way and Iraq is abandoned, I am almost certain that he will be quickly hunted down and killed.

Another friend, Mohammed, got tired of living in fear of death or mutilation and so he fled his home and went north to Erbil, where it is relatively safe. There were others like him who were fortunate enough to have had a way to safety - most Iraqis do not, since most countries, including mine, the United States, have all but closed their borders to Iraqi citizens. I am ashamed of that.

Let me tell you a true story that gives a mere taste of what is to come for the women of Iraq, should the Democratic Party accomplish what it is currently trying to do: thwart the Bush Administration's so-far successful Iraq security plan, ultimately forcing America to leave Iraq at the mercy of organized terrorist groups, criminal gangs and woman haters. My story involves a girl named Jamilah.

Every morning, Jamilah, her sister and a few other Iraqi women come to work in my office. We expatriates look forward to their arrivals since they are helpful, funny and they do their jobs well. They arrive early, and their breakfast gossip and their laughter filter down the kitchen hallway and into our offices. It is a comforting sound, especially considering the madness surrounding us. I am always relieved when they arrive at my office, since when they are there they are relatively safe from car bombers, vest bombers, sectarian killers, snipers, street criminals and all those who would murder them for working with Americans.

In spite of her impoverished family situation, Jamilah is sweet, and very funny. Pretty and in her early twenties, she has classic Arabic features. Like most girls her age, she is moody, loves pop music, wears silly clothes and loves to flirt. She would not harm a fly.

One morning, about four months ago, while at my desk I heard the girls laughing, then abrupt silence followed by the sounds of women crying. I ran down the hall and into the kitchen to find Jamilah in tears. Her sister and the other women were crying, too. Jamilah's favorite uncle, whom she loved dearly, had just been shot in the head and killed while sitting in Baghdad traffic. His wife was pregnant with their second child.

Until then, I had never seen a group of women instantly plunged into such grief and anger and despair.

Three days after her uncle was murdered, Jamilah, her sister and the other women returned to work. Gone was the lighthearted kitchen banter. Absent were their smiles and friendly greetings. Their dulled, tear-filled eyes showed but grief.

I looked into those eyes and knew then that many more innocent Iraqi women would be thrown into that same emotional abyss if we Americans failed to help drag their country back towards civility.

Later that day, Jamilah collapsed at work. Consumed by grief, she had neither eaten nor drank anything since the day her uncle had been murdered. Our medic discovered that she was severely dehydrated.

Jamilah returned to work about a week later. She was visibly distraught for a long time, as were the women who work with her. She is now close to being herself. But she is not the same.

The author has been living and working in Baghdad for almost seven months. Every American I know who is over there, either in uniform or in civilian work, has similar stories. To the armchair anti-war blogger, the Iraqi people are abstractions and statistics. To our countrymen over there, they are friends who have earned respect, awe, and love. With love comes responsibility. Yet the power to betray that responsibility is in the hands of exactly the people for whom Iraq and the Iraqis are a political tool.

The author of this piece has seen the same images you have seen on your newscasts. But he's seen them in person. And he feels them in a way you never can unless you've made these people your people.

My stomach would knot as I climbed to the roof to watch the smoke boil up from downtown. I would think of the horror beneath those death clouds. To me they were jarring evidence that Iraq was in a battle for its life and that America was here to rightly wage war against the worst elements of humanity - elements cut from the same cloth as those who had murdered nearly 3000 of her citizens on September 11, 2001.

Over there, our fight -- Bush's, Harry Reid's, yours, mine, our children's -- and their fight -- Nabil, Ahmed, Sadiq, Amin, Mohammed, Jamila -- have converged. Like it or not. Convenient for your politics or not. You may wish we had left them all in Saddam's and Qusai's and Uday's loving and protective hands. But it's too late for that now. There's your base of reality. Ignore it at your peril -- moral as well as practical.