Baghdad burning, ten years later

In 2003, a blogger identified as a 24-year-old Iraqi woman began publishing a blog from Baghdad called "riverbend," about her experience in the war. She described her site as a "Girl Blog from Iraq," where readers were invited to "talk war, politics and occupation."

In her first blog post, she described herself: "I'm female, Iraqi and 24. I survived the war. That's all you need to know. It's all that matters these days anyway."

"River" continued publishing first-person accounts on Riverbend until 2007, when she says she fled Iraq with her family and joined other war refugees in Syria. In a recent blog post, she says she has since moved from Syria to another country, to escape the attacks on civilians there by the Syrian government.

On April 9, the 10th anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, she published her first blog post since 2007. She explains that it may be her last. What have we learned in ten years of the US-led war in Iraq, she asks:

We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair- it takes the good people. Even in death you can be unlucky. Lucky ones die a ‘normal’ death… A familiar death of cancer, or a heart-attack, or stroke. Unlucky ones have to be collected in bits and pieces. Their families trying to bury what can be salvaged and scraped off of streets that have seen so much blood, it is a wonder they are not red.

We learned that you can be floating on a sea of oil, but your people can be destitute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and children can be eating out of trash dumps and begging for money in foreign lands.

We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the private torture chambers.

We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.

We learned that it’s not that difficult to make billions disappear.

Read the full blog post.

It should be noted that we have no way of verifying the identity of this blogger, and that is possible she is not who she says she is in the blog posts. But many have found her writings informative and illuminating, and for many, they ring true.

And if she is who she says she is, it seems unlikely that she will return to Iraq any time soon. On Monday, 42 people were killed by car bombs in Iraq, with "more than 257" injured.

(via Ned Sublette)

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  1. Did you know that you could make the same blog post about Venezuela? The only difference is there was no war there.

  2. At least we can proudly stand and say we had to clean Iraq of west-aimed WMDs, right?  We did that for sure.  They were all over the place.

  3. Meh, I call fake – those Iraqis seemed quite enthusiastic and happy when they toppled the Saddam statue. 

  4. “We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair…” 
    Actually, death is entirely fair.  It is one of the few things on this planet that is  completely objective.

    1. Really? It falls even handedly on rich and poor, black, brown and white, American and Iraqi? Are your neighbours dying at the same rate as those of Riverbend in Iraq.
      That is one of the most fantastically stupid comments I’ve read in a long time. 

      1. Then you’re not thinking.  Or not reading enough comments.

        Death, in and of itself, is entirely objective.  We all die no matter color, creed, or class.  Some die early.  Others do not.  

        Death doesn’t care about who you are or where you are from.  That distinction belongs solely to US.  WE inflict the death that you are referencing and it is guided by our own subjectivity.  But death itself is an objective concept and couldn’t care less if you are black, white, old, young, from Riverbend Iraq or Riverbend New Orleans.

        Death is fair.  How it happens might not be.  Important distinction.

         

        1. An utterly pointless distinction. Particularly in the context of this blog post. It just makes you out as crass and insensitive. A simple analysis of the statistics of death should convince you it is not fair or even-handed whatever the cause of death and since every death has a cause and that cause typically has a human agency (again particularly in this context), your thesis is looking more and more ridiculous.

          1. I see it is difficult to divorce oneself from their emotions and have a frank conversation about death and its various instruments.

            I stand by my statement and have enjoyed your rebuttals.  

            Is it fair to be collateral damage in someone else’s war?  No.  Is being in the wrong place at the wrong time fair?  No.  Is death fair?  Yes.

            Carry on.

          2.  

            I see it is difficult to divorce oneself from their emotions and have a
            frank conversation about death and its various instruments.

            I can see it is difficult to divorce oneself from the desire to “win” an argument.  But you are still wrong and the reason has nothing to do with “emotions” — except maybe your own pride.

            Is it fair to be collateral damage in someone else’s war?  No.  Is being
            in the wrong place at the wrong time fair?  No.  Is death fair?  Yes.

            You just contradicted yourself.

        2. Erm, no: it’s equal in that everyone dies; it’s not equitable, in that not everyone dies the same way, and that it’s quite arguable that the poor, war-torn, disenfranchised, etc. die on average in worse, less dignified, more violent and frightening ways then the wealthy, peaceful, enfranchised. Happy to make that clear for you!

          1. Transgender death wants her bloomers back if you get a chance. Death can wear a t-back anywhere at all and get away with it. People who friended death on Facebook…yeah, they only like one side of the idea of death; moreover Twitter Followers never ever want to hear personal insights. Insane dating schedule with risk managers they both deny, weird ideas about keeping house, robust ‘outlaw’ status and default responsibilities to various relatives’ estates. She absolutely detests when people call her a narrative hook, saying ‘eating out of dumps and feeding corruption as a way out…I could care less either way.’

        3.  

          Then you’re not thinking.

          Someone isn’t thinking but who it is might surprise you.

          We all die no matter color, creed, or class.  Some die early.  Others do not. 

          In other words, death is not fair.

          Yes, you’re arguing that in some sense death is fair because it happens to everyone.  But given the variation in circumstances and that those circumstances do not seem to correlate in any way with moral virtue there is another — far more salient — sense in which death is not fair.

  5. Well, at the very least the writer seems to have the same voice as the original Riverbend.  I wish her well.

    Whatever the jingoists say, the invasion of Iraq will eventually be seen as the first major step in the decline of American power.  When ideology trumped reality.  The astonishing corruption and incompetence of the first 2 years of occupation are beyond belief.  The mendacity, the murder.

    There have been other empires that fell apart, and it seems that monstrously over-expensive, ill-fated and downright stupid military adventures are so typical they are almost a cliche.  

    And the worst part is that many of us could see it all coming. A large percentage of the world knew the invasion of Iraq was a suicidally stupid waste of life and treasure, built on lies and wholly to enrich the few. And we were shouted down or ignored in 2002, and called traitors or terrorist sympathizers in 2003 and beyond.

    The scariest thing is that it doesn’t really appear that we have learned anything. It will all happen again.

      1.  Perhaps, but American power arguably kept increasing after the retreat from Vietnam.  I’d say it reached an apogee after the Soviet Union collapsed.

        There is little doubt that ‘decline’ is the correct word since around 2000-1.  Not because of the 911 murderers, but the total freakout response certainly hasn’t helped.

        1. It’s probably still too early to say either way. I mean, America still exists and is still capable of causing all kinds of havoc anywhere in the world it wants to. 

          Until there’s an actual collapse or enough time has passed for historians to place the last 10 years into a broader narrative, we can’t really say if what we’re seeing is a decline or a temporary slump.

          1.  

            I mean, America still exists and is still capable of causing all kinds of havoc anywhere in the world it wants to.

            You could have said the same thing about the western Roman empire circa 400 AD.

            Until there’s an actual collapse or enough time has passed for
            historians to place the last 10 years into a broader narrative, we can’t
            really say if what we’re seeing is a decline or a temporary slump.

            You could have said the same thing about the western Roman empire circa 400 AD.

          2.  That is circa five years after the permanent split from the Eastern Roman Empire, about 10 years before Rome’s sacking.  Hmm.

    1. Didn’t “ideology trump reality” in entering the Vietnam war?
      What about pushing to far in Korea until the Chinese came in?

      1. Yes, those things happened.  but they weren’t the beginning of the decline.  That was in the last ten years or so.

        Certainly some things are rooted in those wars – the growth of the economy-killing military and arms manufacturing industry, the reallocation of resources from middle class and poor to the wealthy.  But the last decade has been when things have really started to look bad for the US, and it is just the beginning.

        From where I stand (in Canada) it stinks, because our economy is so closely intertwined.  On the other hand, I am a foreigner in US eyes, and there is absolutely no qualm about bugging my phones, reading my email or even blowing up my wedding if someone deep in the US bureaucracy decides I’m a threat (unlikely, but since when has guilt been a required quality in drone or surveillance targets?) 

        We in Canada will crash with you, and it sucks because most of us could see the crash coming and tried to warn you.  It feels like being buckled into the back seat of a car driven by a crazed drunk.

    2. “When ideology trumped reality.”

      “When the elites started to believe their own propaganda” describes the situation more accurately, I think.

      1.  I seriously doubt they believed their propaganda.  They believed that enough of us would believe it, and they were right.  Enough drank the Koolaid that they were able to make billions, kill hundreds of thousands, and get away with it.

  6. Why, of all the ingratitude!  If Riverbend ever has a baby, I don’t think she should be allowed to name it after George W. Bush!

  7. Interestingly, Riverbend was influential enough that back in the heady days of 2003 when there was intense and frantic partisan dissembling about how well the war was going, a guy in the US set up a phoney Riverbend blog — “http://riversbendblog.blogspot.com/” — note the “s,” which is not present in the original.  The phoney contained posts revealing a change of heart and new awareness of how much good the invasion was doing for the Iraqi people, all claiming to be by the Iraqi woman going by the name “Riverbend.”  Incredibly sleazy.  Here’s a blog that was created just in order to call shenanigans on the phony: http://suzerainty.blogspot.com/2003/12/real-reason-this-blog-started-anyone.html

    But I think it’s a feather in Riverbend’s cap that she was doing well enough that someone felt the need to do that.  “C’mon, we’re doing propaganda here — and she’s ruining it!”

  8. This sentence jumped at me. Boston anyone?

    “Finally, after all is said and done, we shouldn’t forget what this was about – making America safer… And are you safer Americans?”

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