I spent the last weekend with a friend of mine, an American reporter whom we worked together in Baghdad. He came from Boston to attend a wedding of a relative of his friend. We met on Sunday. He took me to Pat’s, Philadelphia’s most famous cheese stakes’ restaurants. We took the cab to Pat’s. on the way, the nosy taxi driver asked us where we come from? My friend told him that he came from Boston and that I came from Baghdad. Silence followed. “Oh the enemy, you mean? I should report you to the CIA!” the driver said. I can’t deny that I was not surprised. He was the first American who reacted like this in front of me. Most of Philadelphia’s people are liberal and that’s what made me love this city. I wonder if Iraq invaded
It did not surprise me to get such reaction. He is one of the millions of Americans who watch TV only. I wasn’t surprised to see how the U.S. TV stations poorly cover the war in Iraq. Since I was in Iraq, I read how small number of American people knows what is really happening. I’ve been watching the news channels for about a month and I have never seen a report on Iraq for more than five minutes. Even the five minutes report showed part of the U.S.-Iraqi military second sweep that started in Baghdad after the failure of the first one few months ago.
HUMINT: I’ve never spoken to any American who has reacted this way in public or private about Iraq or Iraqis. Almost every time someone brings up the war in Iraq or Afghanistan or the people of Iran – Americans tend to speak with empathy, respect and optimism about the People of the Middle East. I think they speak so highly of the people of the Middle East primarily because they don’t know the people of the Middle East and simply assume they are a people like themselves. IMO, American ignorance of Iraqi culture is not to say their opinions are inaccurate. Some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met have come from the Middle East.
I personally think the ME suffers from two afflictions. The first; old cultures crash often - like old computers asked to run new software. However, imagine old computers violently rejecting new software and vociferously condemning the production of faster processors.
The second reason; the ME is petro-rich and therefore most countries there have economies not rooted in the abilities and efforts of their people. Human nature is clear on the subject. People ignore what has little or no significance.
To be fair – Americans have afflictions too. But there is always an ear here for grievances. Articulate grievers are the first to garner the attention of American philanthropists. The only real obstacles for Americans are personal – not institutional.
At the end of the day, with all the blood and misunderstanding… I’m still optimistic. On this path, there is no turning back.