Last summer, on an exceptionally sunny London day, I was walking to my office and suddenly I was jolted from my thoughts by a voice calling my name. I turned around and saw a tall handsome man with a thick moustache loudly saying, "Mr Abdel Bari, may I have a word with you, please?" I stopped grudgingly, as his accent indicated he was Iraqi, meaning he was going to blame and argue with me, as well as open wounds of a recent past that I wanted to heal… Saddam Hussein… the invasion of Kuwait… tyranny… to the maelstrom of the last system I have lived in for 20 years.
Before I could even say good morning, the stranger said, in the Iraqi accent I know so well, "I swear, if I met you 20 years ago, I would've killed you, I used to hate you, and I came close to breaking the TV whenever your image appeared on it. However, now, let me kiss your forehead to apologise, you warned us about all that has happened and is happening… our misfortune and crises, but we were unable to see it at the time. They deceived us…misled us…tore up our country… destroyed our country, our status is gone…we have become a laughing stock amongst the nations."
I kept thinking about this incident over the past few days, along with the ugly bloody bombings and the continuous condemnation that is shaking Iraq, the most recent of which was on Sunday, when millions took to the streets of Mosul, Ramadi and Samarra to protest the deterioration of the situation and the policies of repression and torture, exclusion and polarization.
The Iraqis have the right to protest and demand the downfall of the regime. This is not the Iraq promised by George Bush Jr, Tony Blair and an array of affiliates of Iraq making false promises. This is the Iraq they said would be a model for coexistence, justice, and impartial judiciary…. The Iraq that will compensate the Iraqis for the years of suffering and injustice and will represent cultural and democratic radiance in the whole region. The new Iraq mixes sewage with drinking water, the electricity is out for 20 hours a day, unemployment is at its highest levels, beggars have filled every corner of the capital, as my friend, Patrick Coburn, the British journalist, who writes for The Independent said.
Three million barrels of oil are exported from Iraq every day, yet Iraqi citizens cannot find a single loaf of bread to feed their children. There is no safety and no one knows when the bomb might explode, or when the next car bomb will go off. Iraqis walk down the street with their souls on their shoulders, submitting himself to God.
The great Iraq, which was feared by all the neighbouring countries and a hard figure in the equations of power in the region, has become neglected and a hotbed for all kinds of interventions. It speaks incomprehensible hybrid languages and has been reduced to an invertebrate with no spine. Iraq is now distributed between feuding factional and ethnic identities all raising a number of flags.
A new Iraq with no army, no planes, no security; competing with its former self in building prisons, expanding detention centres, inventing new methods of torture, humbling those that preceded the prosperous democratic era.
Logic dictates that ten years after removing the "tyrannical" rule and the return of Western democracy, liberties, human rights, and faked modernity on the backs of American tanks and armoured cars should bring about prosperity, economic, intellectual and cultural boom, as well as a promising social change and an independent judiciary. We should see new art… a new stage…a literary, poetic and creative renaissance and huge universities. But the picture is completely different; all we see is destruction, murder, exclusion, and sectarianism.
Corruption is the signpost of the big picture in the new Iraq. Ministers who have been in office for months started to travel in private jets, militia leaders bought luxurious buildings in Europe, and one of the biggest opportunists held a wedding for his daughter in London that was the talk of the town; despite the fact that he lived on social security.
Ten years have passed since the "liberation" of Iraq and the eradication of "tyrannical" rule with the help of Paul Bremer, the planning of Richard Donny, patron of the London Conference, as well as the collaboration of most Gulf countries' governments, not their powerless people, and the engineering of Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister.
Our consolation is that the resistance defeated the U.S. project, ended the occupation, and forced the occupiers to run out to reduce their losses that exceeded one trillion dollars.
Now they speak about a new dictatorship led by an "elected" fiercer leader, more repressive than the former dictatorship. They also speak about Iran's takeover of Iraq without firing a single bullet, which fought eight years in vain to reach this result.
When the British Jewish thinker, Bernard Lewis, said that Iraq is a fabricated country with artificial borders, he was applauded by some new Iraqi officials and they considered him a loyal friend, and now his prophecy is being fulfilled at their hands, which will ultimately serve Israel's interests, its survival, superiority, and domination over the entire region.
We were pelted many times with stones over the past 20 years, as well as subjected to more crudeness than we would like to say, and despite this, we cannot be cured, because we loved and still love Iraq, as we have loved every Arab and Muslim country. We have stayed and will continue to stay in the trench of this great country, feeling its pain, and grieving for the tragedies and misfortunes it has been exposed to at the hands of some of its deceitful citizens.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.