(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Leila Fadel is a young, award-winning journalist who has been covering the Iraq war since June 2005. For nearly the past three years, she has been the Baghdad bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.
In April, she returned to work in the United States. In an video interview for McClatchy, Fadel observed her life seems detached from reality now that she is working in Washington, D.C. and that Americans may be choosing to forget about Iraq.
“I think it is strange to be in a place that doesn’t feel real to me anymore,” Fadel said. “It’s really hard actually to be in D.C., to be in a place that feels so like life is easy, everything is fine.”
“Just the idea that you can wake up in the morning and go to Starbucks, pick up your paper, read about all the horrible things happening in the world and then go to your nice, air-conditioned office and everything is over. It’s really hard and you feel a bit guilty you can have that life,” Fadel said.
Fadel noted an absence of news about Iraq and other troubled parts of the world in the American press. So much so, that she thinks Americans can choose to ignore what is happening.
“All of a sudden, I’m not connected to it anymore.” she said. “I can go through an entire week, if I wanted to, and never read about it and that scares me. And, it scares me that so many people can do that if they want to in their lives just ignore it completely. Not just about Iraq, but everywhere – Afghanistan, Sudan, or Somalia, all those places.”
Asked if Iraq is about to become a minor story, Fadel said she believed so. “I fear that we will forget about it. That it will go from the front pages, to the middle pages, to the back pages, to the no pages. That doesn’t mean the story is going to be over, it just means we’re not going to talk about it anymore.”
Fadel is worried that violence in Iraq will increase in the coming months. “The thing that broke my heart when I left was that I felt that things were getting worse,” she said.
Everything that I saw in the future from the interviews I was doing weren’t good and when that moment comes where it gets so much worse and lives are being lost again… then who writes about it? Maybe there won’t be anyone there to see it or hear it, and then it didn’t happen.
In addition to being interviewed, Fadel wrote an essay reflecting on What war brought to Iraq. Her essay is accompanied by a narrated photo essay. Here are some excerpts, from her piece I think deserve broader notice.
“Iraq taught me to savor the trivial and the good”, Fadel writes reflecting on birthday celebrations and Iraqi weddings. But, she notes:
The reality in this capital of gray and brown, war and poverty always prevailed, however. On my last day in Iraq, as on my first day in Iraq, I didn’t see what the United States and its allies had accomplished.
I couldn’t see much evidence of the billions of American taxpayers’ dollars that have gone to rebuild a nation ravaged for more than three decades by war, sanctions and more war.
I couldn’t understand what thousands of American soldiers had died for and why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had been killed. I didn’t see a budding democracy in an Iraqi government that was more like Saddam Hussein’s every day. I didn’t see a land long divided by sect, ethnicity, tribe and class beginning to grow into a united nation.
As she noted in her interview, Fadel also writes in her essay that she thinks the fighting is likely to return to Iraq.
Everyone I spoke to said they were worried about the next fight; a conflict that they said most likely will kill more Iraqis than in the past six years.
That battle is likely to begin sometime after the American soldiers leave. Then, the U.S. no longer could restrain a Shiite Muslim-led government that’s determined to make sure that its former oppressors never surface again.
The U.S.-backed government can’t stop the battle for land and oil between Kurds and Arabs in the north. It can’t bury, pay off or protect the Sunni insurgency that fought the U.S. occupation and the new Iraqi leadership that rode to power on the occupier’s tanks.
She writes of the people she has met in Iraq and how their lives have been disrupted and forever changed by the war.
One woman, Hasna Khowass Hassan, lost five of her seven sons in the fighting and her husband was “killed by al Qaida in Iraq in the name of the Islamic State.” She is “a broken women”, Fadel writes, “still shrouded” in black, “her eyes were dulled by sadness”.
Waleed Taha Yas showed Fadel the ruins of his family’s home in village Yasser al Khuthayer. “Waleed had spent everything to furnish the room he’d shared with his wife”.
Now homes in the village are nothing but “charred walls and rubble”. On Nov. 15, 2007, fighters from al Qaida in Iraq fought the villagers and killed at least 17 men. “For a month,” Fadel writes, “he’d come here and weep.” Now this 25-year-old man is supporting 22 members of his extended family.
In her accompanying photo essay, Fadel talks about the children of Iraq. One picture, she says, “makes me think of a child’s understanding of Iraq.”
One child once told me that he wanted to be an American when he grew up. He thought it meant to wear a uniform, to carry a gun, and to have the power to kill who you wanted.
Fadel concludes her essay wondering again what the “suffering and the bloodshed of Iraqis and Americans alike has accomplished.”
For her journalistic work in Iraq, Fadel won the George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting in 2008. She was one of the best reporters covering Iraq on a day-to-day basis and now she is back in the States, I will miss her insights. Like her, I too wonder what was the point of Iraq?
Cross-posted from Daily Kos.