I have received a many questions and communications from readers regarding the situation in Baghdad and how Iraqis are able to go about their everyday lives, despite the ongoing conflict here. I was sitting in my flat this afternoon, logging an interview with Sami Rasouli of Muslim Peacemaker Team (connected to Christian Peacemaker Team) when a fierce gunbattle began nearby.
I went out on my terrace, looking for examples daily life here. Behind our building there is a combination car-park and mechanics garage. Behind the flat, off towards the Tigris River and the Green Zone gunfire could be heard. But just behind us, on the ground level, Iraqi mechanics were hard at work, going about their regular workday.
Even farther from the source of the gunfire, on just the other side of our flat, traffic was moving normally on the street. The police stationed at the intersection nearby weren’t particularly excited. The general traffic to the barbershops and markets nearby appeared to be bustling as usual.
One of the elements about life in Baghdad that I’ve found difficult to describe to those not living here is the apparent routine acceptance Iraqis appear to have cultivated about war. Today’s experience has not been an isolated one. For example, just after the major attack on the Palestine Hotel, mere blocks from here and likely far closer than the current gunbattle, Iraqis were back on the streets and it was business as usual just a few short hours later.
This cultivated routine shouldn’t just be attributed to the latest war. Iraqis have been in a relative state of war since the early 80s, except for brief lulls between the Iran-Iraq war and the quieter periods during the Sanctions. Perhaps the best thing Americans and other Westerners can be doing is to educate themselves about the history of war in Iraq. Rather than amazing oneself with the “resilience of Iraqis against all odds,” try to understand what life in war might be like, and perhaps these questions will disappear.