April 9th 2003 is the day credited as the anniversary of the “fall of Baghdad.” Although the recent invasion of Iraq began in March, its important to have a historical context for the war.
The United States first attacked Iraq in 1991, in what is commonly referred to by the Foreign Press as the “Gulf War.” In the Arab world this is considered the second Gulf War, the first being the eight year conflict between Iraq and Iran.
After the supposed completion of the Gulf War, the United States pushed the Sanctions Regime on Iraq, along with continuing to bomb Iraq, regularly, sometimes on a daily or near-daily basis, including a hundred-hour long strike under Clinton in 1998. These sanctions combined with destruction of infrastructure via bombing runs devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and is believed to be the direct cause of half a million child deaths over the twelve years of sanctions.
Given the near-constant military assault on Iraq since 1991, its easy to understand how April 9th, rather than March 20th, might be a more present anniversary in the mind of Iraqis.
Given the prevalence of this anniversary for Iraqis, its difficult to understand why the anti-war movement has been incapable of recognizing the importance of the April 9th anniversary.
Even Antiwar.com, long-considered one of the premier mouthpieces and clearinghouses for news about US-sponsored war efforts, at the time of this writing, has no piece today marking the anniversary of the occupation. This disregard may also indicate a major reason for the failure of any Iraq Solidarity Movement to gain traction.
The foreign press have also, by and large, failed to relate the Iraqi perception of April 9th.
A handful of publications have alluded to the idea of an “occupation” in the minds of Iraqis, here are a few:
CNN and KSBI-TV both depended heavily on this story from the AP:
Vanessa Arrington’s story for the AP has been reprinted in literally dozens of outlets all over the world and particularly in the United States.
Her story essentially ignores the impression of occupation held in the minds of many Iraqis, although she quotes the Iraqi Islamic Party,
The “Freedom Day” holiday appeared to draw little public attention. The Iraqi Islamic Party, a the biggest Sunni party, issued a statement rejecting the day, saying it was “an anniversary of occupying Iraq, not liberating it.”
I would argue this serves to marginalize the opinion, by equating it with the Sunni mindset, which has been continuously marginalized in the press as a “minority viewpoint.”
Here is a sampling of other articles which ignore the concept of “occupation” in their coverage of Iraq on this anniversary:
Although this article in the Indian journal, Deepika, appears to be more cynical regarding the United States’ project in Iraq, it also fails to use the word “occupation.”
Perhaps the results of this study should come as no surprise. It appears only the Arab press overwhelming utilized the phrase “occupation” to describe the anniversary:
Syrian Arab News Agency
There is also this piece in the Turkish Zaman Daily:
Perhaps most tellingly, this is not even an article specifically about Iraq, but is in fact about the Turkish company, Cola Turka. Zaman uses the occupation of Baghdad as a historical reference for discussing the entrance of Cola Turka into the Turkish market.
The use of the occupation of Iraq in general vernacular, to provide insight to the timing of another important event, is far more telling than any of the above articles.
Just as everyone in the United States knows the day we declared our independence from Britain, and many can recall the dates of Pearl Harbor, or JFK or Martin Luther King’s assassinations, the dates of the occupation of Iraq in 2003 or Palestine in 1948, have taken on a sginificance in the Muslim/Arab mind that transcends history and place.
Finally, to as a counter to Zaman’s usage of the word “occupation,” I’ll leave you with today’s statement from Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey about the anniversary of “Freedom Day.” I’ve bolded the parts I think will be of most interest to my friends in Iraq:
Iraqi Freedom Day is a time to reflect on what has happened and what still needs to happen. Despite much progress, much work remains. We must continue to help Iraqis create a strong, stable and successful new democracy. The Iraqi people and their elected representatives must choose a competent government that will develop a program for Iraq that benefits all Iraqis. The legitimate security forces must quell sectarian violence.
Population centers must be secure to allow Iraq’s new institutions to take root and businesses to flourish. Finally, the people must be able to trust their leadership and the institutions of the state.
Through it all, the United States and its coalition partners will remain steadfast partners and encourage progress. In the end, Iraq will succeed. Its success will help transform the wider Middle East and give even greater meaning to Iraqi Freedom Day.
I believe each of these bold sections will be the pieces that play most to the Iraqi people. By play, I mean ring most true to their perception of the United States’ real intentions in Iraq.
What has happened, is the systematic deconstruction of the Iraqi state.
Much work remains, yet rebuilding time is running out.
Population centers will be secured by the American bases
These bases are being constructed throughout the heart of the country. The locations of the American bases coincide more closely with Iraq’s major population centers than the locations of its oilfields.
The United States will remain,
Many Iraqis suspect the United States intends to remain in the Middle East indefinitely, whether to maintain its preeminence through global hegemony, or to destroy Muslim culture while
success will help transform the wider Middle East