Recently I got a disturbing e-mail from a friend in Baghdad who wrote: “I’m leaving Iraq for good, leaving all my life behind, my memories and friends, leaving the way I’m used to living and heading for the unknown. Why am I leaving? You know better than many why.”
I do know why, and it raises troubling questions about what we Americans owe the Iraqi people. What is our moral responsibility as it becomes clear that our bungled occupation has sunk Iraq into chaos – and that the country is approaching all-out civil war?
My friend, call him George, is an Iraqi Christian, a middle-aged engineer who became a fixer for foreign journalists. He was my first Iraqi translator, and I was his first client. He called me “teach,” but he taught me more than I taught him.
George lived in Amariyah, a Sunni neighborhood from which Shiite families have been expelled. Most shops closed after three supermarkets were bombed. George’s wife stopped attending church after a series of attacks on Christians and was afraid to go out without veiling. George had to keep his work secret lest he be killed.
But the final blow came when he returned home one evening and saw a wounded man lying on the sidewalk in a pool of blood and trying to wave down help. George – like everyone else – was too scared to stop, lest he be shot for helping the victim. As he hesitated, a white Volkswagen pulled up, and a gunman fired three more bullets into the man, then sped off.
Democracy on the march, no doubt. The benefits of staying the course.
Oh, I forgot. No one ever said that.