The Thousand and One Nights 20 March 2008Posted by marisacat in Inconvenient Voice of the Voter, Iraq War, WAR!.
THEY CAME TO BAGHDAD
945 Buwayhids; 1055 Seljuks; 1258 Mongols led by Hulagu; 1340 Jalayrs; 1393 & 1401 Mongols led by Tamerlane; 1411 Turkoman Black Sheep; 1469 Turkoman White Sheep ; 1508 Safavids ; 1534 Ottomans under Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent; 1623 Safavids; 1638 Ottomans under Sultan Murad IV; 1917 British; 1941 British again to depose pro-German government; 2003 Anglo-American invasion
Protesters gather for March of the Dead
At 9:30 a.m. on March 19, the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, protesters from Activist Response Team and others march to symbolize military and civilian war dead. The march began at the Women’s Memorial in Arlington Cemetery.
photo by: Robert A. Reeder
I caught Sinan Antoon last night on Charlie Rose and was reminded of this beautifully wrenching piece he wrote just after the invasion… Of Bridges and Birds
He was wonderfully forceful last night about what we have wrought with our invasion and the years of sanctions and bombings that preceeded the invasion, Charlie brought out his radio announcer’s voice but could not drown him out.. that voice he has used on anyone speaking truth whom Charlie deems not his peer, from Amy Goodman to Randall Robinson…
[H]aving a fascination with birds, I liked to go to Suq Al-Ghazl where birds and animals of all kinds were sold on Fridays. I also liked to sit on our roof and watch as the pigeons kept by our neighbour’s son would take their usual flight in the afternoon Baghdad sky. At times, these birds would dodge, and compete with, the kites flown by kids. Sometimes I could spot a flock of birds flying high above, en route to their breeding grounds in the north. Perhaps I remember this now because of something I read a few days before the US-led invasion. Reuters reported that these annual migration routes could be disrupted when the war erupted. In the period between mid-March and mid-April, one finds the greatest number of birds in Iraq. Since many of these birds cannot make it to their breeding grounds in one flight, they stop and “refuel” on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates and in the southern marshes drained by Saddam.
Every year around this time I would look for the one or two white storks that used to nest on the dome of the old church in Bab Al- Mu’azzam. I wonder if they have made it to Baghdad this year? I doubt it. I clipped that Reuters article from Al-Hayat and left it lying around. When I read the article again on the second day of the war, American B-52 bombers were taking off from Fairfield Airbase in England and heading towards the skies over Baghdad. Someone on Fox News described them as “beautiful birds”, and Rumsfeld spoke of “the humanity which went into the making of these weapons”.
If they don’t perish first, the storks will try to return next year.
I felt pangs of pain a week ago as I watched an American tank crawling across Al- Jumhuriyya Bridge in the heart of Baghdad. I have crossed that bridge hundreds of times, and I used to linger a bit half way along, especially when walking alone, and look down at the river. The Tigris splits Baghdad into two sections: Al-Karkh, on the western bank, and Al-Rusafah on the eastern. I used to recite Ali Ibn Al- Jahm’s famous line about the enchanting, almond-shaped eyes of the Baghdadi women who used to cross from one bank to the other in the nineth century. On a lucky day, I would encounter a descendent or two of those women. Now the moon-like faces celebrated in thousands of verses are hiding in houses on both banks, white voyeuristic satellites are hovering above and scrutinising every inch of the city’s body.
In 1991, the US bombed the bridge about which I am writing, slicing it in two. The justification then, as for the other acts of destruction now, was that it was part of the city’s “command and control network”. I rushed out the next morning on my bike to see for myself. Hundreds of Baghdadis had also come and were looking on in silence. Now unable to link Baghdad’s two banks, the bridge resembled a broken smile.
My best friend and I used to roam Baghdad, surveying the daily destruction and checking on friends and relatives to see if they had been consigned to the dubious category of “collateral damage”. The bombing had severed all communications in the first week, and the phones were dead. Now, tanks spit their fire towards a row of houses on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and blazes go up. A correspondent announces that Apaches are hovering over Baghdad for the first time, but, alas, this is a familiar species in our part of the world. They have come to make sure that Baghdad’s residents join the Palestinians as the fortunate recipients of the latest form of lethal “liberation”.
Rivers of blood are flowing along the Tigris as America tattoos its imperial insignia into the bodies of Iraqi children, stamping their futures with its corporate logos in order to “safeguard” it. There is an abyss in and around Iraq, and it is widening by the moment.
… from his close:
In The Thousand and One Nights, otherwise known as the Arabian Nights, that great work that is eternally synonymous with Baghdad, when morning comes, Sheherazad, mother of all narrators, must embrace silence and leave her readers to wonder where the narrative will go next.
For me, it is mourning time, and Baghdad is now enveloped in a long, cruel and starless night. But, just as she’s done in the past, she will wake up once more and try to forget. And I must tend to her scars, ward off her future nightmares, and shower her with kisses and love from afar.