Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Liberation

Last weekend I visited my relatives in Virginia. Their large family spent four miserable years in one of Saddam's jails because one of their older sons, who was forced to fight against Iran, decided to defect. I wrote about their story in my first post. Their son Rasool fled Iraq in 1991 and moved to Germany. His brother Haider joined him a few years later. The parents left Iraq in 1992 and moved to the Washington, DC, area to live with their oldest son, who left Iraq in the 70s. Their two remaining sons left Iraq in 2003 and moved to Virginia. They worked hard, saved money and now own a small restaurant. Rasool and Haider spent the Christmas break in the US, so I decided to visit them for a weekend. I had not seen Haider since 1980, before he was imprisoned. I was 11 years old, and he was 10. When I saw him last weekend, we didn't recognize each other. We talked a lot about Iraq and the war. Rasool and Haider spent a month in Iraq in 2004 - they helped rebuild their relatives' home, which was damaged by US bombing in 2003 (nobody was injured during the bombing). Rasool saw some US soldiers mistreating Iraqis - he described an incident in which an American soldier threw an Iraqi on the ground and and stepped on his head - it was not clear what the Iraqi had done wrong. This incident and reports of rude behavior and theft during the searches of homes left Rasool with a negative image of the US military, but they all agree that the US invasion and occupation was necessary and ultimately good for Iraq. In fact they do not call it an invasion - they call it a liberation.

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