Sandals and Shoes of War

Poor Iraqis. They are out in the streets, stealing couches from Sheraton hotel, piece of door from the Olympic stadium. Mother and son were carrying meager window curtains wrapped around neck. The dictators are “deeply buried” or given safe passageway through never-to-be-told side deal. And the subjugated, bombarded and maimed Iraqis are scavenging anything they can put their hands on. At least this is the picture American media showed in glowing daylight.

The dramatic destruction of old Saddam’s statue must be a sure hit along with the rosy kisses of Iraqi men on American soldiers. This is the moment Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and many others in their war cabinet were salivating to see from the onslaught of this confrontation.

But now that war is dwindling down in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, though a few places are still defiant to be subjugated, “game is over” uttered the Iraqi UN Ambassador in Washington D.C.

Perhaps the game has just begun.

Now the big boys will play. Now the entire squad of profiteers will gouge down the spoils of war.

Poor Iraqis are “very happy” with their smudged couches hauling on aching back. And in high places the billions of dollars of deals taking crispy shape amid variety of conflicts of interests.

“War is a tragedy for some and a boon for others” [1], writes Bob Herbert in New York Times today. Oh boy! This is not a new story. This is the oldest story of animal kingdom. War brings deaths to countless family. Ali Ismael Abbas, the 12-year-old Iraqi child lost his both arms when the bombs hit his home. Not only he lost his arms, his family is wiped out from the face of this earth when thousand pound bombs hit while he was in sleep. See the horrific picture below. Ali is in immense pain. The tragedy is here in full force.

There are thousands of other Iraqis who are not as lucky as Ali is. Their body parts are melting in the sands, or severed into chunks of flesh and bones in the bottom of crater or demolished concrete beams. Iraqi morgues are overflowing with corpses, said the Red Cross today. And the maimed ones, amputees, blind and infant babies are sleeping on hospital floor since the hospitals cannot cope with the oncoming casualties. War brings tragedy and tragedy is here in violent gore.

War is boon for others. Surely it is. Media showed the chaotic picture of Baghdad where hundreds of looters snatching whatever they can from a fallen autocratic regime. But these are petty fish swimming in much larger sea. This is the action time for giant sharks. Thus the hunting begins.

“The war against Iraq has become one of the clearest examples ever of the influence of the military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against so eloquently in his farewell address in 1961. This iron web of relationships among powerful individuals inside and outside the government operates with very little public scrutiny and is saturated with conflicts of interest.” Bob Herbert is right. These conflicts of interests are not getting much public attention. These highly placed officials are even not elected in their sensitive position. They were “selected”. And their activities are outside from public scrutiny.

“The Center for Public Integrity, a private watchdog group in Washington, recently disclosed that of the 30 members of the board, at least 9 are linked to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002. Richard Perle was the chairman of the board until just a few weeks ago, when he resigned the chairmanship amid allegations of a conflict of interest. He is still on the board.” So what’s the purpose of resigning then? If he remains in all powerful defense policy-making machine, what’s the point of brandishing the world of his reputed resignation only a few weeks back?

“Their goals may or may not coincide with the best interests of the American people.” “How can they bring the best interests of American people when the main motif of their actions is making personal profit in this capital making world rather than doing profitless chore?

“Think of the divergence of interests, for example, between the grunts who are actually fighting this war, who have been eating sand and spilling their blood in the desert, and the power brokers who fought like crazy to make the war happen and are profiting from it every step of the way.” Now you get it Mr. Herbert. The American boys and girls with guns and tanks in the desert are mostly from the working class, many of them freshly out of high school, many of them are poor immigrants’ sons and daughters hoping to get American citizenship while serving in nation’s fight. These are the men and women are giving their blood and life pursuing their idealistic goals that were fed to them by their superior in the name of patriotism. They are the good guys, only oblivious to the overall complex geopolitical equation.

And in the cozy places with shiny brownish table standing upright in thickly woolen carpet away from all public scrutiny, war hawks are making their plans of wars, invasions and dreams of a larger empire.

They showed angry Iraqi men slapping the statues and pictures of Saddam with their dusty sandals and shoes. It is the form of worst insult Iraqi can show to the oppressors. Good for them since Saddam surely is worthy of lowest of the lowest insult for his decades old oppression. The old man was chanting, “Ya Muzlima! Ya Kafir!” and slapping Saddam’s tattered picture frame in poetic rhythm.

What types of shoes and sandals American befuddled people wear these days on this side of ocean? Does anyone know? Will they ever be able to use their sandals like that old crazy Iraqi man on their Saddams? Perhaps the democratic world is not so crude after all.

And real democracy for Iraqis? Will that ever be possible? Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser for the elder Bush is an honest old man. He said, “What’s going to happen the first time we hold an election in Iraq and it turns out the radicals win? What do you do? We’re surely not going to let them take over.”

Democracy! O Democracy! I fear for thee!

Does democracy look like the limbless Ali who is in sheer agony being helpless from bombardments of abuses and mockeries by the untouchables?


[1] Bob Herbert, Spoils of War“, The New York Times, April 10, 2003.

Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Canada.