Iraqi faith in future of country blown away in seconds
By Aws Qusay and Aseel Kami
Just the other day, a friend was complaining about the Iraqi army checkpoints all over Baghdad. “These checkpoints kill all the fun when I go out on a picnic with my family,” he moaned.
The next day, his wife found herself sitting among bleeding and dying colleagues at the Iraqi foreign ministry after a massive truckbomb devastated the facade of the building and cut down dozens of people in a cloud of shattered glass.
“It was judgment day,” his wife said about the scene. “Some people had lost their eyes. Everyone was crying or slaughtered by the flying glass,” she said.
After Wednesday’s bombings, which also targeted the finance ministry, the friend is still complaining about the checkpoints, but for different reasons. “So you wait for a long time in some checkpoint and then you see some a soldier or a policeman turn his back to the waiting vehicles and just start waving them through while he is chatting to someone else. What’s the point in that?” he said.
The checkpoints set up around Baghdad have gone overnight from an irritating and unwanted cause of traffic jams to being criticised as inadequate and unprofessional. Wednesday’s explosions, in which almost 100 people died and more than 1,000 were wounded, exposed deep flaws in the ability of the Iraqi security forces to defend the population and obvious targets like government ministries against attack.
Public anger has led to some calls for the redeployment in city centres of U.S. troops, who pulled out of urban areas in June in compliance with a bilateral security pact that also sets a deadline of end-2011 for a full U.S. withdrawal. Iraqi troops and soldiers form the frontline now against insurgents such as al Qaeda and others who want to pitch Iraq back into sectarian war, undermine the Shi’ite Muslim-led government ahead of an election next year or who just want to sow chaos for the sake of chaos.
They are out there for hours on end even when the summer heat becomes unbearable and the air fills with choking dust from Iraq’s regular sandstorms. They can claim some credit for ending the sectarian slaughter between majority Shi’ites and once dominant Sunnis. But they and their checkpoints clearly have done nothing to prevent suicide, car and truck bomb attacks.
We Iraqis have in recent months begun to regain some confidence in the future of our country as the violence subsided and Iraq regained its sovereignty with the start of a U.S. withdrawal.
But Wednesday’s bomb blasts blew away that confidence as swiftly as they vaporised the windows and walls of the foreign and finance ministries and cut short the lives of dozens of people inside.
Whenever we think everything is returning to normal, a wave of bloodshed occurs again.
Driving past the ruined finance ministry, slowing down to gape like everyone else, we are reminded that the building was attacked in a similar manner two years ago. Just like now, an elevated roadway near it collapsed in the blast two years ago.
It took the Iraqi government a whole year to rebuild it. What they built in a year collapsed in seconds on Wednesday. They will surely rebuild it again. We can’t help but wonder if it will be brought crashing down for a third time.