Squids and Whales
BAGHDAD — It’s Friday in Baghdad, and Iraqis are, by and large, in the mosques hearing the imams call them closer to Allah. Some are being told the new constitution is a grand thing for Iraq, that it will secure their place and the future for their children. Others are being told the exact opposite.
Rory Carroll is safe in the Green Zone and being debriefed. I was heavily involved in the information-gathering part of his release, passing on what we could find to the relevant authorities and working our Sadr City contacts. In the end, however, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior were the guys who got him out without a shot being fired. A security firm I know that requests anonymity was highly complimentary of the local authorities, and were surprised as I am. We’re all pleasantly surprised, in fact. The British and Americans were in supporting roles on this one, so keep that in mind when you see the British Embassy congratulating itself on a job well-done.
Rory’s story will be told, but not now. For the moment, I’m just grateful he’s going home.
The referendum and “Saddam trial”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1120567,00.html are now in abeyance. We’re all waiting to see the results of the audit on the vote count, and whether funny business is going on in Mosul or not. A source within the Electoral Commission says all ballots on the recount seem clean — except for Mosul. But we have no numbers and everyone has clammed up. I know the possibility of vote fraud, which I reported on “here”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2005/10/curious_numbers.php and “here”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1119617,00.html this week, is starting to “get some traction”:http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/politics/ny-wovote194475442oct19,0,5677675.story?coll=ny-lipolitics-print.
There are titanic forces moving beneath the surface all over the place: Iran, Iraq, Syria, France, the United States, Britain. They’re all related and I’m desperately trying to discern what’s happening, but it’s like watching the struggle of giant squids and sperm whales by observing the ripples on the surface. This is the new Great Game and the stakes are very high, indeed. With the publication of the “Mehlis report”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/mehlisreport.pdf — which I’m reading now — things will start to move very quickly now, I think, and there’s a straight road running from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Tehran, with off-ramps to the Palestinian camps of Lebanon to the Syrian border to Jordan. Even, I suspect, to the kidnapping of Rory in some way.
None of these vague generalities will be news to anyone reading this site, as you’re probably also someone who keeps up with the news of the region. And truth be told, I don’t have anything to add right now… I’m just catching my breath from this week.
My mental state is not what it was; I’m irritable and snappish, with less patience than ever before. Panic attacks are becoming more common and sleep less so. And I’ve just been back less than two weeks. So when I’m annoyed with the Iraqi people, or scornful — and this, unfortunately, happens more often than I’d like these days — I try to remember that they’ve been through a lot and have been forced to endure a lot. Perspective, you know. How the Iraqis do it, week after week, for 32 months is beyond me. They don’t take Zoloft much and psychotherapy isn’t a common thing here.
But they do have their mosques, where they take comfort and find solidarity. And today, many of them are hearing radically different views of their future and being told that Allah wants them to fight for one set of tomorrows or another. All the while forces and actors outside their control draw their plans that will change their lives.