In Iraq this year, like every year since 2003, Santa Clause comes in the form of US soldier. I struggle with the poor global English media available in the Middle East like CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera International is a bit better but hard to find. At home I have only CNN, so I try to catch it at the top of the hour to get the three or four headlines from that day. Sometimes they do a more in depth story.
I’ll never forget the story they did a few months ago on Iraqi drag racing. The reporter started with something like, “Once illegal under Saddam, Iraqis now have the freedom to soup up their cars…” My jaw dropped. Iraqis now have the freedom to put decals of half naked women on the doors or oversized spoilers on the rear of the car? I learned a lot from that story. That the 2003 American war on Iraq has enabled Iraqis to take part in such an important activity like driving around in fancy cars with neon lights and obnoxiously loud music blasting from the subwoofer in the trunk.
I’ve realized that for one who only watches CNN, it is impossible to know that the US is occupying Iraq. Everything is shown these days as the “good” the American occupation is doing in that country. Like this story on American troops handing out school supplies to a school in Baghdad. A nice gesture, sure, and without context I found myself as the viewer really feeling for the US soldiers and the “good” things that they’re doing in Iraq. That was at least until I remembered they were occupying that country and most Iraqis certainly do not want them there!
The story was about a project called Troops Need You, it’s an apparent attempt by a group of soldiers to win over the “hearts and minds” of Iraqis. No matter how many gifts Santa delivers, I don’t think Iraqis, or any of us, will ever appreciate Santa if he came down the chimney carrying an M16 and told me how my house needed to be run.