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Beyond Debates
Baghdad's Heart of Darkness

Curfew's companions

Argue the merits and drawbacks of the American presence in Iraq all you like. In the end it comes down to the day-to-day experiences of ordinary Iraqis—the hell that life's routines have become, the imprint that American boots are leaving on those lives under the guise of restoring security. Here's just one family's episode, one evening, in one Baghdadi neighborhood. Reading that, there's nothing left to debate. From McClatchy's Inside Iraq blog with thanks to Ohdave:

Again the debates, again the discussions, again and again.

Today I met my dearest friend, my cousin; she was very pale and tired.

Ten days ago she finished her day’s work at her pharmacy; locked up and stepped out to find her husband waiting for her with the girls, Dima, 7; and Tara, 4. They drove off towards their home in Khadhraa a little after six in the evening. Reaching the entrance to their neighbourhood, they found American forces blocking the road.

There’s nothing for it but to wait.

And wait they did – until ten thirty when her husband approached the troops on foot trying to convince them that it was getting rather late –We need to get home, guys – curfew is coming on!

They were told to use a different route.

So they and three other cars also waiting simply turned around and went searching for another route. 95% of the roads inside the neighbourhood were blocked. It was a real task.

At last they reached the last corner but one. Turning that corner almost cost them their lives.

“We turned the corner and all of a sudden all hell broke loose. We were a target! WHY?? What is happening?? We ducked as far as we could, but the fire wouldn’t stop! Who was shooing at us??

“A thin scream! Oh my God!

TARA!!

“She went limp in my arms! I started screaming and screaming. My husband tried to move and was shot too. Twice. But he didn’t pass out.

“I opened the door.

Cradling Tara in my arms and shouting for Dima to stick by me, I crawled out of the car, and continued to crawl the few meters to the gate of the nearest house. Too terrified to raise my voice, I banged and banged with all my strength – and miraculously – the door opened.

“Arms came to my assistance, we were half dragged into the house, I was gesturing to them that my husband was in need of help in the car – but I couldn’t form the words. Pointing to the car, incoherent sounds came from my mouth, but they seemed to understand that I was telling them that there was someone else in the car. But they daren’t leave the safety of their home. We looked into each other’s faces, not knowing what to do. The firing continued.” Tara was shot in the hand, blood was flowing – I couldn’t cope – I was losing it. Dima was unharmed, thank God!

“A few minutes passed.

“Miraculously, I saw my husband’s twisted face peep through the half open gate at ground level! They ran to him and pulled him in. We found that he was shot in the shoulder and in the arm. He was loosing blood fast.

“I tried to stop the bleeding but wasn’t skilled enough to do it. I was losing them – they were dying in front of my eyes!

“Suddenly the door was kicked in. American troops poured into the house, shouting “What the ……

“They came to a stunned stop.

“Looking at us – at the blood – at my broken family..

They said they were sorry. They had set up an ambush for somebody and we had walked into it. “They thought he had taken refuge in this house, and followed him in.

“They said they were sorry, again and again. Asked if we needed first aid; help in bandaging the wounds; asked if we wanted to be taken to hospital.

“Why did you shoot at us?? We had our headlights turned off as you asked, and the dome lights turned on

Why did you shoot?? Couldn’t you see it was a family in the car?? Couldn’t you see?

“Just make way for us to get to our home, please.&

“And they did.

“My daughter lost two fingers. My husband has a punctured lung and a steel sliver embedded in his arm, still to be seen to.

Parliament resumes its sessions tomorrow to discuss important things like Oil Law, maybe, or new ministers.

Security in Baghdad is better.

Much better.

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