Thursday, August 19, 2010

Goodbye Forever, Goodbye!

We have a goodbye ritual when we leave the house. I call out "treat time!" and all the dogs come running to the kitchen and slide to a sitting stop, looking at me. It's amazing how quickly foster dogs learn this routine. Each of the dogs gets a bit of a treat, then I tell them to be good, not to kill the foster dogs, and that we'll be back soon.

When we return, the barking (especially from Polly, who is VERY loud and very bossy) starts as we turn into the drive way. The welcome home treat that they get is a ploy to keep them from running out the front door. Why would you want to run out into the cold, dark night when you know that a yummy treat is waiting for you in the kitchen?

Goodbye rituals started a long time ago, when the kids were little. When we first moved here, Tom, David and Paul were very small and still suffering separation anxiety whenever I left the house. We made it a game. I would get in the car and Walt and whichever kids were around would stand in the driveway and then they would "push" the car down the driveway and yell "good bye! good bye! good bye forever! goodbye forever! goodbye!" (they also sang that to the Blackford kids whenever we left there house after a visit.)

I expected to see something like that at the Iraq/Kuwait border when the last truck of the last combat batallion rolled across the border and into Kuwait.

borderpic.jpg (69447 bytes)

A bunch of Iraqis at the border, pushing the vehicles as they crossed and yelling out "good bye! good bye! good bye forever! goodbye forever! goodbye!"

But it was all rather anticlimactic. Yet it seemed like something which was of huge significance. Rachel Maddow, from the former "green zone" (now the "international zone") in Baghdad admitted to having goosebumps all over her body.

The Bush administration entered Iraq with the notion that we were going to bring them the great gift of democracy, to help set up a stable democratic state which would be an anchor for future Middle East negotiations. We are leaving with our unwanted gift of democracy in hand, with the country in rubble, with thousands of fighters and civilians dead, with a government which has met for an entire 12 minutes since it was set up and with the question of whether it was all worth it. One of the generals interviewed today said that it will be left to history to decide that. Probably long after all of us are dead.

There is no doubt that some good came out of all of this. God, I hope so. But it feels as anti-climactic as the departure from the country seems. (Of course we are still leaving behind some >50,000 troops as "advisors.")

Anybody who watched a movie called "To Die in Jerusalem" should have been able to realize that what we set out to do was impossible. Should have been able to figure out that if other invading countries had been unable to bring stability to the region, we probably weren't going to be successful either.

"To Die in Jerusalem" is the story of two young girls (around 19 years old) who are killed in a suicide bombing in a market place in Jerusalem. One girl, Ayat al-Akhras (Palestinian), was the bomber, the other girl, Rachel Levy (Jewish), was the victim.

Two years after the bombing, Rachel's mother decides she wants to have a sit-down, heart-to-heart talk with Ayat's mother, hoping that she could understand Ayat's actions and that maybe the two of them could bring some closure and some peace to each other.

The families of the two girls live less than four miles away from one another, yet it was impossible to get them into the same room. Rachel's mother finally received permission to travel into the refugee camp to meet Ayat's mother, but her film crew was arrested and the mother feared for her life, so she left.

Ayat's mother was fearful of going to Israel but finally agreed to go, and then the Israeli government wouldn’t give her a permit.

The meeting in the film ended up happening through videoconference, which was unsatisfactory because they were unable to touch each other. Both attempted to explain her situation to the other, but they were talking apples and oranges. Ayat's family had been ousted frm their home when the state of Israel was established. They were unable to go "home" again and felt like they were living in a prison. Both families had suffered losses because of the war.

Rachel's mother wanted to understand why her daughter had to die. Ayat's family wanted to defend their daughter's decision and why she was noble to fight for their people's freedom.

In the end neither could understand the other and the talks broke down.

I see this as the whole problem with those who attempt to "fix" the situation in the middle east. We in the west can't possibly understand tribal feelings that go back many generations. We can't understand why people living in the area might like to maintain the familiar. We can't just say "our way is the best way in the world and we're willing to help you achieve it" and expect that the country we have invaded is going to jump for joy at the prospect.

It will be interesting to see what will happen in the coming months and years. I suspect that in the end, nothing will have changed, except a country's infrastructure will have been destroyed and thousands of its citizens killed and maimed in our bumbling attempts to change a way of life that has existed since before our own country was founded.

But at least our combat troops are gone and I'm wondering if somewhere there isn't a crowd of people chanting the equivalent of "good bye! good bye! good bye forever! goodbye forever! goodbye!"


harrietv said...

They might have had a better chance at understanding if they had gotten the daughters to talk, but I doubt it. It will have to begin with much younger kids, before they have been indoctrinated with "he is my enemy, so I have to kill him."

There was, as I said many years ago -- more than once -- no good reason for us to invade Iraq, and it accomplished nothing positive. Even the construction we may have built won't be useful. More likely it will be destroyed.

It's really no wonder they hate us. They hate each other too, but we give them a reason to unite.

Sunny said...

No matter how hard we try, we cannot import democracy to a tribal society that wants to live in the 12th century.