Iraq is celebrating Christmas and CNN is making it out like there never was such freedom before the US invaded, forgetting, perhaps, that Saddam did not persecute Christians. This is not an excuse for the US invasion, as it will be played, nor is it an excuse for the excesses defended by Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.
Commentary By: Steven Reynolds
My first reaction to the story on CNN about the first public Christmas to be celebrated in Baghdad was quite wary. A hot air balloon supporting a huge poster of Jesus is not going to go over very well among the Muslims there, is it, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shiite. And I am not often impressed by the kumbaya nature of the depiction of the celebration, with one woman, a Muslim, explaining why she attended.
On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups – Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite – hold their hands aloft and sing “We are building Iraq!” Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.
Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. “All Iraqis are Christian today!” he says.
Khalaf says sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. “Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,” he says, “and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.”
In spite of his claim, the spokesman is surrounded by heavy security. Yet this celebration shows that the security situation in Baghdad is improving.
Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she’s very happy to be here. “My mother’s birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions,” she says, “especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year.”
I suppose this celebration of Christmas in a country wracked by violence ever since the US invasion seven years ago is going to be touted as a good thing. Heck, Dick Cheney may use this as evidence as to why it was OK to torture, spy on Americans, get hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, etc., etc. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But Cheney is trumped by the celebrants themselves. On display at the celebration are some dioramas made by school children, and in them you can see the kind of terror and pain Bush/Cheney’s invasion of Iraq brought (from CNN):
In the middle of the park there’s an art exhibit, the creation of 11- and 12-year-olds: six displays, each about three feet wide, constructed of cardboard and Styrofoam, filled with tiny dolls dressed like ordinary people, along with model soldiers and police. They look like model movie sets depicting everyday life in Baghdad.
Afnan, 12 years old, shows me her model called “Arresting the Terrorists.”
“These are the terrorists,” she tells me. “They were trying to blow up the school.” In the middle of the street a dead “terrorist” sprawls on the asphalt, his bloody arm torn from his body by an explosion. Afnan tells me she used red nail polish to paint the blood. A little plastic dog stands nearby. “What is he doing?” I ask. “He looks for terrorists and searches for weapons and explosives,” Afnan says.
Afnan was likely six years old or so when Dick Cheney and George Bush invaded Iraq on the series of false pretexts Cheney is still defending. As I understand it, Christianity was not persecuted in the days before the US invasion, so Cheney and Bush cannot lay claim to having brought freedom of religion. Afnan’s diorama of ethnic and religious violence was brought to her directly from Bush and Cheney. Indeed, in a remarkable performance for its baldfaced defense of wrongdoing, Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and laid out a case for Bush Administration successes, a performance stunning in its tenuous grip on reality, at least the reality young Afnan sees. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Cheney, speaking less than a month before he and President Bush leave the White House, was blunt and unapologetic about his central role in some of the most controversial issues of the last eight years, including the invasion of Iraq, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and harsh interrogation tactics. Cheney also said he disagreed with Bush’s decision to remove embattled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, saying that “the president doesn’t always take my advice.”
“I was a Rumsfeld man,” Cheney said. “I’d helped recruit him, and I thought he did a good job for us.”
The interview was the second in less than a week for the normally reclusive vice president, and it comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office. In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney suggested the administration would have gone to war with Iraq even without erroneous intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction. Cheney also said in that interview that he approved of the administration’s use of coercive interrogation tactics, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and others.
Dick Cheney seals his reputation for all time as the puppetmaster behind the throne who supported policies of spying on US citiznes, invading Iraq, supporting Rumsfeld’s failed strategies, torture, etc. Perhaps because the performance was on Fox News Cheney’s immediate viewing audience did not sit in shock at the man responsible for the disasters of the last seven years. Perhaps those viewers even cheered. The rest of us know that Cheney’s policies have mangled our constitution, have destroyed our reputation in the world, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and have led to the terror in young Afnan’s art project.
Again, a Republican such as Dick Cheney proves he has no sense of shame.