Friday, March 04, 2005

Hilla protest

There shouldn't really be much to say about the Hilla massacre itself. This is not war. I was talking to an anti war activist last night and when I mentioned Hilla he said he wondered who was responsible. I did him a grave injustice in assuming he was coming out with some conspiracy theory. No, his wondering was an incomprehension at such brutality.

The protest demo was a little more ambiguous. The fact that it happened at all is a sign that terror is failing. If you check out AP's account and that of the BBC it at first glance seems like two demos. At the Associated Press demo the demand is "No to Terrorism". With BBC it is an anti police demo. My point is not that the difference is the result of bias. After all, one of the BBC quotes from AP: "We blame Hilla police for this tragedy because they didn't take the necessary measures to protect innocent people" even tho that bit isn't on the AP link that I hit.

My point is only a reminder that Iraq is too complicated for outsiders to fully understand. In the "good" old days reporting from Iraq was easy. Ordinary folk mouthed Baath propagander so journalists could pretty much put any spin on that they liked. Democracy is messy and complicated where details that outsiders miss change everything. That's even more true for a democracy so much up against it as Iraq.

Not knowing those local details I find myself trying to seek parallels with events that that for me are closer to home. To me that's the way the parents of the children killed in Dunblane channeled their anguish into a movement that forced a reluctant government to almost completely ban ownership of fire arms in Britain. Probably that parallel has some validity but the Hilla people have a history of these kind of demonstrations. Back in December 2003 demonstrators, demanding elections, forced the resignation of the governor there. Nor is tragedy new for Hilla as it was for Dunblane. Hilla has it's killing fields at Mahawil where many were killed in the suppression of the Shia revolt.

It is very easy to redefine the actions of those demonstrators as part of a wider struggle. I nearly wrote "easy trap" but on some level it is valid to see that as part of a wider struggle whether those Iraqis like it or not. But first of all it is their struggle to build democracy in their own community and protect it from fear.

To be pro Iraq means listening to Iraqis but with the terrorists (aka the resistance) murdering journalists it's hard.

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