March 7th made history at several levels on the subject of Iraq. Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for "Best Director". In a stunning rebuke to crassy hypocrisy laden pretentious 300 million dollar "Avatar", Bigelow's $11 million "The Hurt locker" took home the Oscar for "Best Picture". 'Hurt Locker' is a grim movie on a bomb disposal squad in Iraq. The script by Mark Boal, also won the Oscar, does not get into the mud regarding the politics of the invasion. Instead the movie focuses on how the US army is arrayed against odds that are tearing the country asunder. Questions of whom to trust, whom to dislike all abound. Is somebody who is flipping open a cell phone is doing just to talk or...to signal an IED towards which a guy, heavily suited, is walking to defuse. Question, in that split second, is should the cell phone guy be shot down by a sniper, what if he was innocent and the shooting further inflames an alienated populace. On the other hand if a moment's hesitation leads to the death of a fellow soldier who will then go home to a young son and wife in a body bag who can condone the hesitation. All this hangs in the balance in the minds of a very young, probably not even college educated, trained to kill soldier and this is not a classroom in UC Berkeley to debate over a cup of Starbucks latte. This is war torn Iraq. How does one deal with a man who wanders into the "Green Zone" arms raised and crying out "I dont want to die". He is strapped with intricately wired explosives and in an iron frame with bolts too tight to break. Of course he is married, he has children. He was hijacked and put up to this. Timer is running, more lives than just his is on the line, can he be shot dead at a safe distance, would saying "sorry I cannot help you" looking into his eyes ease the conscience of the soldier. A boy selling porn is kidnapped and while attempting to sew explosives into his stomach dies on the table. Searching for the killers soldiers barge into homes, guns flash, hurried ill translated questions, thumbs on trigger. No shots are fired but those families are not going to forget gun toting soldiers invading their private homes to search at will.
On a day when such a movie got the Oscar Iraqis braved acts of violence to vote in droves. UN observers and world press were impressed by a stunning defiance. Sunni's who had boycotted the previous election and became 'insurgents' now came back to vote. Women not only voted but contested elections too. This has been labeled by all and sundry as a fair multi party election. At the heart of autocracy ridden middle east where women, in some countries, cannot drive or go out without burqa and elections are unheard of this is revolution. Yes it did not happen any sooner, did not happen under more amiable circumstances. Better late than never. Today Iraq has a quasi secular constitution, unthinkable 7 years ago.
America walked into a minefield in Iraq to put it mildly. Iran's ambitions, suspicions of Sunni led gulf states, a horrible history of seething rage that was bottled up with brutal tyranny were all unleashed to clash on the field add to that botched planning, utopian projections etc you have an unenviable recipe for disaster. A pivotal moment came when the bipartisan 'Iraq study group" advised George Bush to pull out. Bush, in typical fashion, dug in his heels. He was cursed with every imaginable word in the dictionary. Bush ordered the Iraq surge and completely revamped the team on the ground and in DC. The results are there to see today. Thank you Mr President.
Watch this youtube posting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNKCcZmjlX4&NR=1 , especially see around time stamp 1:30 to see women, without burqa, onstage clasping hands with men as equals in an election rally. This video was taken by Al-Jazeera, which is, to put it mildly, unsympathetic towards USA. Recently a gossip writer, masquerading himself as writer, reviewing Bollywood staple "My Name is Khan" lamented that Islamic nations are being destroyed one after another. America stands tall today, I hope Iraqi's in due time will come to genuinely appreciate their liberation. Many cried hoarse "oil" when Bush ordered the invasion. I am not going to pretend that oil was not a factor at all but this was no colonisation expedition to plunder another country's resources. How many of those oil contracts were awarded to US companies? Not much in actuality. If destroying Iraq was the only concern US need not have spent hundreds of billion dollars or 5000 men and women. God bless America. God bless the brave Iraqis. God bless our men and women in the forces.
PS: The violence in Iraq claimed 36 precious lives. Still far lesser than what is lost in election related violence in India in the 80's or 90's until Election commission started running elections with platoons of army.