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(sup) (en) Iraq, Our Borders Are Blast Walls: by Andrea Schmidt* from Occupied Baghdad

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 20 Apr 2004 13:04:26 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

As the US pursues its War of Terror in Iraq, the kidnappings of foreigners
by the muqawama (resistance fighters) has grabbed the media spotlight. In
response to the kidnappings, many international NGOs and humanitarian aid
organizations have moved their foreign staff to Amman. Foreign journalists
who haven't already left the country are nearly paralyzed, reporting from
their seats in front of TV sets in hotel compounds 'secured' by blast
walls, armed guards and the right connections. This isn't a huge change
for the staffs of some news channels - for security reasons, CNN hasn't
let its foreign journalists out on the streets of Baghdad after 4 PM for
the past year of occupation. But for many reporters, both independent
and mainstream, the current immobility is insanely frustrating.

Those of us who came here as anti-war or anti-occupation activists intent
on bearing witness to the injustices perpetrated by occupation authorities
aren't managing a whole lot better. I haven't even really been out walking
on the streets of Baghdad for a week now, and have submitted, in spite of
my better sense of moral judgment, to being driven between 'safe' houses
where sympathetic Iraqi and international friends have extended their

The concrete blast walls that surround NGO, humanitarian aid
organizations, ministry buildings, political party headquarters, the CPA
and hotels frequented by foreigners in Iraq have always struck me as
obscene. They are obscene because of the way in which they demarcate the
lives that are considered worthy of 'protection' from those which are not,
in the context of this occupation in which one of the most common
complaints heard from ordinary Iraqis is the almost total lack of security
that for themselves and their families.

The blast walls are also obscene because of the hypocrisy of NGOs and
humanitarian organizations that they make manifest in concrete. They are
barriers that prevent Iraq's 'multitudes' -- the poorest people, the
unemployed families whose women and children panhandle in the streets,
people without the mandatory identification or the right contacts - from
entering the very organizations and institutions that purport to be
present to 'help' them. The blast walls send a message: "We will help you,
but only at a distance, and only at a level of risk that WE choose and can

At the same time as the fear of being kidnapped has paralyzed foreigners
in Iraq, US Occupation Forces have massacred hundreds of people in the
town of Falluja, a hundred people in Sadr City, bombed practically every
one of Moqtada Al-Sadr's offices in Baghdad and have announced that they
will capture him dead or alive (essentially threatening to martyr him as
Saddam martyred Moqtada's father before him). Explosions resound across
Baghdad at intervals throughout the day and night. The helicopters fly so
low that the windows rattle.

This crossroads of terror has made me think constantly about the blast
walls. I remember an observation made several weeks ago by a perceptive
friend. For those of us who are 'first-class' citizens of North American
or European countries in a global system best characterized as one of
apartheid, our borders are blast walls. They shield us from the conflict
and the poverty that our governments and our corporations create and
profit from in the rest of the world.

Iraqis didn't choose their country to be the battleground for George W.
Bush's War on Terror. And I don't think that most of them would even have
chosen it as the battleground for a righteous stand against US
imperialism. That doesn't mean that various sections of Iraqi society
aren't fighting and won't continue to fight to resist the occupiers. They
are and they will - and if the US forces that surround holy town of Najaf
at this moment actually invade the town, Shiite resistance will begin in
earnest and "it won't ever stop." At least that is the prediction of an
acquaintance of mine, a Shiite man and an ex-officer in the Iraqi army who
participated in the 1991 uprising against Saddam. But he also added,
referring to the current Intifada, "we are not fighting for an anti-war or
an anti-imperialist movement. We are fighting for the people of Iraq."

If our borders are blast walls, then they are what many of us -- as
anti-war and anti-imperialist activists living in Western countries --
rely on to keep a safe distance between ourselves and the danger-filled
reality that Iraqis, peoples of other occupied and colonized nations, and
people displaced by war, poverty and occupation have no choice but to
survive on a day-to-day basis. Maybe solidarity and justice demand that
we stop playing it so safe. Maybe it is time to put our own bodies at risk
in the sort of direct actions that confront the empire within its own
fortress. Maybe it is time to move the battleground within our own
borders, and to become the resistance inside the blast walls - the sort of
resistance which would effectively take them down.

This report was written by Andréa Schmidt
While in Iraq, Andréa can be reached by email at andrea@tao.ca or
* NOTE: Andréa Schmidt is an anarchist organizer active with the CLAC
(Montreal, Quebec, Canada).

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