The Lady in Iraq

August 19, 2010

When the war in Iraq started, my daughter was a little girl. She’s a teenager now, with a driving permit and polish on her nails. But when the war in Iraq started, she was a little girl with a bicycle and skinned knees and dried up leaves in her pockets most of the time.

We talked about the war. We talked about how it affected the people who lived in Iraq. We developed a character who has become quite real to us: the lady in Iraq.

The lady in Iraq had trouble getting to the store to buy groceries because there were bombs going off in the streets. The lady in Iraq couldn’t get medical care because the doctors had fled the hospitals in fear. The lady in Iraq lived with war, while we did not.

She has become a  familiar point of reference for us: when I hear myself talking about how I don’t have time to get my hair cut before we leave for vacation, I remember her and add, “You know, just like the lady in Iraq.” She gives us a sense of perspective and reminds us that we are absurdly privileged.

When I heard the news yesterday about the last combat troops leaving Iraq, the lady of course came to mind. Is she happy to see them go? Is she fearful of what will happen now? Is she even alive?

In the early days of the war, my cousin and I tried to come up with an analogy of what the United States was doing to Iraq. Our best one went something like this:

Hi, Iraq. It’s the US. We know we broke into your house and wrecked all your stuff and knocked down a bunch of walls and set your attic on fire. We’re going to stick around and help you clean everything up, though. Okay?

The removal of combat troops is something to feel good about, although the announcement that civilian security contractors will be filling the gap lessens the euphoria of the moment. And no matter what is happening in Iraq, the lady—some lady—is always there.

We always must consider the lady in Iraq.


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