Archive for July, 2008

“You Broke It and You Have to Fix It”

Posted on July 23, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under International.

An Iraqi who used to work for the New York Times wrote an excellent post for today’s Baghdad Bureau blog on the Times website. Ahmad Fadam answers the question of when American troops should leave Iraq by discussing what American troops should do before they leave.

If I put a bomb in someone’s house and destroy it, then I cannot just simply say “sorry” and leave. I have a responsibility to fix what I have broken, I have to rebuild the man’s house and bring it back at least to what it was.

The politicians have been talking about reconstructing Iraq for five years now, but I as an Iraqi, haven’t seen any. We used to hear about all the good things that we would get after “liberation” — factories, beautiful houses, fancy restaurants, movie theaters and playgrounds. “Baghdad will be more beautiful than Dubai,” a Western journalist said to me back in 2003, and the funny part is that the looting was still going on and half of Baghdad was on fire.

But what have we got? After five years of “liberation,” Iraqis still barely get electricity. People have started to make jokes about it, calling it “holy electricity” or “Ayatollah electricity,” because you have to pray to get it. One hour of electricity every day and sometime every three or four days … what a blessing!

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Fun Times on Craigslist

Posted on July 14, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture.

My husband and I are selling some furniture on Craigslist, an activity that always leads to good laughs and strange stories. Here are some of the emails I have received in the past three days:

My favorite, from Tommy:

yo id like to buy that sweet papasan chair if you still have it. i can pick it up tomorrow.

A thoughtful one sent from Manuel after he and his family picked up the TV:

Thank you very much for the tv, this tv is what i was realy looking for. thank you again.

From Rhonda:

I would like to buy your plants. waiting to hear from you, thanks, Rhonda………(I will give them a very good home)

And, as always, ones that are a little off and therefore a little suspicious:

Thanks for your mail,i will like to make fast payment for this item,so i will like to send you certified bank check and once the check have clear at your bank my shipper will come for the pick-up at your place,so get back to me with the name to be on the check,your full address,state and zip-code and you phone number.

Get back to me asap.

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Doonesbury on Iraqi Refugees

Posted on July 10, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Culture, International.

The Doonesbury comic strip has long been known for its willingness to take on heated political subjects, and now it is addressing the Iraqi refugee crisis. And what do you know, the Iraqi refugee character is named Hanna, spelled correctly. Check it out here.

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Interpreters for U.S. Left Behind

Posted on July 9, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International, Politics.

Check out my story on the Huffington Post today:

Every couple of weeks an email from Baghdad pops up in Iraq War veteran Joey Coon’s inbox at his home in Washington, D.C. It’s Coon’s 23-year-old Iraqi interpreter, nicknamed Dash, pleading for help to get out of Iraq and into the United States. Dash feels in constant grave danger that he and his family will be killed because of his work with American troops.

“People like Dash put their lives on the line to help keep people like me and my friends and fellow soldiers and Iraqi civilians safe,” said Coon. “It was a very admirable, heroic thing that he did, I think, and I do feel that both soldiers and the American people in general have a certain responsibility here.”

That responsibility, however, is one that is more or less being shirked off by the presidential campaigns. While both candidates hotly debate each other’s plans for withdrawing or maintaining troop levels in Iraq, virtually nothing is being said about the 4 million Iraqis who have been displaced by the war or about the tens of thousands of Iraqis like Dash who feel at immediate risk for having worked with the Americans. Even less is being said about how the incoming administration will deal with the humanitarian crisis still evolving.

That’s why Coon and veterans like him are working harder than ever to mount a national campaign to save the lives of their interpreters by bringing them to the United States. Although there has been some progress recently made in establishing special immigrant visas for Iraqis who worked for Americans, the process of getting these Iraqis to the United States continues to be filled with long, bureaucratic delays. As papers get shuffled, untold thousands of Iraqis are left in danger.

Read more here.

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I Want a Leader

Posted on July 3, 2008, by Hanna Ingber, under Immigration, International, Politics.

Barack Obama can find time in his schedule to have two press conferences on his timeline for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq - in one day. Couldn’t he fit in one press conference - say in one month - in which he discusses his plan for Iraqi reconstruction, humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement?

The chair of the campaign’s immigration policy group, Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, insisted to me that the senator is deeply committed to helping the almost five million Iraqis displaced by the war. He said Obama feels that the United States has a responsibility to these people.

So where’s the press conference?

Leadership is about bringing up sticky, uncomfortable issues. It’s about taking a stand when others want to hide under a blanket. A president with true leadership can force the American people to grapple with the difficult questions - like what the hell are we going to do about this massive humanitarian and security crisis that the war we started created - and get them to rally around an issue simply because it’s the right thing to do.

We’ve been in this war for five years. Debating how quickly we remove combat troops is the easy part. Figuring out what happens once we leave is the real challenge. And it would be nice if the candidates took 30 minutes out of their months of campaigning to tell us what they plan to do.

(P.S. Sorry, I can’t tell you how committed John McCain is to Iraqis displaced by the war. His campaign won’t return my phone calls or emails.)

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