None of which is to suggest that Iraqis are
ignorant of what took place in New York City, Washington, and
Shanksville, Pa., 10 years ago Sunday. Millions of Iraqis saw the
attacks on live television and are deeply familiar with the details of
what took place. But they have strong and conflicted feelings about the
strikes themselves. Many ordinary Iraqis go out of their way to speak of
their revulsion at the deaths of so many innocents at the hands of
their fellow Muslims. At the same time, they believe the attacks were
used to justify the 2003 American invasion of their country and the
bloody civil war which followed.
Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member
of the Iraqi parliament, embodies those contradictions. Othman speaks
fluent English and is a secular politician who frequently argues for the
rights of women and Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities. Like most
Kurdish politicians, he is openly and staunchly pro-American. But Othman
argues that the American focus on the 9/11 attacks obscures the fact
that tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed in terrorist attacks
within Iraq in the eight years since the U.S invasion.
11 was a terrible crime that killed 3,000 innocent people," Othman said
in an interview. "But the number of people killed in Iraq since
September 11 is much, much bigger than the number of Americans who
died. And no one in the world seems to know or care."
Ahmad Abdulhussein is the cultural editor of Al-Sabaah,
a large government-owned newspaper. A poet, he was in Toronto on Sept.
11, 2001, and he says he still remembers the "panic and terror" he saw
on the faces of Americans in the city. Abdulhussein also remembers
moments of anti-Islamic ugliness in the immediate aftermath of the
attack, including seeing an American man physically shove a young Muslim
woman in a burqa away from a city bus.
He was so shaken that he
wrote a poem days after the attack called "Eye for an Eye." Written in
English and sardonically dedicated to both Osama bin Laden and George W.
Bush, the work was a full-throated condemnation of both the attacks and
the paranoia that followed. "We slaughtered each other, in order not to
awaken the universe," he wrote.
"The attack was all I could think
about for months," Abdulhussein said in an interview at his
cigarette-smoke-filled office here. "I knew the world had changed."
years later, Abdulhussein says ordinary Iraqis -- preoccupied with the
violence and daily challenges of life here -- simply don't have the
mental or psychological energy to pay much attention to events that
occurred so far away and so long ago.
"They have their own
suffering to deal with, and that's all they can think about," he said.
"America had one attack. We have attacks every day, and we as
journalists focus on the daily attacks which take place here."