Thursday, May 19, 2005

Book Review: The More Regimes Change, The More They Stay The Same

Revolution Day – The Human Story of the Battle for Iraq
By Rageh Omaar
Viking, 2004

This is not your average account of the Iraq War and its aftermath, a process often labelled “regime change”. Most reporting and writing on Iraq has focussed on the sayings and actions of world leaders, defence and foreign ministers, military commanders, weapons inspectors and UN officials.

As the main correspondent covering the war for BBC television, Omaar will have been tempted to stick to the same formula. Thankfully he resisted the temptation. The end result is a book genuinely attempting to see the war and its aftermath through the eyes of ordinary Iraqis.

Omaar’s own parents were refugees from the civil war in Somalia. Despite having spent most of his life in the UK, Omaar speaks fluent Arabic.

One of the main themes of the book is how the Coalition forces failed to save Iraqi infrastructure and institutions from looting and arson. Thousands of priceless ancient Mesopotamian relics were stolen from the National Museum, and key ministries were ransacked. The building blocks of any future government were largely destroyed. Even Iraq’s Reserve Bank was looted and millions of US dollars stolen.

None of this seemed to phase the Coalition troops, who watched Iraq’s culture and wealth being looted whilst guarding the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

Omaar also witnesses many Iraqis welcoming the invasion thinking it would bring them liberty, peace and security. They were soon disillusioned as their sons, husbands and other male relatives were carted off. Many have not resurfaced. Others are only seen in photographs taken in the Abu Ghraib Prison.

Saddam Hussein, the man who built Abu Ghraib, ruled Iraq using terror and torture. His regime humiliated ordinary Iraqis and forced them to face the brunt of sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of children. Many highly educated Iraqis were forced to sell their valuables to UN officials and foreign journalists at secret auctions. Meanwhile, Saddam and his cronies continued to live the good life in huge palaces.

With the fall of the Baathist government, the United States installed another Baathist, Iyad Allawi. And if the Americans refuse to accept the results of the Iraqi election, they might just have to have another round of “regime change” to install yet another Saddam to do their bidding.

Read Omaar’s book and share his disgust at how the resources and wealth and culture and health and human capital of ordinary Iraqis is being plundered yet again. To think more of our own troops are being sent into this sickening process.

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