River­bend was one of the most pro­lific and savvy Iraqi blog­gers dur­ing the 2003 Iraq war. And then, she dis­ap­peared, not writ­ing for years.

On the 10th an­niver­sary of the in­va­sion, she’s back with a short and dev­as­tat­ing post about her coun­try:

April 9, 2013 marks ten years since the fall of Bagh­dad. Ten years since the in­va­sion. Since the lives of mil­lions of Iraqis changed for­ever. It’s dif­fi­cult to be­lieve. It feels like only yes­ter­day I was shar­ing day to day ac­tiv­i­ties with the world. I feel obliged today to put my thoughts down on the blog once again, prob­a­bly for the last time.

In 2003, we were count­ing our lives in days and weeks. Would we make it to next month? Would we make it through the sum­mer? Some of us did and many of us didn’t. 
Back in 2003, one year seemed like a life­time ahead. The id­iots said, “Things will im­prove im­me­di­ately.” The op­ti­mists were giv­ing our oc­cu­piers a year, or two… The re­al­ists said, “Things won’t im­prove for at least five years.” And the pes­simists? The pes­simists said, “It will take ten years. It will take a decade.”
Look­ing back at the last ten years, what have our oc­cu­piers and their Iraqi gov­ern­ments given us in ten years? What have our pup­pets achieved in this last decade? What have we learned?
We learned a lot.
We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair- it takes the good peo­ple. Even in death you can be un­lucky. Lucky ones die a ‘nor­mal’ death… A fa­mil­iar death of can­cer, or a heart-at­tack, or stroke. Un­lucky ones have to be col­lected in bits and pieces. Their fam­i­lies try­ing to bury what can be sal­vaged and scraped off of streets that have seen so much blood, it is a won­der they are not red. 
We learned that you can be float­ing on a sea of oil, but your peo­ple can be des­ti­tute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and chil­dren can be eat­ing out of trash dumps and beg­ging for money in for­eign lands. 
We learned that jus­tice does not pre­vail in this day and age. In­no­cent peo­ple are per­se­cuted and ex­e­cuted daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the pri­vate tor­ture cham­bers.
We are learn­ing that cor­rup­tion is the way to go. You want a pass­port is­sued? Pay some­one. You want a doc­u­ment rat­i­fied? Pay some­one. You want some­one dead? Pay some­one. 
We learned that it’s not that dif­fi­cult to make bil­lions dis­ap­pear. 
We are learn­ing that those ameni­ties we took for granted be­fore 2003, you know- the lux­u­ries – elec­tric­ity, clean water from faucets, walk­a­ble streets, safe schools – those are for de­serv­ing pop­u­la­tions. Those are for peo­ple who don’t allow oc­cu­piers into their coun­try. 
We’re learn­ing that the biggest fans of the oc­cu­pa­tion (you know who you are, you trai­tors) even­tu­ally leave abroad. And where do they go? The USA, most likely, with the UK a close sec­ond. If I were an Amer­i­can, I’d be out­raged. After spend­ing so much money and so many lives, I’d ex­pect the minor Cha­l­abis and Ma­likis and Hashimis of Iraq to, well, stay in Iraq. In­vest in their coun­try. I’d stand in pass­port con­trol and ask them, “Weren’t you happy when we in­vaded your coun­try? Weren’t you happy we lib­er­ated you? Go back. Go back to the coun­try you’re so happy with be­cause now, you’re free!” 
We’re learn­ing that mili­tias aren’t par­tic­u­lar about who they kill. The eas­i­est thing in the world would be to say that Shia mili­tias kill Sun­nis and Sunni mili­tias kill Shia, but that’s not the way it works. That’s too sim­ple. 
We’re learn­ing that the lead­ers don’t make his­tory. Pop­u­la­tions don’t make his­tory. His­to­ri­ans don’t write his­tory. News net­works do. The Foxes, and CNNs, and BBCs, and Jazeeras of the world make his­tory. They twist and turn things to fit their own pri­vate agen­das. 
We’re learn­ing that the masks are off. No one is ashamed of the hypocrisy any­more. You can be against one coun­try (like Iran), but em­pow­er­ing them some­where else (like in Iraq). You can claim to be against re­li­gious ex­trem­ism (like in Afghanistan), but pro­mot­ing re­li­gious ex­trem­ism some­where else (like in Iraq and Egypt and Syria). 
Those who didn’t know it in 2003 are learn­ing (much too late) that an oc­cu­pa­tion is not the por­tal to free­dom and democ­racy. The oc­cu­piers do not have your best in­ter­ests at heart. 
We are learn­ing that ig­no­rance is the death of civ­i­lized so­ci­eties and that every­one thinks their par­tic­u­lar form of fa­nati­cism is ac­cept­able. 
We are learn­ing how easy it is to ma­nip­u­late pop­u­la­tions with their own prej­u­dices and that pol­i­tics and re­li­gion never mix, even if a su­per-power says they should mix. 
But it wasn’t all a bad ed­u­ca­tion… 
We learned that you some­times re­ceive kind­ness  when you least ex­pect it. We learned that peo­ple often step out­side of the stereo­types we build for them and sur­prise us. We learned and con­tinue to learn that there is strength in num­bers and that Iraqis are not easy to op­press. It is a mat­ter of time… 
And then there are things we’d like to learn…
Ahmed Cha­l­abi, Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim Jaa­fari, Tarek Al Hashemi and the rest of the vul­tures, where are they now? Have they crawled back under their rocks in coun­tries like the USA, the UK, etc.? Where will Ma­liki be in a year or two? Will he re­turn to Iran or take the mil­lions he made off of killing Iraqis and then seek asy­lum in some Eu­ro­pean coun­try? Far away from the angry Iraqi masses… 
What about George Bush, Condi, Wol­fowitz, and Pow­ell? Will they ever be held ac­count­able for the dev­as­ta­tion and the death they wrought in Iraq? Sad­dam was held ac­count­able for 300,000 Iraqis… Surely some­one should be held ac­count­able for the mil­lion or so?Fi­nally, after all is said and done, we shouldn’t for­get what this was about – mak­ing Amer­ica safer… And are you safer Amer­i­cans? If you are, why is it that we hear more and more about at­tacks on your em­bassies and diplo­mats? Why is it that you are con­stantly warned to not go to this coun­try or that one? Is it bet­ter now, ten years down the line? Do you feel safer, with hun­dreds of thou­sands of Iraqis out of the way (granted half of them were women and chil­dren, but chil­dren grow up, right?)?

And what hap­pened to River­bend and my fam­ily? I even­tu­ally moved from Syria. I moved be­fore the heavy fight­ing, be­fore it got ugly. That’s how for­tu­nate I was. I moved to an­other coun­try nearby, stayed al­most a year, and then made an­other move to a third Arab coun­try with the hope that, this time, it’ll stick until… Until when? Even the pes­simists aren’t sure any­more. When will things im­prove? When will be able to live nor­mally? How long will it take?  
For those of you who are dis­ap­pointed re­al­ity has reared its ugly head again, go to Fox News, I’m sure they have a re­portage that will soothe your con­science. 
 
For those of you who have been ask­ing about me and won­der­ing how I have been doing, I thank you. “Lo khuliyet, quli­bet…” Which means “If the world were empty of good peo­ple, it would end.” I only need to check my emails to know it won’t be end­ing any time soon. 
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