Of all the physical damage that has been done to Iraq, the greatest damage has been done to the culture itself. Iraq has lost much of her cultural capital.
Cultural capital as evidenced in the arts, education, healthcare, science, social justice, education, and law enforcement are the many artifacts of any civil society. Iraq began to lose many objects of value earlier; during the U.S. embargo against Iraq when families began selling Persian carpets, jewelry, wardrobes, and family heirlooms to survive.
Many treasures eventually left the country with or without their original owners. The more abstract artifacts of civil society also began to erode during the U.S. embargo when cultural capital began to deteriorate. The arts stagnated. Healthcare conditions plummeted to alarming neglect as antibiotics, aspirin, and even vitamins became virtually inaccessible to the average person.
Science and universities suffered greatly as scientific literature was blocked from entering the country for the long period of embargo. The educational system began to suffer as the Dinar diminished in value so did the ability of teachers to feed their own families on their pay and began to demand that the parents of their students pay them a personal fee to teach their children.
Law enforcement took an ugly turn during that time when those charged to enforce the law began breaking the law themselves in order to benefit their own families. Finally, the strain of the U.S, embargo began to break down the elements of social justice in that consideration for the old, the poor, and the weak became less and less evident in the increasingly desperate daily lives of Iraqi’s.
When those who followed the situation attentively thought the Iraqi peoples had been brought to the peak of suffering through the US embargo, the US invasion ripped out the remainder of civil society and in that void, Iraq has come to its darkest hour.
This is a true story. That is to say it is the collective story of so many stories gathered into one story. All names have been left out to veil these human beings from further suffering:
A woman is a well-known doctor inside of Iraq. She begins to wonder each day if one of her own patients will kill her. Each day her husband fears her demise whenever there is an explosion inside of Baghdad. Still they continue to care for their children, work, and live in daily terror.
One day she receives the long since dreaded death threat. They know that these threats are very real and that within 24 hours. This threat will most certainly be carried out upon them. Within 30 minutes they have gathered their two children, and left their home in which they have all worldly manifestations of the meaningful life they have made for one another and so many precious symbols of memories, hopes, and dreams.
They leave their home with nothing as they do not know if the death threat will be carried out by a neighbor, a coworker, or a patient. They must not alert any human being of their attempted departure. They arrive at a family member’s home to prepare to flee to the Jordanian border. They leave this home within one hour and must say nothing to other loved ones of their flight.
They leave many loved ones including an elderly widow behind. Yet to gather their loved ones from their households would likely alert their stealthy murderers and put so many more family members at acute risk. So this secret they must keep and travel through the desert by themselves. They make it into Jordan before they are caught but they cannot readily leave such sorrow and suffering behind them ….
Of all the damage that has been done to Iraq; through the U.S. invasion and occupation, the greatest damage has been done to the culture itself. Cultural capital is foundational to all artifacts of civil society such as the arts, education, healthcare, science, and social justice. Cultural capital itself is not a concrete thing and yet it is manifested in so many things; such as excellent education, quality health care, and the law & order of every advanced civil society.
Upon the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. citizenry was informed that Iraq’s museums were plundered and that Iraq consequently lost much of her cultural capital. How sad that the centerpiece of Iraqi cultural capital was presented as if encased in these particular objects of value. In fact, Iraq began to loose objects of value during the U.S. embargo, when families began selling their Persian carpets, jewelry wardrobes, and family heirlooms just to live.
Many of these items eventually left the country of Iraq with or without their original owners. The loss of these material objects is particularly tragic in that these objects belonged to the daily lives and history of living people. Iraq; however, has many more layers of cultural capital than those found in material objects. The cultural capital prior to the U.S. destruction there was rich and varied. Now it is virtually gone. Any family or person that is seen as contributing to society in a meaningful way is eliminated, driven into hiding, or forced to flee the country.
The gentle person, the rational minded, and the intellectual are eliminated, forced into hiding, or must flee. Any respected educator, caring doctor, or social servant is considered dangerous since such people are the dissidents of a civil society that has now been completely dismantled. This brief paragraph matter-of-factly conveys such immense damage to Iraq that has brought on indescribable human suffering. It is critical that the U.S. citizenry know that Iraq has now been almost completely pillaged of her most precious treasures; that is her human cultural capital
This is a true story and yet it does not fit with the notion of civil war. That is because the central issue of violence in Iraq does not rise out of civil war. Instead it rises out of a loss of civil society. American citizens have been bombarded with information about civil war. American citizens have not been told nearly so much about the systematic raping of Iraqi civil society. Iraq lays now in utter ruin and there is virtually nothing left of her now but her broken presence.
Are we a citizenry that has had meaningful participation in what our government has decided to do to Iraq? This could only be so if we were truly free to give input into U.S. policy in Iraq. Were we truly free to provide input into the U.S. policy in Iraq? Since true freedom requires citizens to be fully aware and learned about the choices before them, this could only be so if we were thoroughly educated by our government about policy we already carried out on Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion there. In all the rhetoric about Operation Iraqi Freedom, were we so free that we had no meaningful voice in a matter that we were intentionally or unwittingly misinformed of and consequently uneducated about?
This is a true story. That is to say it is the collective story of so many stories gathered into one story. Let it not be told in vain. Rather let it bring you to contemplate on the extent to which our citizenry has been honored by its own leadership as worthy of learnedness and as having participatory potential for the sake of truly being free to inform international policy in a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.