When you are raised by parents who experienced World War II in Germany you get told a lot of stories about what went down during that period. One of those stories was how the German officials came and vetted your family to see if they had any Jewish blood in them. My Father had a close call when it was found out that his Great Grandfather’s first name was David, which being a Jewish name had raised a flag. It turns out not to be the case so his family was spared a trip to the gas chambers. Although given that my Father later develops a form of leukemia primarily found in eastern European Jews, they might have been wrong about that.
During the war, my Father attended a Lutheran church where one day he stood up and asked the Reverend why it is that the church is not standing up and defending the Jewish population from the Third Reich. They answered him by throwing him out never to return. When you live a safe life in Canada far from any possible future military action, you ask yourself how did people in those countries stand by while a demented leader gathers up a group of people and summarily kills them. You think that couldn’t possibly happen anymore in our time. We have the internet, people are educated they wouldn’t and couldn’t possibly be swayed by mere propaganda to sanction killing of innocent people.
I really and truly believed this until the Americans decided to invade Iraq for the first time, Desert Storm. In the months leading up to this invasion, President Bush was laying out all sorts of stories as to why they should be allowed to go into Iraq. He tried the tactic of oil and its vital importance to America and other various propagandas, including demonizing those Arabs, those different people who wore stuff over their heads and speak a funny language. They would repeatedly show pictures from Iraq of these black burqa-clad woman who look like they were living in the Middle Ages just to reinforce how different they were from us white Christians.
I asked Zaia how come all of the pictures and stories you tell of growing up in Baghdad are of a modern, almost western civilization with only a minority of what we see as black-clad Arabs. The university his brother and sister attended was either run by the Jesuits or the Americans, not some Mullah preaching Jihad. Sure Saddam Hussein was no sweetheart but running a country with so many different cultures was never going to be easy. A comedian once joked that a moderate Arab was one who only carried a grudge for seven generations.
But here I was in Calgary watching this evolve and hearing from the people I worked with, who a month before had no idea about Iraq now talking about how America should kill those damn Arabs. None of them bothering to look up anything about what this country was really about, content to be fed this bullshit from the American propaganda machine. How could my fellow, civilized Canadians turn against a group of people they had no personal experience with and who had done nothing to any of them?
But invade the Americans did while we watched in shock and awe when the bombs started pounding Zaia’s hometown Baghdad. Did you notice that this was when they started calling killing, sorties? Those soldiers never had to look their victims in the face and watch them die; it was all done from many thousand feet above more like a video game than reality. But many thousands of civilians did die and our lives took a turn we have never come back from.
The second time that the Americans invaded Iraq was when my beloved Phantom was fighting bone cancer. We were waiting at the Vet hospital for them to take x-rays to determine whether the cancer had spread to his lungs. I tried to divert my thoughts from what they may hold by reading the local newspaper. On the second page there was a picture of a Father holding his, what at first appeared to be his injured daughter, with a caption under it basically alluding to it being only an injury. Something was wrong though, you saw such grief in the Father’s eyes and then your eyes followed his daughter’s body down by his arms and then you saw that her legs had been blown off and she was actually dead.
This was on the second page, had it been a blonde blue-eyed American it would have been first page, full page with the headline blaring that American child killed by invading Iraqi soldiers. Here I was suffering an enormous amount of grief at the prospect of my dog dying and we were able to place this picture on the second page as if people who live in Iraq don’t give a shit if their children live or die.