For my money, one of the most interesting revelations about Saddam Hussein’s horrific reign (a terrible revelation, but an interesting one, too, for I’d known nothing about the Marsh Arabs) is the story of how the Shiites, rebelling against Saddam and his barbarism, took flight to the ancient Marshes, the so-called “Mesopotamian Marshlands” or, “fertile cresent” and found the folks who had been living there for 5,000 ready to take them in.
Saddam didn’t like that, of course, and so he set about destroying these people by his usual methods of torture and mayhem. He also drained the marshes.
It’s a fascinating story, to me, because if anyone needed overt evidence of Saddam’s inhumanity, this is it. We see here, in this one issue, Saddam the human-rights violator, Saddam the genocidal maniac and even (and for some this would surely be the harshest indictment of all) SADDAM THE ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTOR!
7,500 square miles of marsh were drained, devastating a people. And the world did nothing. Not until recently, anyway.
In 2003 there was some talk of the “dream” of restoring the marshlands once Iraq was liberated.
Jay Norlinger tells us that restoration is happening.
“…after Saddam was through with his work, there were relatively few Marsh Arabs, in their original places. Numbers are hard to come by…but there were perhaps 250,000 Marsh Arabs in 1990. After Saddam’s campaign, there were possibly 75,000, in their home region. The rest were either exiled or dead.
But then the war came. And, the second they could, the Marsh Arabs began to undo Saddam’s project: his dams, dikes, and such. They tore at these things, making the waters come back. And then the U.S. and its partners moved in, aiding the Marsh Arabs — or Madan, as they are also known — and coaxing back those marshlands.
Soon enough, Marsh Arabs from all over began to return: about 100,000 of them, from the cities, towns, and camps to which they had fled. (Many people went to Iran.)
The marshlands have their share of problems…but, all in all, this is a success story: a story of environmental restoration and human liberation. So can’t everybody — supporters and opponents of the war alike — rejoice in it? Of course not. Because George Bush et al. must be credited with nothing.”
Perhaps when the Iraqis are on their feet they will tell the stories the West refuses to tell about what Bush has done for the people of that region.
…Eden Again, whose website is here. I should have mentioned, by the way, that, for eons, people have imagined the Mesopotamian Marshlands the site of the Garden of Eden — hence, Eden Again.
Two of this group’s leaders are Azzam Alwash and his wife, Suzie Alwash.
According to Suzie Alwash, about 40 percent of the marshlands have been re-flooded; and about half of that has been revegetated. The marshlands are coming back pretty fast. The U.N. Environment Programme has spoken of a “rapid revival.” The marshlands won’t come back all the way, unfortunately — but they will again have a life, after their decade as desert.
If it weren’t for the anti-Bush fever abroad in the world, we could all rejoice in these consequences of the war. But that is impossible. I find the case of the liberals terribly sad, when not outrageous. For many years, they’ve expressed the most intense concern about wetlands: As you know, about the worst thing you can do in America is fill in a swamp.
All my life, from liberals, I’ve heard “wetlands, wetlands, wetlands.”
Saddam Hussein merely destroyed one of the world’s largest and most important wetlands. And, thanks to U.S.-led efforts, the Mesopotamian Marshlands are returning.
Last week, I was talking to an Iraqi-born scholar who works in Washington, Nimrod Raphaeli. He is affiliated with the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). I asked why the Coalition forces receive so little credit on the Marsh Arab front. He answered,
“People should give the invasion credit for a lot of things. I often say to journalists, ‘Just look at the Iraqi press. Look at freedom of association, look at freedom of speech.’ These things never existed in Iraq. This is one occupation that brought freedom, not oppression; that brought freedom, not censorship. Where else do you find a military occupation that encourages a free press? This is a unique occupation.”
Dr. Raphaeli continued: “People look only at the bad things. People forget that Iraqis can go out and demonstrate — against the government, against the Americans, against anyone. Before, Saddam commanded 100 percent of the vote! People can go out and buy newspapers from the extreme left to the extreme right, including classical communism. I can go on and on about the changes that have taken place in Iraq.”
But those positive changes must remain unremarked, lest anyone think that the war has done some good. American security has been enhanced, and so has Western security generally. In the bargain, a lot of people have been liberated.
Liberals – some liberals (I do know a few who are intellectually honest enough to admit that a great deal of good has come out of our exercise in Iraq, both for the Iraqi people and the world in general, but they’re not the ones with the megaphones) wonder why we who have supported the president and the Iraq war seem so bitter, sometimes, toward the press and the left. This is why. As I have said before, had a Democrat president done the things Bush has done, he would be hailed as the Great Liberator, the Visionary and there would be movements afoot to rescind the 22nd amendment. At the very LEAST there would be a huge purchase of TNT to get the next head going on Mt. Rushmore.
Because a Republican president has done these things, and worse, a dreaded Bush, why…we don’t even get to see them grudgingly acknowledged. Stories like this just get buried or, in some cases – as when terrorists actively plotting against the US are arrested thanks to “warrantless wiretaps” – they simply refuse to report it at all.
If there is bitterness, it is not without basis.
You’ve heard me say it before about Afghanistan: Many, many people would rather homosexuals be crushed to death, according to the Taliban’s law, than that they suffer the indignity of being freed by George Bush and the U.S. military.
And many, many people would rather that Marsh Arabs choke on sand.
If you’re not a believer, then this will seem insipid to you, but it’s worth noting just the same: IF, supposing, the Mesopotamian Marshes were in fact the Garden of Eden – the place where man first emerged (from the ooze, if you’re a Darwinist, or from the dust, if you’re a Creationist) and IF man is made “in the image of God…” then it might well be a sacred sort of place. Were great evil to destroy it, and a good come and restore it, then on whom would God bestow a blessing?
I think to discount and disparage the liberation of the Iraqi people, the deliverance of Iraq into sovereignty, and the restoration of this ancient, ancient land – to sneer at and underplay its import, all because you don’t like the guy who had the guts to make it happen – is to actively walk away from the side of the angels.
When the whole story of terrorism in the 21st century is written, it’s going to be very interesting to see if anyone dares to tell it straight, dares to admit that – contrary to 30 years of State department “wisdom” which said destabalization of the Middle East would lead to chaos – the upending of the diplomatic status quo in the Middle East has begun a restoration not merely of a marsh and garden, but of a whole region. I hope they will be able to write (because it happened) that as democracy spread in that region – as the people there began to enjoy liberty, as education became less a privilege and more of a right, as they entered the global community with markets and ideas, terrorism lost its power and appeal as a means to movement.
Because if our leadership remains committed, if the American people can be helped to grasp all of this despite the best efforts of the left and the press, that will – indeed – be the outcome of “Bush’s war.”
This story, in the end, is the story of how one man standing alone in the face of unprecedented world-wide opposition, in the face of organized “marches” throughout the world and condemnation from global “diplomatic” entities, in the face of journalistic distortion such as has not been seen in our lifetimes, did something no one else had the physical, spiritual and political nerve to do. Even when things did not go perfectly, even when intelligence by the “experts” was revealed to be in error, even when the open scorn of the opposition devolved into outright hate, overriding their sensibilities, one man stood, and kept his nerve. Had that one man backed down, none of this would have happened. It is an astonishing story, and a true one.
I cannot imagine how anyone who is thinking clearly, who is not mad with hate, could wish this endeavor anything but success. What sort of heart will walk away from this, stomping the feet in dismay? What sort of spirit can see this and shriek? And how sad for those who pray for failure.
U.S. attempts to restore Iraqi MARSH ARABS’ wetlands
Iraq’s Eden: Reviving the Legendary Marshes
<a href="A dream of restoring Iraq's great marshes Wetlands destroyed by Hussein could thrive again
‘A Gift From God’ Renews a Village
Marsh Arabs reclaiming wetlands
UPDATE: Dr. Sanity finds a liberal who – after making every pc/leftist charge and condition he can think of to cover himselfdares to suggest, oh so softly, that Bush “might be right, might be considered “great” someday. Feast! Also, in linking to this piece here she brings to light Elizabeth Holtzman’s slightly hysterical, bizarro-world assertion that Bush-haters are oppressed and forced to whisper their hate. Amazing.
Related: Iraqi Marshes now 60% Restored.