We were standing in the hot desert sun, 50 degrees of lava bearing down on our heads. It was June 2003, three months after the unlawful, illegal invasion of Iraq. After six sleepless nights, under the hawkish surveillance of the occupying force, I couldn't bear the thought of another moment of pretending to be friendly to them.
Our mission was supposed to be simple but we were one of the first missions not affiliated to the "coalition of the willing" to be allowed in after the invasion. I was certainly unwilling and made sure they knew it from the moment we landed. They took my passport, flipped through it, contaminating it with their blood-tainted paws, and then stood me against the wall for a mugshot - I glared at the cameraman with unflinching defiance! Here they were, having bombarded their way into Baghdad, destroying the beauty of this city in an instant and now controlling the borders - we had to go through them to get permission to land, to move about and of course there was the curfew they expected us to adhere to. I'm a desert demon - I don't play by American rules and I gladly broke curfew every night! Then again, breaking the rules is part of the job!
So back to the midday sun, day six of the mission. Arrogant marines armed to the teeth watching us from every possible angle while we waited for permission to enter what used to be one of the Presidential palaces of Saddam Hussein, now occupied by CENTCOM when my colleague starts chummying up to one of the marines, wanting to take photographs with him, arms around his shoulders, and saying "we support you". Horrified at these unauthorised statements I called him to order (discreetly of course), pointing out their blatant activities of intimidation and harrassment over the past few days and so began the heated argument that stretched on for the rest of the journey and even once we returned to our headquarters. It baffled me that he was so oblivious to the atrocities that were already being committed and there he was patting them on the backs for their crimes against humanity. I argued, as heatedly as the scorching sun above us, that these were murderers and occupiers who came here on the pretext of WMD that were unfounded. These were the criminal war mongers who violated any international laws that they themselves had invented and forced others to abide by. It sickened me to even acknowledge their presence, let alone "respect the flag" as they kept reminding me, pointing to the stars and stripes on their arms while I imagined those colours lighting up in flames. My fellow, extremely gullible and naive operative responded, saying, "they've saved this country from a tyrant, haven't you heard about the mass graves that were uncovered in Halabja"? Indeed I had. But this is where the argument took a new angle and I remember flaring up inside - "today you're commending them for a job well done in saving the Iraqis from themselves, tomorrow, we'll be uncovering the mass graves of the civilian Iraqis they have killed in the name of liberation and freedom." It'll never happen, he said but deep in my soul, I knew that this was only a glimpse of the hell the Iraqi people would be forced to succumb to. And hadn't it already begun with the indiscriminate bombing of Iraqi towns and villages, using depleted uranium - collateral damage - the lives of millions of Iraqi children is worth it, Madeline Albright had said.
The next day I had little else to say him on the trek through Falluja and Ramadi en route to Amman, across the border. When we returned to head quarters, I asked to be reassigned, although as the situation in Iraq deteriorated further, I kept a constant reminder of the debate we had. When the Abu Ghraib scandal was made public I sent him the photographs to prick his conscience. And now, with the Wikileaks Report, I hope, wherever he is, he remembers my ominous prediction (even without a coffee cup).
My heart still bleeds for the loss of innocent lives to imperialism, for the rape of mesopotamia and the torture of Sumeria. But I don't think they've yet come to the end of their war to win back their freedom.