Tag: americans


I was filming the road at night, surprised that it was so busy when we missed our turn off to Samir’s home, something you don’t do on Iraq’s most dangerous road… the road to the airport. It’s a one-way road so we crept nervously along until we arrived at 4 narrow aisles heading to the airport checkpoint. We took the second aisle and drove down and found ourselves facing the bright headlights of a U.S tank. I was waving my BBC card frantically.. ‘BBC… don’t kill… don’t kill…’ I know how these tanks had squashed numerous civilian cars in the past year, but luckily these kind soldiers let us pass. We made a U-turn and were on the road back. Samir said a prayer. We held our breath, and hoped for the best, and drove the same dangerous road back. Difficult to know danger on an empty road at night. Samir was scared, I knew that because he wasn’t speaking. He spoke only to shut me up. “The danger is out there, it is around us always Sean. You just don’t realise it.” I couldn’t see anything. On each side of the road were the remains of houses and palm trees that had been hacked down by the American’s after the resistance had hidden and fired from there.

We get home safely to Samir’s and hit the whiskey. He was panicking. “Do you realise what could have happened there? We could have been killed by both sides.” Samir worries a lot in this dangerous troubled land. We relax and he opens up to me about his past. He tells me horror stories of his time on the front line in the war with Iran. He still has nightmares, waking up screaming in the night. He cannot forget the face of the young Iranian man he killed. The young mans eyes are still vivid in Samir’s mind, as he sliced open his throat. “Imagine a pianist doing such things. I want to make the world more beautiful with my music not kill people.” On the news we hear that a Bulgarian man has been beheaded by his captures. Another beheading is planned tomorrow.

Saga, Samir’s daughter enters the room looking distraught. Her lovely aunty, Samir’s ex-wife’s sister, has breast cancer. It starts Samir ruminating over his own possible cancer, but he is too afraid to have it checked out. He lights a fag from his 3rd packet of the day. We smoke, eat, and drink whiskey. Saha is flicking through the satellite channels, surfing the 200 readily available stations. I try to imagine the Saddam times when there was only two state channels. “It must be so much better now?” I ask. Saha shakes her head, “No, there are 200 channels but there is nothing to watch, only some music and a food channel.” Samir sits up, “This morning I turned the television on, it was the erotica channel, I couldn’t believe it, there were two men having sex! What is this?” “Freedom?” I suggest. Saha sits up, “No .. this is not freedom, this is dangerous, it is going to devalue our society… Saddam protected it.”

“But surely the Saddam channels were just propaganda?” Saha agrees. “Yes of course they were, they were there to protect him, but they also protected our culture, and the values of our society. Who will protect that now?” Saha flicks through the channels shaking her head. “I will never allow my children to watch this. That is why my sister Rita, will not send her children to school in America. She says it is like a jungle there. Is that freedom?”

“But surely it is better than before?” Saha shakes her head. “Not for me it isn’t. Before I had a job. Now I don’t. Before I had security, could go visit my friends, wander the streets whenever I liked, now I can’t.” Saha sits down opposite me. “Saddam was a dictator but we knew the rules. If you obeyed the rules you could do almost anything you liked. I never needed to have a gun in those days either. In a way that was freedom to me.”

Suddenly the electricity goes out, we continue the conversation in the dark. “Look, they’ve been here for more then a year now and we still don’t have electricity for more then 6 hours a day.” The bedroom is hot and sticky without any power for the air conditioning, the temperature was 50c+ in the shade. Over breakfast we hear a big bomb blast, later we find out it was a suicide-bomber, aiming for the Americans, but killing more innocent Iraqi’s. Saha looks at me. “So this is freedom is it?” “No it isn’t freedom. Freedom takes time.” I reply. Saha looks at me smiling, “Freedom takes time.. Look how long the Americans
been waiting..”


“Put that camera down will you!!” Samir screamed at me today. He normally does this when we are driving through his resistance stronghold neighbourhood, but this time it was in downtown Baghdad. A convoy of American tanks and humvees had passed us and I wanted to get shots of them. I’d always been over-cautious but after 7 months in Iraq I was feeling brave. With the handover of power I stupidly thought that the Americans may be less gung-ho. The situation has cooled since the boiling point in April when kidnapping was rife and beheadings made headline news. So much so that I shaved my beard completely today. Samir was shocked, “Sean you look so beautiful… do not grow another!” he insisted, “You look so much younger.”

But he was less at ease on the road with American tanks. So were the other drivers. The tanks passed and a humvee was swaying from side to side across 4 lanes refusing to let any traffic overtake. This is normal practice since a few passing cars had taken shots at the soldiers in the past. But still, in the sweltering heat people get frustrated. So I pulled the camera out against Samir’s better wishes and got this in the frame. Suddenly 3 soldiers jump to their guns and aim, right at us. “Sean get that fucking camera down .. they’re gonna kill us.” I pulled the camera down and the humvee took off.

Samir grabs hold of my camera, “Can’t you see this prick-looking thing (the microphone) looks like an RPG – (rocket propelled grenade) to them. I lowered my camera .. We continued driving in shock. Samir was shaking. I was stupid. “Don’t you realise, since the handover of power they can do whatever they want, there is no come-back on them, it is their agreement for staying to patrol new Iraq”.

I shuddered to think of the consequences. I began to think about the atrocities I have heard about during the past year, when frightened American soldiers first response is to fire, and ask question’s later. Marla’s workload flickered past my mind. If all that happened when there was come-back on their actions what could happen now? Later in the hotel a journalist confirmed my fears, just 2 days ago an American patrol had let rip into a car killing all. No-one knows the reasons, no-one cares now. Without any investigation what is there to go on? The Americans in such circumstances never stop. It is against rules. Just like when a friend saw a tank cross lanes on a motorway and a passing car had no time to move, the tank went straight over it killing the family inside. Still they never stop, it is against the rules. It is up to relatives to make the claim for compensation. Yet still knowing all this I felt things had changed, after all I’d shaven my beard, a symbolic move after months of itching.

It reminded me of when I first arrived here in January this year.. “Just how dangerous is it out there?” I asked someone in my hotel. “Just keep well away from the Americans” I was told. “You’ve got more chance of being killed by them in this place then by any resistance fighter.”

Later we watch American convoys pass from my hotel balcony, they are pointing their guns at everyone and everything they pass. Samir shakes his heads looking concerned, “Look at them poor American soldiers thousands of miles away from home. They must be so scared.” Fear is the most dangerous thing here.