The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

FW: Greetings from Iraq!

>From Ramzi Kysia, currently in Iraq


21 November, 2001

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Iraq! After a week in the country, I can say that the
attitude here is pretty fatalistic. People are not too worried about the
U.S. expanding the “war” to Iraq anytime soon. They’re celebrating
and going about their lives as usual. They say that the future is out of
their hands, so why bother worrying about it? Everyone agrees that after
Afghanistan, America will bomb Iraq next. But - as one man put it to me
the Iraqi people are “used to the voice of American bombs.”  In fact,
is something people have said to me again and again - that if America
they’re going to fall apart like the Taliban, they should think again.
People say that Iraq has been bombed repeatedly by the U.S. for 11 years
almost every day in the North and South -  and they’re still here. They
t like it. It really, and justifiably, angers them, but, well - one
compared U.S. bombings to the weather, saying it was just a fact of
life. I don’t know myself. This time it seems different. This time it
much more serious. And much more frightening.

Unlike Iraqis, the UN staff seem much more nervous. Off the record, they
seem to think that there’s no way the U.S. will risk all of it’s
in the region by destroying Iraq. On the other hand, the increasingly
bellicose rhetoric coming out of Washington is making them wonder, and
remember how they got caught back in December ’98 & had to spend a day
two huddled at the Canal St. Headquarters during the last, major U.S.
bombing campaign. No one knows what’s going to happen, and that’s very

On the surface, Iraq does seem much changed from my last visit in 1999.
There are more shops in the Sadoun and Karada neighborhoods (the “ritzy”
shopping areas - although even someplace like Detroit gives them a run
their money), and the quality of merchandise is greatly improved.
are everywhere, including washing machines, stove tops, boom boxes, and
widescreen tv’s. There are also many more pharmacies open, and they
have lots of medicines in them. This is very different from my last
The supermarkets abound with shampoos and lotions, Western breakfast
& so on…

But, the question I have is “who’s buying all this stuff?” Really, you
to the shopkeepers, and they’ll tell you - this is only here, in Sadoun,
Karada, in Baghdad. You talk to the folks at the UN and, again, they’ll
you that no one is buying all this stuff. No one can afford it. For the
majority of Iraqi people, these products are so far out of reach it’s
ridiculous. For instance, I noticed a 8 or 10 oz. container of “Pert”
shampoo in one of the supermarkets was selling for 8,000 ID (Iraqi
Now, that’s about $4, so it’s more expensive than in the States, but
doesn’t tell you everything. The fact is that $4 is a month’s salary for
half the population here in Iraq. And the $200 tv’s in the electronic
in Karada? Those are so far out of reach for anyone except UN staff or
elites that they may as well be made of solid gold.

I see this stuff in the stores, and on the one hand it makes me feel
good to
see *something* getting into the country. But, then, you see the prices,
the terrible poverty here, and it just makes your blood boil. You’ll be
walking, or driving, down the street looking at these fancy shops, and
you’ll see a young child in torn and dirty clothes, no shoes, or a pair
filthy flip-flops, rooting through the garbage by the side of the road -
looking for treasure, or maybe just a meal. That’s Iraq. That
is Iraq.

You know, when I came two years ago I wrote that nothing could have
me for Iraq, and I’d have to repeat that again just as loudly. As
and as informed, as I’ve been on Iraq, I really had internalized this
that sanctions were crumbling and people’s lives here had - while not
returned to normal - had definitely improved quite a bit.

I was wrong.

The hospitals are as crowded, as poorly lit, and as understocked, as I
remember from my last trip. The doctors are complaining just as much
not having enough medicines, or the proper medicines. And the children
still dying by the thousands.

I guess I knew that, but just the same I wasn’t expecting it. I wanted
walk into those hospitals, see them brightly lit, and have the doctors
me, yes, we still have problems, but at least the children aren’t dying
anymore, not like before. God willing, someday it will be so. Just not

My love to everyone. All of you are in my thoughts and prayers.
someday we’ll have peace.

Ma Salaam,
Ramzi Kysia
Voices in the Wilderness

This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
CASI's website - - includes an archive of all postings.

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]