Voices from Iraq: What the U.S. Invasion Felt Like to Iraqis

Mark Kukis, Voices from Iraq

Mark Kukis author Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009 recently discussed the stories of some of the people he interviewed for the book on Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment.

In particular, Kukis shares some of the reactions of a range of Iraqis to the early days of the invasion. This initial period, from the invasion in 2003 to the outbreak of sectarian disease, is referred to as “the collapse” by Iraqis. It was a period that Kukis describes for Iraqis in which, “Anger mingled with joy. Relief came with dread. Hopefulness flowed with rage.”

Kukis cites varied Iraqi reactions to the looting, the U.S. bombing, and seeing U.S. troops patrolling Iraqi streets. While some spoke with a kind of awe about U.S. soldiers. Omar Yousef Hussein, who became a part of the insurgent movement, reveals a more conflicted view of the troops. In the following, he describes his first operation:

We made our way to the road. There were some shepherds there with sheep. They saw us planting the bomb but said nothing. It all seemed like a game, honestly. A game you might play as a child. We ran a wire from the bomb through the fields off the road and found a hiding place where the leaves and grass kept us from view. From there we watched. We did not have to wait long. It was a busy road. The Americans used it a lot. After about an hour we saw a Humvee. This was in the early days, when Humvees were often seen alone, not always in armored convoys like later. The Humvee approached, and at the right moment we detonated. The explosion flipped the Humvee onto its side, and after a moment a crowd gathered. We eased out of our hiding spot and joined the group on the street. I don’t know if the Americans in the Humvee were dead or not. I just saw them being carried away on stretchers. No one walked away as far as I could tell. I can’t say how the others felt at that moment, but I was in tears. I didn’t know whether I was crying out of sadness or fear or happiness. Maybe all those reasons. For me, that first operation was like breaking free from a whole life of oppression. I had grown up under Saddam Hussein. I had spent nearly a decade of my youth in his jails. I had seen my country invaded by a foreign army. All my life I felt beaten down by one hand or another. And now, finally, for the first time I was hitting back.

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