This one is a downer, but wanted to highlight a post from Stephen Farrell, a moving account of an Iraqi man who worked with him in Iraq, a driver named Yasser. Yasser, who worked for the Times of London, was killed outside the Hamra Hotel. The post gets at the numbness of death tolls that appear everyday in the headlines, which become emotionally disassociated with the human beings who make up the tallies. It’s also about the Iraqi men and women who work for Westerners in Iraq, particularly journalists-they’ve really born the brunt of the violence targeting the media.
As Americans, we have viewed the “sacrifices” the war primarily through the loss of American troops. This is normal, and there are a number of culutural reasons for it. We sort of worshipfully fetishize the military in some ways, infantalize them in others, and our pat discourse of bravery and heroism often misses a much larger point: it’s Iraqi civilians who have taken on the majority of suffering in this war, and though the costs to Americans has been horrific as well, Iraqi deaths are often spoken of as an afterthought.
So, here’s Stephen Farrell on the under reported courage of the innocent, describing how Yasser once saved his life.
Another time I was heading home from the Green Zone at the end of the day when a car filled with gunmen pulled in behind us near the Palestine Hotel. Yasser inserted his own car between ours and theirs and slammed on the brakes.
No one expected him to do that; no one would have asked him to do that. As our car hurtled off the gunmen turned on him, chasing his car along Abu Nuwas Street for the best part of half an hour while he desperately shouted a commentary to us into a cellphone that was flying about on the floor of the car, because he needed both his hands on the wheel.
It was an act of unbelievable bravery. It was not done for a salary, or to keep a job or because he somehow feared death less or welcomed it more than any of us. It was done because he was Yasser, because those were his values. And that day he eventually made it back to the safety — safety — of the Hamra Hotel.