After the march on the 19th, I went to the internet café to write my post about the day’s activities. The name of the place was, “Ali-Baba Internet Café.” I shit you not. The woman behind the counter did not look particularly Arabic, but was wearing a hijab. It just so happened that her English was a lot better than my German, but I thought it might be presumptuous to speak in Arabic. She gave me a number and I sat down in my assigned slot.
While browsing after taking care of business, I overheard two men speaking Arabic behind me. I leaned back in my chair and when their conversation ended, introduced myself in Arabic. I explained that I had worked in Civil Affairs and so on, and he told me that he was from Baghdad. This whole time I’ve been trying to revive my German, and Arabic words come to mind when the German words escape me, but suddenly the opposite was the case. We ended up having a crazy tri-lingual conversation, but he made a really interesting point that I had never considered about Iraq.
He said that the sectarian violence was a new phenomenon, to which I objected, “No, it’s thousands of years old.” But he meant in recent history. He said that there had been no sectarian violence under Saddam (except by the government of course) and none in the years before Saddam came to power. His theory about the sectarian violence is that it came out of the racial balance requirements by the US government for the interim Iraqi government. He said these criteria made Iraqis think that they had to compete on racist terms. Now, he has family in Iraq, but hasn’t been there for ten years so he might not be the best-informed Iraqi, but it’s an interesting theory to consider.
The next day we all had our big interviews with Nightline. Look for them to do an eight-minute segment on the IVAW German Expeditionary Team. In the evening, we attended the Memorial for Iraq War Victims in Burgerpark, followed by a religious service led by Reverend Hansjörg Meyer. The theme of the sermon was, “Turn Swords into Plowshares!” but it was in German, naturally, and most of it beyond my vocabulary. It was a beautiful outdoor service with some great singing, which included, “We Shall Overcome,” and acoustic guitar performances.