In this chapter Stack describes the effects of conflict on the lives of both people who have experienced war and people who have not experienced war. Stack provides an example in the form of her relative, John a former American marine. John was sent to Beirut to combat the Hezbollah and whilst fighting there he experienced the true nature of war. He returned later however “he wasn’t all right”. He committed suicide due to the effects of war and the conflicts that he experienced. Thus Stack came to the conclusion that after being in a war zone, “you could survive and not survive, both at the same time”; she realises that you can mentally die from war but physically survive. War places a strain on the minds of people and breaks it down. Additionally, Stack states that after her travels in various warzones; she had aged not just physically, but mentally due to the conflicts that she experienced. She further comes to the realisation that the United States created the war on terror and that terror itself if essentially created by the media. This terror creates fear in normal civilians and it is what causes America and the other western countries to be on one side and all other countries to be on another side.
Every Man in this Village is a Liar
Conflict is seen repeatedly throughout this chapter. Firstly, Stack is shown to have an emotional conflict with a warlord named Mohammed Zaman. Although portrayed as a minor conflict, Zaman is seen to have feelings for Stack which Stack does not reciprocate; thus this creates a certain awkwardness between the two of them. The major conflict seen in this chapter is the American’s hunt for Osama Bin Laden. “Planes thundered past every day” bombing the mountainous area of Tora Bora, to eliminate the remains of Al Qaeda. However this proved unsuccessful as Bin Laden was neither found nor killed. An additional conflict arose when the bomber planes accidently killed people loyal to Zaman as well as his mujahedeen; this conflict instigates an increase in animosity between Zaman and the Americans that he is assisting to find Bin Laden.
American troops began a ground assault in the Tora Bora cave complex in their attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden. These American troops were in conflict with Al Qaeda fighters who facilitated the escape of Bin Laden; and they enlisted the help of three warlords: Mohammed Zaman, Hazrat Ali and Abdul Qadir. The American troops were shown to have a conflict with Zaman as he wanted to question the defeated Al Qaeda forces for his own purposes, however the Americans wanted to immediately kill the Al Qaeda troops. Furthermore, Zaman is seen to have a conflict with Hazrat Ali. Both warlords had fought each other for supremacy over many years and because of the Americans they have become “grudging allies forced together by mutual dependence on American money”. Zaman and Ali both wanted to do things their own way and this increased their hostility towards one another.
As Long as you can pay for it
In this chapter Stack encounters conflict not physically, but mentally. Coming home from a war zone is a “strange and isolating experience”; Stack had been changed by the things that she experienced and so she is in conflict with others when she tries to explain that “there’s a difference between Afghan civilians and Al Qaeda”. Stack has inner conflict; she believes that she stayed in the Middle East for too long and that although she is physically in America, she is still unable to get home mentally. Throughout this chapter Stack comes to the realisation that encountering conflict can change a person so much and that this change is permanent.
Terrorism and Other Stories
The Israel vs Palestine conflict is one of the wars that Stack experienced during her travels. The first suicide bombing that she covered in her career was a result of the Israel-Palestine conflict; Hamza Samudi, a Palestinian teenager, drove a car full of explosives next to a bus full of Israeli people and blew himself and the car up. Every bit of this act was stuck in Stack’s memory, “the brightness and the death of it” was what affected Stack the most. She realised that people of any age will do anything to assist what they are fighting for. Furthermore, Stack lived through a portion of the second Palestinian intifada. During this struggle countless suicide bombers came by day and Israeli tanks acquired Palestinian land in the West Bank by night. Stack describes this period of time as complete chaos, where, “violence fed violence. Blood washed blood”. Stack knew a Palestinian woman who was a victim of the brutality during the first intifada.
She was tortured during the days of this time period for being part of an underground Palestinian political movement. Stack’s Palestinian friend was “tortured for days, beaten, abused, threatened with rape” by a barbaric Israeli interrogator. Although she faced strong hostility from the interrogator, she also faced kindness in the form of an anonymous Israeli man who “sat with her hour after dark hour” and attempted to help her get through the pain. This shows that an individual can interact with both negative and positive things throughout a conflict. Stack later faced a conflict when she wrote a feature about how the body parts of suicide bombers had caused a policy debate in Israel. This feature caused Stack to receive hundreds of hate mails regarding as to how she “humanized [suicide bombers]” by writing about them as actual people with families.
Forgive us our Trespasses
America’s invasion of Baghdad created a massive conflict that would eventually become the Iraq War. Stack knew that this conflict would “tangle America in time and blood” and make them forget their other battles. The effects of the battles could be seen at a children’s hospital that Stack visits. The staff had dug up the hospital gardens just to “make room for the nameless dead”. Families were everywhere looking for their missing children or army recruits who had “gone off to do their duty”. This shows the effects that conflict can have on civilians; destroying their lives and tearing apart families. Furthermore, there is no electricity present in many parts of the city; this lack of electricity is one of the many repercussions which are experienced from combat. Additionally, the conflict in Baghdad was shown to escalate so much that people wanted to escape the city. Stack describes absolute chaos as “cars packed the roads on the edge of town”; “every bit of pavement was packed tight with humans and their machines” as they endeavoured to liberate themselves from anarchy. There were many civilian casualties as a result of this conflict and this resulted in animosity towards the occupying forces. Stack describes the United States forces as “a nasty, impersonal force” because of the fact that they did almost as much bad as they did good.
The Living Martyr
Although the American invasion had finished, the remains of it still existed. There were “stray cluster bombs, blasted craters and burned-out cars” all over the roads. However, this invasion had liberated the Shiite’s from Saddam Hussein’s rule and so their conflict was over. These Shiite’s “wanted a taste of a pilgrimage that had been outlawed under Saddam”. They wanted to announce to the world that “[they] are here”. However, whilst celebrating their liberation they were also mourning their loved ones who had been killed during their oppression under Saddam.
This could be seen when Stack encountered a woman who was mourning her daughter, Amina Abbas, who was “executed by Saddam’s government officials in 1982”. This goes to show that the effects of conflict can be felt even when the issue has been resolved. Stack later came across a man named Hussein Safar, who was often referred to as the “living martyr” due to what he did and what he experienced. In 1991 during the first American invasion, a failed Shiite uprising occurred in which Iraqi troops overran Najaf to destroy the revolution. Hussein was captured by the Iraqi troops in Najaf and sent out to the desert to be executed. Miraculously, Hussein survived the firing squad and he returned to Najaf many months later. Hussein was later killed by the remnants of Sadam Hussein’s forces; thus showing that although you can escape conflict, one day it will catch up to you.
The conflict present in this chapter was regarding Colonel Moammar Qaddafi and the changes that he made in Libya. He rose to power by means on a quiet military coup in 1969. He “liquidated enemies and slaughtered political prisoners” to move up in the world. He emphasised the African identity and he wanted Libya to be purely an African country without any influence from its “Arab brothers”. Stack stated that Qaddafi would “bring Libya back into the world, and bring the world back to Libya” and that he would use the “war on terror” to do this. Furthermore, due to the Iraq War, Libya was influenced to rid itself of its chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. This served to improve their relationship with the United States and the economic sanctions placed on Libya were lifted. Due to this the United States said that “Qaddafi is a good example”; this angered the Arabs around the region of Libya due to the fact that Qaddafi essentially rejected Arab nationalism when his Pan-Arab ideals began to fail.
Following the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq by the United States, Saddam Hussein was in prison and his sons were dead; however “the anti-American uprising raged” and civil war was about to begin. Insurgency began to oppose the American troops that were already situated in Iraq and suicide bombers were showing up at many places. Stack begins to realise a surprising truth about suicide bombings during this time period; that “they are all the same”. When questioned as to who they saw plant the bomb, the victims would each provide different answers. This occurs because the victims simply believed that somebody they do not like planted the bomb and they fix that person in their mind as the bomber.
Thus, Stack comes to the conclusion that “it is easier to blame a nemesis than to accept chaos as an everyday condition”. This shows that conflict can affect the mind of an individual since their retelling of events may not be accurate as they were not thinking straight. Additionally, suicide bombings are able to drag innocent people into a conflict as seen when Stack interviews a checkpoint policeman who was doing his job when a suicide bomber struck. The policeman was severely injured and this occurred because he simply was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Stack eventually states that “the Middle East is still packed with murderers who believe they are doing God’s will” and that Middle Eastern battles are fought this way. This means that all the wars and conflicts that take place in the Middle East are done because of people’s respect for God.
We Expected Something Better
The invasion of Iraq had an enormous effect on Jordan. Iraqi’s fleeing Iraq came to Amman seeking refuge from the conflict. This caused monstrous amounts of aggression towards American people since they believed that “the Americans would take over all Arab lands”. The onslaught of hate continued to flow from the Arabs during this conflict; “[Americans] are the terrorists!”, “George Bush is a terrorist!”, “[Americans] hated Muslims”. Another conflict that was present not just in Jordan, but in all of the Middle East; was the torture of civilians. Citizens were tortured by personnel of the United States Army for being “too religious”, “too left-leaning” or “being gay”. They were “cut, beaten, frozen, [and] burned” just for not paying a police bribe. Stack informatively states that torture is present everywhere in the Middle East and that “it’s in the fibre of the place”. Due to the tortures that the United States committed, the Arabs came into conflict with the Americans. “[The Arabs] don’t expect anything from the Arab governments. [They] expect something better from the Americans”. However, the tortures that the Americans performed at Abu Ghraib made them believe that they were wrong about America.
A Question of Cost
In Saudi Arabia, the rights of women are constantly being disregarded and the United States essentially ignores this so that they can maintain a relationship with Saudi Arabia and get oil. American and Saudi Arabia maintain a co-dependent relationship that revolves around Aramco; because the “Americans needed Saudi oil, and Saudis needed American expertise and political cover”. America’s decision to disregard the mistreatment of women in Saudi Arabia conflicts with Stack and what she believes in. What Stack experienced in Saudi Arabia “[tainted] the way [she] perceived men and women”. This caused her to enter a blind rage in which she “cursed at Egyptian soldiers” and kept a tally of Western men “who seemed to condone, even relish, the marginalisation of women in the Arab world”.
Furthermore, hotels will not even rent rooms to women unless they receive a letter from a company that supports her ability to pay for her stay. Surprisingly a few Saudi Arabian women are quite defensive regarding their situation. They are convinced that “any discussion of women’s rights is a disguised attack on Islam from a hostile Westerner”. Additionally, another conflict present in this chapter is militants. Militants attacked various Saudi Arabian properties that were outside the country. They “rammed car bombs into apartment blocks, attacked government ministries and gunned down BBC reporters”. Saudi officials stated that they will handle this problem and that “everybody was against terrorism”; however, the violence continued.
Loddi Doddi, We likes to Party
The Houthi rebellion was a conflict present in Yemen. Hussein Houthi was a Zaydi Shiite who had led thousands of followers to carry out a war against the government because they were angered by the government’s ties to the United States and they wanted Islamic rule. Terrorism in general is a huge conflict in Yemen. The USS Cole was bombed in the year 2000 while it was refuelling in the harbour of Aden. Due to this the United States had decided to give Yemen extra money and military equipment so that they can prevent terrorism; more cash went to Yemen after the September 11 attacks. Additionally, American agents would often be present at interrogations of terrorist suspects and they were free to absorb any information. Thus, showing how dangerous the terrorist threat is in Yemen and the lengths that the Americans would go to so that they can gather intelligence. A City Built on Garbage
The Lebanese Civil War was a huge conflict that occurred from 1975 to 1990 and during this war the city was split into two by a no-man’s land. The garbage dump was in the east side of the city, so the people on the west side threw their garbage into the sea and all of the trash “piled and fermented and packed and gelled into solid ground”; this eventually formed a rotten foundation for the city to rebuild itself. This shows how conflict is able to physically ruin a city. The death of Rafik Hariri had caused waves all over Lebanon. He was killed by “hundreds of pounds of explosives” and many people suspected that Hariri was killed because he turned against his previous ally: Syria. Although Hariri had assisted Lebanon in having a $30 billion debt and had colluded with the Syrian government, his death had made him “the martyr of a new Lebanese mythology” and “his image was washed clean”. The Shiite’s melted into the background after the death of Hariri. Hezbollah is a Shiite party and militia group and they depended upon Syria for weapon smuggling and political cover; so “the prospect of a Syrian withdrawal scratched some nerves”. The Shiites were cautious of being left alone with the Christians, Sunnis and Druze which caused them to just fade away.
The Earthquake Nobody Felt
The Muslim Brotherhood was the largest opposition group in Egypt and it was a “nonviolent Islamist movement with deep roots across Egypt”. The party’s candidates had to run as independent beings because the Muslim Brotherhood was considered to be illegal. The conflict present here was more political than physical as Muslim Brotherhood candidate Gamal Heshmat was against “Mubarak’s man” Moustafa Fiqi in an election. Heshmat’s goal was to support a life of religion among the people, he believed that people who do not have religion in their lives “have accepted annihilation”. Furthermore, Heshmat believes that those without religion are diseased with corruption and are spreading it everywhere. On the other hand, Fiqi simply believed that the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to take over the country; he believed in freedom and the “freedom of others”. Additionally, another conflict encountered by Stack was the disregard for women’s rights in Egypt. When Heshmat had organised a gathering in Damanhur Stack was able to see that the women were standing in “careful rows” and that there was “segregation between the sexes”. Moreover, Stack was molested by security forces in Cairo simply because she made them uncomfortable; this also occurred to Stack’s female translator on a different day. Thus showing that females are often thought of as below males.
All Things Light and All things Dark
The Al-Askari Mosque is a place of pilgrimage and worship by the Shiite Muslims; when it was bombed in 2006 by unknown assailants, the Shiites immediately accused the Sunnis of doing the attacks and an onslaught of violence began where Shiites and Sunnis murdered each other “all day and all night, taking their revenge”. Famous Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat, who claimed that “[she was] for Iraq, not for a specific sect”, was caught in the middle of this conflict and she and her team were kidnapped by Sunni insurgents and killed while broadcasting just outside Samarra. Ever since Saddam Hussein had been taken there was absolute chaos all over Iraq and many people who disliked Saddam had wished that he would come back. When Saddam had gone, “power and oil and money were all up for grabs” and this allowed a sectarian war to begin. Both the Sunnis and Shiites wanted the power, however Atwar believed that “sectarian identifications were immoral” and that people should not be split into categories; however her death proved that “there was no place in Iraq for a woman like that”.
There Would be Consequences
Months after Atwar Bahjat died; the fighting in Iraq had escalated to become “hotter and bloodier”. Death was everywhere and Stack found a young man named Ahmed whose “life aspirations and circumstances” would serve “as an emblem for a tortured land”. Ahmed was a Shiite however he was not pleased with the political power that his people have gained throughout this conflict. For this conflict to end Ahmed believes that there should be a political “balance between Sunni and Shia”. Additionally, the American troops were fighting against an anti-American insurgency. However most of the violence in Iraq had more to do with the civil war than the battle with the American forces. There was a high amount of hostility against the Americans also. This could be seen when Ahmed was caught talking to Stack by an Iraqi man who was part of one of the armed groups. Stack realised that “there would be consequences” for talking to an American and so she never interacts with Ahmed again. This shows just how intense the conflict between American and Iraq was at this time.
Killing the Dead
Israel and the Hezbollah have been at conflict with each other many times. The 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war began when Hezbollah guerrillas fired diversionary rockets on Israel’s coast and then crossed the border into Israel itself to kill three Israel soldiers and capture two others. In response to this, Israel bombed the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut as well as main roads and bridges in Beirut to prevent the Hezbollah from transporting Israeli prisoners. Thus, began a huge war between Israel and the Hezbollah. More than one-thousand civilians were reported to be dead in Lebanon and more than four-thousand civilians were injured. Stack experienced this conflict first-hand since she was in Beirut at this time; the dead were placed in bags, blankets or boxes and given to families on the roads because the hospitals were becoming full. Since the Hezbollah is not an army, the Israelis are unable to fight them, and so they resort to killing the people because they believe that it is the only way to stop Hezbollah. “More than one thousand dead Lebanese people and billions of dollars of crushed infrastructure later”, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, had stated that he would not have attacked if “he had anticipated Israel’s wrath”. Thus, it can be seen that the effects of a conflict between two entities will often hurt innocent people and the conflict will end in regret.
I Thought I was a Salamander
The conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah had escalated to a point at which bombs were constantly raining down on Lebanon. When the bombs stop, there is only the possibility of another bomb falling in a few seconds and another bomb after that. The war has changed the lives of people in Lebanon, they are all scared and they do not know where or when the next bomb will strike. During this conflict Stack comes to the realisation that “the war on terror isn’t anything but the sick and feeble cringing in an asylum, babies in shock, structure smashed”. She realised that the endless conflicts have caused everything to be broken; “Baghdad broken. Afghanistan broken, Egypt broken…Lebanon broken”. While all of these things were being broken, America was fulfilling its dream of carrying out the war on terror. When Israel finally agreed to a ceasefire they still dropped “more than a million cluster bombs” in southern Lebanon; thus rendering that area uninhabitable. When Stack finally experienced the end of the war she realised that she had been affected both mentally and physically. Stack understood that she had survived and not survived at the same time.
Stack end the book by providing a real life example as to how an innocent person can be killed in a conflict. Raheem, Stack’s translator and friend in Iraq, had a son named Mohammed who was killed when American soldiers shot him in the chest. The soldiers had shot into the street that Mohammed was standing in because one of their vehicles had hit a homemade bomb. Mohammed’s death had affected his family greatly, “nobody in [his] family goes into [his] bedroom anymore” because they are in too much pain. Conflict still occurs in the Middle East after Stack leaves; people are still being tortured in Egypt, acid is thrown in the faces of girls who want to go to school in Afghanistan, Mohammed Zaman was driven out of Afghanistan and Abdul Qadir was assassinated. “Qaddafi is still lording it over Libya”. Hezbollah still possesses weapons, and people in Lebanon believe that another civil war will come one day. Therefore, it can be seen that conflict is something that endures throughout time and it will always exist is one form or another.