The Unwanted and Unnecessary American

One of the ideas that Riverbend tries to combat through several of her posts is the stereotyped image of Iraq and the Iraqi people. She is constantly making references to the way the world “sees” Iraq and comparing it to what the reality is.

The Myth: Iraqis, prior to occupation, lived in little beige tents set up on the sides of little dirt roads all over Baghdad. Men and boys would ride to school on their camels, donkeys, and goats. These schools were larger versions of the home units and for every 100 students, there was one turban-wearing teacher who taught the boys rudimentary math (to count the flock) and reading. Girls and women sat at home, in black burkas, making bread and taking care of 10-12 children.

The Truth: Iraqis live in houses with running water and electricity. Thousands of them own computers. Millions own VCRs and VCDs. Iraq has sophisticated bridges, recreational centers, clubs, restaurants, shops, universities, schools, etc. (Riverbend 34)

The saddest part about this statement is that Riverbend is correct–many Americans really do think this way because they do not know any better. Part of the general ignorance of the population of our country is due to our own willingness to accept what we are shown as truth and fact. We don’t question nearly as much as we should and as is healthy because there are consequences for individuals who question authority–granted the consequences aren’t as dire as they are in other nations around the world, but they can be dire enough. Mainly I think we do not question what we are told because of the apathy and self-centered attitude which has become an epidemic in this country.

The other thing which Riverbend discusses often in her blogs is how Americans think they are helping the Iraqi people through their occupation. Newsflash people–not every country wants to turn into a carbon-copy of America! Many countries, Iraq included,

 just want to be left to their own vices to figure out their own political affairs. Yes–it can be helpful to aid in the removal of a tyrannical governmental figurehead, but after the dirty deed is done, we need to have the social graces to get out instead of setting up camp in whatever country we just “liberated”. There was actually a book written which deals with the views towards Americans who overstay their welcome and try to “help” countries which don’t necessarily want the pity for one reason or another: The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

One last interesting point I would like to raise also deals with the issue of the unnecessary American occupation which Riverbend discusses. It is the issue of re-building. I came across an image which is perfect for the situation Riverbend describes in regards to building bridges.

   …Someone from the CPA wanted the company to estimate the building costs of replacing the New Diyala Bridge on the South East end of Baghdad. He got his team together, they went out and assessed the damage, decided it wasn’t too extensive, but it would be costly. They did the necessary tests and analyses…and came up with a number they tentatively put forward–$300,000. This included new plans and designs, raw materials (quite cheap in Iraq), labor, contractors, travel expenses, etc. …A week later, the New Diyala Bridge contract was given to an American company. This particular company estimated the cost of rebuilding the bridge would be around–brace yourselves–$50,000,000!! (Riverbend 34)

This all goes back to the concept of the Ugly American and our constant desire to “help” where we are not needed. In the example Riverbend uses, not only is the native country–Iraq–capable of rebuilding on its own, it is able to do it at a much more reasonable price by taking advantage of natural resources as well as using Iraqi engineers for the project. Not only would this save the country money, it would also create much-needed jobs which would in turn help stimulate the economy and raise overall morale. But hey, this is just one woman’s opinion.

Works Cited

Riverbend. Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq. New York: Feminist at the City University of New York, 2005. Print.


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