Is not a country where I would want to work. Mainly because I see it as an illegal occupation I would not want any part in, however ‘humanitarian’ the ideals.

For sure, things have changed since 2003 when US troops were invading and I was marching futilely through London. But my memories and associations of that time remain strong.

In comparison, Afghanistan seemed more like the good fight. OK, so I was never that naive but alongside other reasons, I was willing to work here. While I was shouting for troops out of Iraq I never joined in the chorus calling for that here, and I get pretty pissed off when I get emails now still singing for the same.

And yet. And yet I’m increasingly unsure about how I can justify my presence here. It is hard to feel optimistic for the country. It is hard to feel that aid organisations are doing anything more, in the grand scheme of things, than propping up a government that has little support and colluding with foreign military forces that have even less. The Taliban appear to now see NGOs as a valid target, which is just plain wrong. But on many levels is understandable: humanitarianism is political, after all. And the politics, grand and personal, of being in this country, are complicated. Made no simpler by the bombings of civilians and the loss of legitimacy it causes.

I flirted with the thought that ‘talking to the Taliban’ was the only way forward, but have been largely persuaded otherwise. Which doesn’t leave with me much in the way of positive possibilities to look towards. A surge perhaps, to make the discrepancy between military and humanitarian spending even greater…

Most of the time I ignore the issue, and stay sane and motivated by focusing on the smaller things. The little victories, the desperate failures: the fine grain of trying to make just a wee tiny bit of a positive difference on the lives of a few.

But zoom out, or look towards long-term development, and many of those inconsequential things loss their force amongst a general sense of futility. Building sandcastles on the beach with a rising tide.

Which in itself is not a reason not to try. But the balance of forces has shifted so far from a humanitarian to a military endeavour that I feel less comfortable being here. It’s not that I’m planning on going somewhere else right now, and at the moment I’m enjoying being here, just that I’m not so sure about the morality of my position.


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One Response to “Iraq”

  1. Peter Says:

    For countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC alike. We – the aidworkers- have been providing development and relief aid for many many years.

    “If we make a difference” is question which is on the mind of every aid worker with a conscience.

    I -for one- try to concentrate on the smaller victories, as you do. In the larger scheme of things, I do not know if we actually do make a difference. For the better.

    But then I look in the eyes of a hungry child, and that thought disappears fast.


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