It all started today, five years ago. The waning of public sentiment in the U.S.'s favor, no more will you here people utter the phrase, "We are all Americans," so common after September 11th. The cracking of ancient fissures in the Middle East. The body counts, separate tallies for Americans and Iraqis, when anyone bothered to count the Iraqis at all. The shock and awe of watching a "preemptive war" unfold on the television while pondering the meaning and implications of the phrase. Isn't it simply a polite euphemism for "invasion", I wondered. Five years on and my shock and awe at the penetration of misinformation into people's minds, the fears that linger with people, buried just beneath the surface, seven years after those planes hit, my soul-shaking disappointment in my country, which I do still love, contrary to the beliefs of the false patriots, continue. Five years on and still we wait to hear a plan, a concrete plan for fixing what we helped break so irrevocably. Five years on and, in some ways, the lucky ones come home in body bags, the "living" suffering from neglectful, almost criminal levels of care for life-long physical and psychological wounds. Serve your country and come home to suicide, homelessness, unemployment, and a government that is happy to use you to recruit the next round, but not so pleased to pay to heal you. Five years on and still people sleep, missing the details that should provoke electric anger. Five years on and the lies have been confirmed and yet, still, the public loses interest and the story fades from view. Five years on and I still cannot answer the questions from people on this side of the world: "How did he get re-elected?", "Why do people in your country not care?", "You have the freedom, so why are people in your country not marching in the streets?"
Five years on an I am thinking of the middle-aged Iraqi man sitting next to me in a cafe in Damascus near the end of 2006. "Do you mind if I smoke?" he asked gently in Arabic, leaning towards me. "We Iraqis only smoke when we are sad," he said, weary smile stretching across his face beneath his moustache. "And we have so many things to be sad about these days."
Five years on and I am left to wonder what the next five years will bring.