Baghdad Central

Baghdad Central is a six parts series about post-Saddam Iraq. While the story traces the life of an Iraqi family’s resilience in the face of the US-led occupation, it shows how grim ‘shock and awe’ was for daily life in Baghdad. Of course this is not the first US intervention that has gone so bad. The wars in Indochina in the 60s and 70s led by successive Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson and then Nixon led to a similar human tragedy with millions of lives lost.

A friend pointed out the similarity between the ruthlessness of the Pol Pot regime and that of the US military in Iraq. Firstly Nixon’s secret war bombed Cambodia back into the stone age. Then Pol Pot emerged sending people from the cities to the countryside in slave labour camps with millions being killed. So too with the Americans, first US support of Saddam fighting against Iran and then its withdrawal, the WMD lie followed by shock and awe, Abu Grhaib and then a brutal occupation killing over a million people. Bush and Blair are the US/UK versions of Pol Pot.

And we should not forget the British led occupation of prime Minister Tony Blair. This is a Channel 4 British production filmed in Morocco and is based on a novel by an american scholar, Elliot Colla.

Goodreads says this about the novel:

Baghdad Central is a noir debut novel set in Baghdad in September 2003. The US occupation of Iraq is a swamp of incompetence and self-delusion. The CPA has disbanded the Iraqi army and police as a consequence of its paranoid policy of de-Ba’athification of Iraqi society. Tales of hubris and reality-denial abound, culminating in Washington hailing the mess a glorious “mission accomplished.”

Elliott Colla is a professor of Arabic literature at Georgetown University, and a translator from the Arabic of local fiction and poetry. He lives between Washington, DC, and the Middle East.”

In the film I found the relationship between Inspector Muhsin al-Khafaji and his taxi driver friend both revealing of Iraqi culture and sad. They speak of family being the only country they have left and the need to go step-by-step in a seemingly hopeless struggle, they quote poetry to each other. So too is the relationship between the Inspector and his two daughters, Muji suffering from renal failure and Sawsan the resister of the occupation.

I recommend this series and remind people of the popular opposition to a war that Australian democracy managed to ignore sending in troops in lock step with the Americans. We have our own streak of Pol Pot in this country too.

Ian Curr
21 June 2020

Brisbane opposes ‘Shock and Awe’ March 2003

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