This month marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S-led invasion of Iraq. Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi, who covered the war as a correspondent for The New York Times, has mixed feelings about the consequences of the occupation of his native country. Like many Iraqis, Al-Saiedi initially welcomed the war that brought an end to Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship. Especially since his brother had been executed in Abu Ghraib prison by Hussein's security forces.
However, Al-Saiedi was not prepared for the ramifications of the war and the sectarian violence and chaos that would tear his country apart. "We gained our freedom, but we lost the state, the country…and our national identity," he says. "I don’t think Iraq will ever be the same."
Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi is currently a senior researcher with Physicians for Human Rights in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Al-Saiedi says that after the U.S. invasion his optimism for his country was dashed as the situation in Iraq deteriorated quickly. "I lived most of my life in a war zone, since the Iraqi-Iranian war started in 1980," he says. "We thought, this is the end. Unfortunately, it was the start of different oppression. The start of a different brutal era."
Al-Saiedi was working as a journalist for The New York Times in March of 2004 when he reported on a particularly gruesome and savage attack on American contractors in Fallujah. Upon learning of the deaths of the Americans, he joined a mob of mostly children and teenagers headed for the bridge where it was believed the bodies hung. "When I arrived to the bridge, I saw two bodies hanging on the bridge and two on the ground," he explains, "and the kids were there and kind of celebrating…that just broke my heart and made me so scared because I just imagine…I could be the fifth one. I will be the fifth one if any one of them know I work for The New York Times.”
Al-Saiedi describes the scene at the bridge in Fallujah as the most brutal thing he has seen in his life so far: "A child, I think he’s 10 or 11 years old, he was kicking one of the bodies. There was smoke coming from the flack jacket and he was shouting 'pacha.'" Pacha, Al-Saiedi explains, is a very famous meal in Iraq consisting of the head of a sheep.
"I was thinking: What’s the game? What’s the goal? I don’t understand…where are we going?"
Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi (Alex Johnson/WGBH)