Dahlia Wasfi and the Tragedy of Iraq, Part 2

Dahlia Wasfi

Dahlia Wasfi

Dahlia Wasfi and the Tragedy of Iraq, Part 2: We’ve Got Problems, We’ve Got Problems

Last March 20, 2011 was the eighth anniversary of the Bush/Cheney Administration invasion and occupation of Iraq, an occupation that has increasingly fallen below the radar ever since President Obama ordered all American combat brigades home by August 31 of last year. The last unit, the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, rumbled back into Kuwait around August 19th, handily beating the deadline.

However, the occupation did not end then, only any large scale American combat role. There were still some 50,000 American troops in country on September 1st, the day after combat was declared over, their official role to maintain order and stability as well as train Iraqi troops and security forces. However, in a treaty signed with the Iraqi government, ALL American troops are supposed to be out by December 31, 2011, but is that going to be end of the story? ( source )

Also in Part 1, I interviewed Ross Caputi, the ex-Marine so distraught with what he saw during the November, 2004 American siege of Fallujah, Iraq that it turned his life upside down until he ultimately became a fierce anti-Iraq War activist and advocate for justice for the still-suffering citizens of Fallujah. Now we turn to his colleague as well as newly-wed bride, Dahlia Wasfi MD, the outspoken international speaker, author and human rights advocate for peace and justice in Iraq, whom, like Ross, I also interviewed over dinner at the elegant Pasha Mezze Turkish restaurant in the Ghent section of Norfolk.

Dahlia brings a unique perspective and voice to the ongoing crisis in Iraq and the Middle East: She is half-Jewish, half-Iraqi, and although born in America, spent some of her early childhood years there as well as taking up residence with her extended family in Iraq several times since the American invasion in 2003.


Ross Caputi, Marine grunt turned peace advocate (photo by Mac)

Ross Caputi, Marine grunt turned peace advocate (photo by Mac)

Growing up American with an *Asterisk:

Dahlia : “My background explains what I do today.”

Dahlia’s father was born and raised in Basra, Iraq before going on to the University of Baghdad, where he studied chemistry, doing well enough to earn a scholarship to study overseas. He chose Georgetown University in Washington DC. While there, to quote Dahlia, “he met another grad student, a nice Jewish girl from New York.” In 1968 they got married and soon had two daughters, Dahlia being the youngest, although Dahlia was actually born in New York City, not DC, an esteemed honor in the mind of any New Yorker.

After her father obtained his PhD in chemistry, he then had to pay back the Iraqi government by teaching back in his native Iraq for the number of years he was in grad school, so this meant that the first five years of Dahlia’s life were spent going back and forth between America and Iraq before settling back in the USA.

However, Dahlia, a bit rebellious, refused to learn Arabic and became, by her teens, “pretty Americanized”. Even so, she and her family intended to return to Iraq for another visit, but then geopolitics struck: in 1980, the bloody eight-year long Iran-Iraq war commenced, casting a pall over the idea of return, especially after her sister eventually began college while Dahlia herself became enmeshed in high school life.

Then in 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait, and “four days after the invasion, sanctions were imposed, and then six months later the first Gulf War took place”, to quote Dahlia, “which devastated Iraq’s infrastructure, and then the sanctions continued for the next thirteen years…”

During these years of sanctions commencing in the 90s, Dahlia complete Undergrad studies and began medical school, earning her B.S. in Biology from Swarthmore College in 1993 and her medical degree from University of Pennsylvania in 1997.

We all know what came after these years of deadly sanctions for the Iraqi people: the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003 after the Bush/Cheney canard of lies and propaganda led much of the world to hop upon the Neocon War-Wagon. With that came a crisis of conscience for Dahlia, as she felt the glaring contradictions of being a citizen of an America about to go wild on the country representing half her heritage, hald her extended family, Iraq.

“I had gone to very good, very expensive schools in the US. I was in my training to be an anesthesiologist at Georgetown where my dad had gone to school and it was during that time that September 11, 2001 happened, and though what I experienced was nothing compared to the [overall] bigotry that escalated after 9/11, I had my fair share of negative experiences from that, so I was stuck being subordinate to people who were dehumanizing Arabs and Moslems in general and me specifically, although they didn’t know it, because they had no idea what my background was, and they just spoke freely around me.”

“So I found that I had this whole crisis of hypocrisy in my life, and after Shock and Awe, and actually also at that same time hearing about Rachel Corrie’s story (Rachel was slain on March 16, 2003), how she went thousands of miles to learn first-hand what was happening in Occupied Palestine and, though I don’t believe she thought she would give her life for it, literally stood up for what she believed in, well I took that personally.

“If this young woman, who could have turned a blind eye to what was happening in the world…actually died defending the home of a [Palestinian] family that she had no connection to other than her own humanity, then maybe I should go see my family!”

“So I went for the first time in 2004 for three weeks and then I went again for four months in 2006, and ever since my first trip I wanted to do something for my family. I didn’t know what to do so since that time I have been making it up as I go along, but I wanted to try to use privilege as an American born in New York; I have no accent and my family had no voice under the dictator and continues to have no voice under the occupation, so I thought I could open my mouth to try to give expression to their experiences and say what I experienced for my brief time under occupation.”

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