We hope that the 4th of July comes and goes without exploding projectiles. The smells of cordite and grilled brats serve well back in the 50 Free, but you do not want to smell sulfur here. Indeed, this will be my first 4th of July without fireworks (the DFAC did have Independence Day placemats today), but I can reflect on the notion of independence in a different light; from the perspective of the Iraqi.
Often people consider Bedouin tribesmen when then think of Arabs. They imagine camel-riding theives wrapped in linen headdresses. This, or Saudi Shieks inspecting rows of Rolls-Royces. The society built upon mesopotamian oil money under Saddam, however, was wealthy, educated, and secular. The rich history of the fertile cresent with the layers of influence imparted by the Ottomans, and then the British, and dozens of conquerers before, imparted wisdom and provided a rich foundation for prosperty and growth. Of course, modern Iraq self-destructed under the militaristic build-up and subsequent hemorrhage of the Iran-Iraq War. The desperate recovery attempts by the Ba'athists after this culminated in OEF; this much and the rest has been the evening news for the past 10 years.
The brain drain began in the 1980s, at the first signs of the disintegration of Iraq as resources were siphoned toward imperialistic desires within greater Persia, but accelerated after Desert Storm, and then skyrocketed with OEF in 2003. Once the infrastructure completely collapsed, with safety in doubt, there was not reason for anyone with means to remain. Like Dr. Fajal, they left anyway they could, as refugees, or, if lucky, as emigrants. What remained was a country without its wisdom. The average aged male in Iraq was 18 in 2005; only now is that figure starting to rise as ex-patriots return, and as the violence quells, letting the citizens live longer.
So, as this country searches for identity, it looks for its own independence; not just the democratic process which allows them to vote leaders among themselves, but the independence from international welfare; and not only self-sufficiency, but ascendancy into a leading nation as expected inheritance for those of Mesopotamia. This ambition is the expectation of the young Iraqi men I have met, but it represents an independence I will likely never live to see.