Editorial:: Iraqi Youth Culture and the Young American Soldier

For many Iraqis, the presence of American armed forces in their provinces, cities, and villages is an affront to their personal and national sovereignty. Young Iraqis have had more intimate, on going interactions with the Americans and have a varied outlook on the foreign presence. They see the soldiers as the ones who built wells and schools and offered protection from warlords that claimed ownership over specific areas and terrorized those that did not fall into line. In the nine years since the American invasion, 8 million people,–25% of the entire population–were born during the American occupation of Iraq. During these crucial years, the military has had time to set up small cities, dismantle the Iraqi Army, and leave Iraqi youth with a vague view of what American identity looks.American Soldier, Iraqi Youth

The young people would often play soccer with soldiers all the while measuring their movements, their dance, their musical influences, and overall military swag. The military’s eventual pivot toward winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people over simply bombing them into submission enabled them to build relationships with the native leaders and youth populations. General Dave Patreus saw it as an opportunity to see troop casualty numbers reduce and as a strategy to loosen the stronghold militant warlords generally held over the people.

Offering youth the opportunity to interact with soldiers allowed them to see the soldiers humanity in a personal way. Subsequently, it became a catalyst to alleviate tension between the troops and the general public while fostering a sense of that the troops were working in their interests–safety–as opposed occupying their space and harboring animosity.

In the view of many of the youth, the physical presence of young, strong men and women patrolling the streets of Baghdad transformed from an imperial force into a fully integrated members of the community. Youth Iraqi currently rummage military debris to find discarded army fatigues, hats, and posters to emulate the men and women that have lived in their environment for the last decade. And despite laws and social dynamics that condemn them, tattoo artists are seeing an influx of young folk eager to mark their bodies in increasing fashion–and unabashedly expose their new body art.

Young men wear baggy pants and recite Hip-hop lyrics aloud and young women are stepping out more often in scantily clad, tight-fitting outfits that are often accompanied by a increased assertiveness that has previously been unacceptable behavior in women. The soldiers have certainly opened up a whole new world to citizens in Baghdad and have brought many influences that some would deem offensive to Iraqi heritag

“IT’S A WAR GOING ON OUTSIDE WE AINT SAFE FROM/I FEEL THE PAIN IN MY CITY WHEREVER I GO 314 SOLDIERS DIED IN IRAQ/509 DIED IN CHICAGO.”
-KANYE WEST, MURDER TO EXCELLENCE, (2011)

 

This is not something that is coming to be accepted fully throughout the Iraqi public. There are elder citizens and academics who worry that the bombardment of western/American culture will quickly dilute their own cultural fabric and began to loose the values and elements that make Iraqi society great. In conjunction with many of the beneficial and potentially harmless cultural elements that America exports, there are a host of others that could corrode cultural norms that foster community collaboration.Still, the general devotion that Iraqi youth exhibit toward American military swag over contemporary norms–blatantly exposing tattoos and liberal clothing styles, means that the future of Iraq will ultimately determine its trajectory based on direct, personal influence of American troops. The American military experience in Iraq, to use an understatement, has laid the necessary seeds to produce a legacy in Iraq that will continue to fuel freedom of expression and independent thinking in broad ways. Thank God for swag. Thank God for Hip-hop.

*This is Hip-hop’s Word, govern your life accordingly.

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