In August of 1961, the East German government, with the backing of the Soviet Union, erected a wall around the American, English, and French sectors of Berlin. This was done to stop the exodus of professionals and intellectuals from the East to the West. The West Germans called it Schandmaur, the "Wall of Shame."
In 1963, during the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy made a visit to Berlin. During this visit, he made a speech to the people of Berlin in the shadows of the Berlin Wall in which he declared, "Ich bin ein Berliner!" (I am a Berliner!) Kennedy's speech endeared him and by extension, America, to the people of Berlin and of West Germany.
In 1989, President Reagan visited Berlin. During his visit, he demanded that Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall. He soon got his wish (and the wishes of millions of East and West Germans) and the wall came tumbling down, marking the beginning of the end of the Soviet Bloc, and eventually the Soviet Union itself. People the world over rejoiced.
In 2006, the American military (contractors?) began construction of a wall in Baghdad to keep Sunnis and Shiites from commingling. How do the residents of Baghdad feel about their gift from America?
Per an April 21, 2007 article in the New York Times by Edward Wong and David S. Cloud, "A doctor in Adhamiya, Abu Hassan, said the wall would transform the residents into caged animals."
Per an Associated Press article that appeared on CNN.com, "Criticism mounted Saturday over a wall U.S. troops are building around a Sunni enclave surrounded by Shiite areas in Baghdad, with residents calling it "collective punishment" and the local council leader saying the community did not approve the project before construction began."
The BBC recently reported that, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has asked for construction to end on a concrete wall around a Sunni enclave in the capital, Baghdad." The BBC article also said that Prime Minister Maliki also said that he feared the wall may have unintended consequences, in an apparent parallel to the former Berlin Wall that divided the German capital. "I fear this wall might have repercussions which remind us of other walls, which we reject," he said.
It seem that a fair number of Baghdad residents and other Iraqis have negative sentiments regarding their wall, including the Iraqi Prime Minister.
Does anybody else see the irony here? George Bush, in his crusade to bring freedom to Iraq, is in the process of creating a segmented city that is on the road to being anything but free. He is building walls whereas other (great?) presidents sought to tear walls down. One could make a fair argument that such a wall is needed to keep warring factions separated. Fair enough, but doesn't that beg the question: How the hell did warring factions develop in a post-Saddam Iraq where the United States was supposedly in charge?
Perhaps this might partly explain the predicament: Michael Isikoff's and David Corn's book, "Hubris," describes pre-Iraq invasion planning for post-Saddam security in Iraq that would eventually be ignored by the Bush Administration – "(Colonel Kevin) Benson and his team started with this premise that Iraq was about the size of California." (snip) "They added up all the police officers, sheriff's deputies, peace officers, corrections officers, and the like in (California) and discovered that the number was greater than the number of American troops being sent into Iraq..." Gee, what could possibly have gone wrong?
George Bush is all about creating a legacy. The Baghdad Wall will no doubt be a part of that legacy. Mother, did it have to be so high?