The parallels between what I saw in Baghdad in 2016 and what happened in Washington, DC Wednesday afternoon are chilling.
I was stationed in Baghdad at the end of April 2016, when Iraqi Shia protestors breached the Green Zone for the first time since it was established after our invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was at the gym when the U.S. Embassy was locked down and everyone was ordered to shelter in nearby buildings. For several hours, no one knew whether the protestors would attempt to storm the embassy. Would this turn into Tehran in 1979?
A short time earlier, Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr held a fiery press conference in the city of Najaf. He gave no orders to his supporters to riot, and in fact he condemned the violence during and after, but on the crowd came, pulling down sections of the concrete walls surrounding the Green Zone and breaking into the Iraqi parliament building. Their grievance was with the Iraqi government and not with us, thankfully, but Iraqi officers with whom I worked repeatedly compared Al Sadr to then candidate Donald Trump. They were downright prophetic.
Listening to President Trump address the crowd in Washington, DC yesterday, then seeing video and photos of protestors breaking into the U.S. Capitol Building and taking selfies in the House chamber brought back strong feelings of déjà vu. In 2016 in Baghdad, panicked lawmakers fled as the crowd rushed in, then Iraqi authorities declared a state of emergency and fired teargas to clear the building. It was nearly beat-for-beat what we witnessed in our own capitol Wednesday afternoon.