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Iraq: A country drenched in blood
by UK Independent (reposted)
Tuesday Mar 20th, 2007 8:44 AM
Four years to the day after US and British troops invaded Iraq, its people are full of fear. Iraqis often have a look of half-suppressed panic in their eyes as they tell how violent death has touched them again and again.
By Patrick Cockburn in Khanaqin, Diyala Province
Published: 20 March 2007

"I have fled twice in the past year," said Kassim Naji Salaman as he stood beside his petrol tanker outside the town of Khanaqin in central Iraq this weekend. "I and my family used to live in Baghdad but we ran for our lives when my uncle and nephew were killed and we moved into a house in the village of Kanaan in Diyala."

Mr Salaman hoped he and his family, all Sunni, would be safer in a Sunni district. But almost everywhere in Iraq is dangerous. "Militiamen kidnapped my brother Natik, who used to drive this tanker, and forced him into the boot of their car," he continued. "When they took him out they shot him in the head and left his body beside the road. I am frightened of going back to Kanaan where my family are refugees because the militiamen would kill me as well."

Iraqis expected their lives to get better when the US and Britain invaded with the intention of overthrowing Saddam Hussein four years ago today. They were divided on whether they were being liberated or occupied but almost no Iraqis fought for the old regime in 2003. Even his own Sunni community knew that Saddam had inflicted almost a quarter of a century of hot and cold war on his own people. He had reduced the standard of living of Iraqis, owners of vast oil reserves, from a level close to Greece to that of Mali.

No sooner had Saddam Hussein fallen than Iraqis were left in no doubt that they had been occupied not liberated. The army and security services were dissolved. As an independent state Iraq ceased to exist. "The Americans want clients not allies in Iraq," lamented one Iraqi dissident who had long lobbied for the invasion in London and Washington.

Guerrilla war against the US forces by the five million strong Sunni community erupted with extraordinary speed and ferocity. By summer 2003, whenever I went to the scene of a bomb attack or an ambush of US soldiers I would find jubilant Iraqis dancing for joy around the pools of drying blood on the road or the smouldering Humvee vehicles.

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by UK Independent (reposted)
Tuesday Mar 20th, 2007 8:45 AM
What an unhappy anniversary. It is four years since the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the tyrant Saddam Hussein. And the more time passes, the more this military adventure looks a disaster for everyone concerned. Not least the people of Iraq. The large-scale opinion poll conducted there by the BBC and others may not have been as scientific as conditions of peace would permit, but its verdict is a damning one. Asked if life was good, two years ago 71 per cent said "Yes", but now that figure has almost halved. Fewer than one in 5 has confidence in the coalition forces, and 51 per cent say that attacks on the occupying troops are justified.

Half of those who responded said life is worse now than under Saddam. Even the Iraqi weightlifting champion who, four years ago, was famously filmed pounding a statue of Saddam with a sledgehammer, said: "The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day." It was bound to get worse before it got better, the remaining few apologists for war say. But how long must we persevere with this unchanged policy before we admit that we are not going to turn any corner?

If the Iraqis are those who have suffered most grievously, they are not the only ones. The past four years have been bad for the British Army, whose troops have had to fight a war they know almost no one at home backs. Admiration for their courage and commitment cannot ennoble a cause which is not only futile but wrong. They have been bad years for the British political process, reducing public faith in our secret services and, most particularly, the political elite who, as Hans Blix put it recently, removed the question marks from intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and replaced them with exclamation marks. They have reduced credence in the impartiality of inquiries, with the highly politicised investigations of Lord Hutton and Lord Butler, and damaged the reputation of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, who first insisted that regime change was an insufficient legal basis for war and then mysteriously changed his mind.