View Full Version : Iraq

28th June 03, 02:28 PM
Iraqis growing impatient with U.S.
Lagging transition to independence stirs anger, frustration

Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, June 27, 2003


Baghdad -- Sgt. 1st Class Frankie Harris was keeping job applicants in line in the 110-degree noonday sun, the beads of sweat dripping off his nose, hup-two- three-four. Then, yet another Iraqi broke ranks and started getting mouthy.

"Back! Stand in line!" he yelled, the sweat dripping faster and faster. The Iraqi yelled back, letting loose a torrent of complaints in Arabic -- of which Harris, of course, couldn't understand a word.

They stood nose to nose, with only Harris' M-16 between them, for a few tense moments. Finally, the Iraqi shrugged and returned to the line.

It was just a brief moment in the daily dance between American rulers and Iraqi subjects. But it was a sign of the increasing gap between progress and expectations, in which Iraqi gratitude for their liberation from Saddam Hussein's dictatorship has quickly turned into frustration and anger.

As temperatures soar under Baghdad's blast-furnace summer sun and guerrilla attacks on American soldiers become more frequent, the U.S. presence looks increasingly like a tense occupation of a rebellious colony.

From the American point of view, the Iraqi complaints are simple ingratitude. "We're doing what we can here -- we're giving them jobs so they can put their country back on its feet and regain prosperity," the 32-year-old Harris said with a sincere-sounding drawl from his native Louisville, Ky.

Harris sounded for a moment like the U.S. spokesmen who reel off an impressive-sounding daily list of American achievements: schools repaired, Iraqi police officers trained, criminals arrested.

"Things are getting better little by little, and we're all putting our shoulders to the wheel together," he said.

Beshar Latif, however, saw it all differently. After his standoff with Harris, he stood in line for another half hour and did what he was told: He filled out an application for a job as security guard for the new government and signed a document denouncing the former regime's Baath Party. Then, his neatly pressed shirt wet with sweat, he moved into the shade and explained to a Chronicle reporter that the Americans just don't get it.

"I have a family, and they are offering very little," said Latif, an unemployed electrical engineer. "It's only $150 per month. They make us wait and wait, and tell us to come back tomorrow, and nothing happens, and then they yell at us and treat us like animals.

"At my home there is no electricity now -- there is no water. There is no safety. This is our country," he said, his voice rising again. "They're stealing our oil. Who are they to give us orders?"

Millions of Baghdad residents are asking the same questions as the promised improvement in their daily lives turns out to be mostly illusory. On Thursday, Baghdad experienced its fourth straight day without electricity, the longest such stretch since shortly after the war. The Americans said the blackouts were the result of sabotage by Hussein loyalists of natural-gas pipelines that supply local power plants. But in street interviews with dozens of Baghdadis of all walks of life, everyone blamed the Americans.

Among the crowd of 40 or so young men waiting to fill out job applications in Baghdad's middle-class al-Kindi neighborhood, conspiratorial fantasies abounded: The Americans were punishing the Iraqis for the recent attacks; or the Americans wanted to grind the Iraqis down so Israel could take over the country; or the Americans are racist brutes who want to erase Mesopotamian civilization.

No matter how far-fetched the Iraqis' opinions, there is plenty of evidence that the Americans are doing a pretty poor job of governing the country so far.

The wave of looting that followed the American victory has largely subsided.

But crime is still far above prewar levels, when Hussein's police state kept the streets orderly and safe. Fear of street crime is running high and especially affects women, who have been driven indoors by wild -- and largely unverified -- rumors of rape and kidnapping.

Iraqi women, who were among the most emancipated in the Arab world and used to go to work in buses and taxis, now go outside only when driven by male relatives.

At al-Kindi Hospital, the emergency ward is filled by a constant stream of people with gunshot wounds -- usually either thieves shot by those they tried to rob, or the other way around.

"Before the war, we got very few robbery victims," said Dr. Bahir Sabah, a surgeon, as he shed his blood-stained robe and washed himself after his eighth surgery of the day. "Now, after the Americans gave people time to get more and more weapons, it's all we see."

Although stores have re-opened and the streets have filled with imported goods, unemployment is believed to be more than 50 percent as most government offices and state-owned industry remain shuttered. The U.S. administration has promised a $100 million recovery program, but only small numbers of people have been given jobs.

Telephone service, which was knocked out by U.S. air strikes during the war,

remains mostly nonexistent. Water supplies are spotty, and hospitals are still short of important medicines.

Iraqi officials had expected oil exports to generate as much as $5 billion during the second half of this year and up to $15 billion next year. But they have scaled back their production targets, blaming widespread looting and sabotage for the slow recovery.

Iraq's wells are pumping about 750,000 barrels of oil a day, a level that is little improved from a month ago and is far below the country's prewar production of about 2.8 million barrels a day. U.S. officials, who had predicted that prewar production would be reached by September, now say that won't occur until at least mid-2004.

For many Iraqis, it's all a waiting game, both literally and figuratively. All over Baghdad, they stand in line in front of loops of concertina wire at American bases, beseeching the soldiers for help with a problem, for a job, for the release of a relative jailed in an American stockade.

But they also are waiting for some semblance of self-rule. U.S. chief administrator L. Paul Bremer has promised to form an interim Iraqi advisory council of 25 to 30 people, but he has insisted that elections will not be held before a new constitution is ratified, a process expected to begin in July and take well into 2004.

American impatience with the Iraqis also runs deep and occasionally is revealed in outright disdain.

"While most of the Iraqis have a positive attitude, we always get some who make life difficult," said Harris. "We hurt their pride, they get all retarded and all start getting loud at me. I'm a nice guy, not like some of the others, or else I'd really whack them."

As the attacks on Americans increase, so do Iraqi complaints of U.S. intransigence.

"We want to work with the Americans," said Ehsan al-Khazarajy, the leader of Iraq's largest rural tribe, which claims more than 2 million members. He was standing in line at the Republican Palace complex that houses the American headquarters, hoping to air grievances about U.S. commanders in the countryside.

Iraq's tribes, which make up nearly all of the rural population, are crucial to national stability. American officials say they want to woo them, but al-Khazarajy was having no luck Thursday getting past the sweaty-faced soldiers behind the concertina wire.

As the afternoon wore on, he got angrier and angrier. Finally, he exploded and stomped off.

"If they are only going to give us words, if they're not going to solve our problems, our only solution is to fight," he said. "They will regret it."

1st July 03, 09:10 AM
"As the afternoon wore on, he got angrier and angrier. Finally, he exploded and stomped off. "

Hard work, Patience, Dedication.

Deadpan Scientist
1st July 03, 10:37 AM


1st July 03, 06:12 PM
Things are starting to go very bad over there. Looks like Dubya started patting himself on the back a little too soon.

2nd July 03, 08:27 AM
let iran have 'em

I found the cure for hope

2nd July 03, 08:49 AM
Gee, if those silly Iraqis would have made brocolli their main export, they could have avoided this whole mess. Make no mistake about it . . .


2nd July 03, 09:11 AM
i think the us just shouldn't have gotten pissed off at khomeini...he is a hero. while in exile he said "I'm comin' back and takin' the country" and he did...fuck DeGaul

Objects in life are closer than they appear