[Mb-civic] I'll join it again.

richard burns richard_burns at mac.com
Wed Sep 15 13:57:25 PDT 2004


I think our views on Iraq, or at least how we got there probably don't 
differ very much.  However, the only way out quickly at this point is 
to help turn the situation of security around quickly.  The Iraqi's are 
educated. The have deep political culture.  They also have an oil based 
economy, plus fertile land to rebuild the industries they once had in 
the 60's.

A western style democracy won't work in Iraq.  However, an Iraq style 
democracy will.  We've got a lot of very dedicated American's risking 
there lives and in too many case dying.  They aren't doing because of 
Bush or money.  It's just too dangerous of a place.  Most are doing to 
help the Iraqi's get out of the hell hole they've been living in before 
the war and today.    It's really an inspiring story to see.

As for the guys on the front line who I met.  The marines.   Very 
intense.  They signed up for this because they had a calling to be 
liberators.  There is no other reason to be a marine today.  You don't 
volunteer hoping not to go to war and get a free education. Those days 
are long gone.  You join, You're gonna see action.  I've often seen 
parents of KIA's talking on the news about how their son had a calling. 
    This attitude is evident when you meet a combat Marine in a war 
zone.   An even more inspiring story.

We need some good karma about Iraq.  Maybe it will help.  We've got to 
make this work. Not for Bush. Not for the war on terrorism. For the 
Iraq people. For our troops safe trip home.  Failure is not an option.

I think the following article is a very good snap shot of Iraq - 
Good/Bad/Ugly.  Very similar to what I witness when I was there.



Life in Baghdad: Better and worse
Polls show Iraqis optimistic for longer term, worried now
by Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor
September 14th, 2004

  BAGHDAD - Like many Baghdadis, Maithan Maki finds that his world since 
the war has been turned upside down. That's why on a hot summer night 
he takes family out for ice cream, seeking a sense of familiarity and 

  "Friday is just for the family, and coming here for ice cream is 
something we've always done," says Mr. Maki, accompanied by his wife 
and two small daughters. "We aren't going to give it up because of 
dangers or the economic situation."

  Life in Baghdad today is a picture of better and worse, of richer and 
poorer - with a sense of insecurity seeming to unite everyone. Before 
the war, fears for one's life were for the politically repressed. Now, 
that fear, like the political system, is being democratized. The latest 
studies of economic, political, and social development show Iraq 
teetering between halting progress and disaster. "On a good day, I 
think Iraq is on the verge of takeoff," says Hussain Kubba, a 
successful Baghdadi business consultant who now also works with the new 
economy ministry. "But on bad days I think we're only headed for more 

  The mix of enduring optimism and uncertainty manifests itself in 
subtle ways. For example, rich and poor families in Iraq's capital that 
once held wedding parties in hotels now hold them at home. New births 
are soaring. The school year does not start until October, yet already 
families are discussing how to safely transport children to school.

  "We used to start school in September, but now it's October, and we 
are told it's because they aren't ready to ensure the children's 
safety," says Bushra Mohammed, who also sits outside Faqma's ice cream 
shop with a fast-melting scoop of vanilla. Giving her nieces a treat 
her unemployed brother cannot afford, Miss Mohammed says some families 
are even debating whether to send the kids to school at all, at least 
at the beginning.

  "We are living in a huge chaos, like an earthquake that leaves 
everything upside-down," says Sadoun al-Dulame, whose Iraq Center for 
Research and Strategic Studies regularly surveys Iraqi public opinion. 
"We are formulating a new society, rebuilding Iraq politically, 
socially, economically, even psychologically. No wonder so many people 
are bewildered and reactions are so hard to predict."

  Mr. Dulame's own surveys show that if you ask Iraqis about security 
they will tell you they are worse off today - but that if you ask them 
about the economy, most say things are better than before the war. Many 
salaries are higher, though there are more unemployed.

  One consequence of what many here simply call the "confusion" of the 
postwar era is that Iraqis, while holding to an optimism about the 
long-term future, aren't sure what to think about the present.

  In five crucial areas - security, economic opportunity, political 
participation, services, and social well-being - Iraq has not yet 
reached a "tipping point" either towards full engagement in or outright 
rejection of the country's direction, according to a new report by the 
Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

  While perceptions of security are clearly in a danger zone, the other 
key areas are in a gray zone tending towards improvement but which 
could still go either way, say CSIS researchers Bathsheba Crocker and 
Frederick Barton.

  "If you know Iraq is going to disintegrate into chaos, you'll leave 
with your family now," says Mr. Kubba, who's not to that point. But he 
says many families that can afford it have taken apartments in Amman, 
Jordan, where children attend school while fathers work in Iraq.

  Commercial streets here are piled high at curbside with imported 
washers, air conditioners, and electrical generators - a must to keep 
those appliances running when still-frequent power cuts strike. More 
families than ever have taken long driving vacations this summer, 
particularly to the relatively peaceful north.

  Still, the CSIS report finds that the failure to quickly employ large 
numbers of idle young Iraqis during the 16-month postwar period 
provided a well of recruits for insurgents and Islamic extremists.

  "For these young men it's a new way of life - the easy skill of the 
RPG [rocket- propelled grenade]," says Muhammed al-Dami, a University 
of Baghdad professor. "Spending your time targeting Iraqi police cars 
and American tanks can earn you $500 a month - which suddenly changes 
the situation of your family from nothing to something."

  Last month, attacks on US forces reached an average of 87 per day, the 
highest to date. And this week in Baghdad, youths fired on and disabled 
a US Bradley fighting vehicle. Within minutes, children arrived 
cheering and celebrating in ways reminiscent of last April's gruesome 
killing of four American contractors in Fallujah. A US helicopter 
arrived and fired on the scene - killing some of the celebrating 

  The result of such scenes - but even more of the kidnappings and other 
crimes that haunt Baghdadis every day - is that every Iraqi seems to 
have security on the tip of his tongue. Except, perhaps, for the 
newborns at Al Hayaat Maternity Hospital, who, anecdotal evidence would 
suggest, are part of an Iraqi population boom.

  Last Saturday alone, the small clinic run by Dominican sisters in 
Baghdad's Hayy al Wahdaa neighborhood delivered 20 babies - an almost 
unprecedented flurry for Al Hayaat's sisters.

  Why are Iraqis having more babies? "People have more money than 
before, so they think they can afford more children," says Sister 
Bushra Farach, Al Hayaat's manager. She adds that her clinic's 
clientele has changed in the postwar period.

  "We are private and have to charge, so we used to have only the 
wealthy. But now I notice men of very different social classes bringing 
their wives here. I even suspect some of them of making their new money 
from thievery," she adds, "but we are happy to deliver their little 

  Asked if the Baghdad baby boom suggests a latent optimism about Iraq's 
future, Sister Bushra says she doesn't think so. "I think Iraqis are 
saying, 'Even if we can't have happiness in our time, maybe we create 
more chances for happiness the more children we have."

  Plying Baghdad's streets, one notices some new commercial and 
residential construction, particularly of shops in the tonier sections 
of town and high-end residences, often in barricaded and barb-wired 
compounds. But most striking is how dozens of government buildings, 
still the most prominent structures, remain bombed-out and looted 

  Still, in the topsy-turvy postwar Baghdad, even some of these icons of 
the bygone regime have offered unimagined opportunities to the 
dispossessed. Take the 600 poor squatter families that now occupy in 
relative grandeur what were once the stables, swimming club, and 
brothel of Saddam's son Uday.

  "This home is a gift from God. We have made it a haven from all the 
terrible things happening in Iraq now," says Jawdat Majeed, who with 
his two wives and 17 children occupies spare but spacious quarters once 
inhabited by one of Uday's horse trainers.

  Outside Mr. Majeed's abode, a small town of Shiite families inhabits 
the barns, pool house, movie theater, and even a former military 
command post once part of Uday's domain. "If this government tries to 
push us out then it is no better than what we lived with under Saddam," 
says camp leader Rassoul Al-Hussainy.

  Despite such complaints, some Baghdadis do express hope that the new 
government can reverse the security crisis and make the streets safe 
again. In the busy Karada neighborhood, hardware store owner Hassan 
Mufeed says his business is better than before the war. But what gives 
him confidence in the future was a small incident that took place 
across from his shop. "A few days ago some garbage collectors reported 
a bomb right there," he says, pointing to the sidewalk outside a bank 
across the street. "Before long the ICDC [Iraqi Civil Defense Corps] 
arrived, and with the help of the Americans they took it out."

  To Mr. Mufeed, that one incident told him that, despite the dangers, 
democracy has a chance in Iraq.

  It's a sentiment found in various surveys of public opinion, from a 
CSIS "Iraqi Voices" survey done in July toa recent national poll 
conducted by the Iraq office of the International Republican Institute.

  Indeed, back at the Uday stables squatters' camp, residents say they 
don't plan to bow to government pressures without a fight. Suggesting 
he's already learned something about living in a democracy, camp leader 
Mr. Al-Hussainy says he's planning an anti-eviction demonstration. "Our 
only weapons are our voices," he says. "Isn't that how a democracy is 
supposed to work?"
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