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