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A Better Iraq? That’s What Saddam Said

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Posted on May 19, 2008
Saddam photo
AP photo / Tony Nicoletti / pool

By Anna Badkhen

BAGHDAD—The war is over on Sixth Street, where Sahar al-Jawari’s family lives in a modest brick house. Dust has filled the shrapnel holes in concrete fences, stagnant water has pooled in the crater left by a roadside bomb, and the ash and the few charred chunks of the Iraqi police car that the bomb blew up are barely visible on the sidewalk.

But Jawari, 33, has little faith that her life is about to improve. Every night the wind carries the sounds of gunshots and occasional explosions from other parts of Baghdad, where the war still goes on. Every day is a struggle to get by in a city that gets only four hours of power and running water a day. Jawari is divorced and unemployed, but Iraq’s weak government gives her no financial aid. Nor does it make her deadbeat ex-husband pay child support to help raise her 12-year-old daughter, Roula.

“We have no money, no electricity, no water, no security, no future, nothing,” Jawari says. “Maybe in 50 years it will get better.”

Many Iraqis in this part of southwestern Baghdad say the same thing. They have little hope for help from a government that has been unable to deliver even the most basic services, and little faith in the Iraqi security forces, tainted by their past association with sectarian militias and infamous for defecting under fire.

And although American forces have effectively established security in the streets here, every time residents go outside, bomb craters, bullet holes and buildings damaged by explosions remind them of the sectarian violence that raged here less than a year ago. 


Square, Site wide
Sahar and Roula live with Sahar’s mother, Salimah, and her two nieces, Basmah, 16, and Thohara, 14. The girls’ mother, Jawari’s sister, died of kidney disease 12 years ago: Because of the United Nations’ sanctions and mismanagement by the dictatorial government of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad’s hospitals did not have the proper medicine to treat her, and the family could not afford to send her abroad for surgery. The girls’ father, an engineer, died last year of a heart attack.

“He could not bear what we are suffering in Iraq,” Jawari says.

On a recent afternoon, the women and girls gathered in the kitchen to listen to Jawari’s aunt, Nuriyah, who lives in Denmark and came to Baghdad to visit her family. Nuriyah immigrated to Denmark 10 years ago.

“Over there, we live in heaven,” Nuriyah told them. “All the people there are good. They help everyone, even Iraqis. They send me a social worker to clean my house once a week. They give me health insurance. And every 14 days a nurse comes and gives me my medicine—for asthma, for high sugar content in my blood, for cholesterol and high blood pressure.”

Jawari shook her head. 

“They take care of them as though they were little children,” she said. “I want to go to Denmark, any place, just to leave Iraq. What is here for me?”

“That’s a pretty pessimistic view. Iraq is going to get better,” interjected U.S. Army Lt. Rusty Mason, whose platoon was patrolling Sixth Street that day and who stopped by Jawari’s house. 

“People are giving their lives to improve the life here: American soldiers, other soldiers,” said Mason. Four soldiers from his platoon were killed not far from Sixth Street in March when an explosively formed projectile, one of the devices that U.S. forces say are supplied to Iraq’s sectarian militias by Iran, pierced the armor of their Bradley fighting vehicle. “Iraqis are giving their lives.”

“We saw nothing good,” Jawari shot back. 

Her family fled the violence that engulfed Sixth Street last summer, when Sunni and Shiite militias battled each other in the streets of this neighborhood, Saidiyah. The women stayed with relatives in another part of Baghdad, and when they returned, they found their door broken and their computer and television missing. 

The government said it would give all returning refugees a one-time payment of approximately $900 to help them resettle in their homes. But in Saidiyah, where almost 400 families have returned since February, only 285 have received the money, said Lt. Col. Johnnie Johnson, whose 4-64th Armor Battalion of the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, patrols the area. Jawari’s family was not among them. 

The family depends on the government-issued ration cards, which all Baghdad residents receive to buy heavily subsidized rice, flour, oil, sugar and chickpeas. To pay for electricity, clothes and the rare treats of meat or fried fish—once every month or two—Jawari and her mother have been selling their jewelry. They also sold a plot of land they had owned in the country. Even on a diet of rice, eggs and pasta, the family spends between $250 and $400 a month.

Mason tried words of encouragement. 

“Things will get better,” he said. “The security is already better. Hopefully, soon the power will get better in all of Iraq.”

Jawari shrugged.

“Under Saddam Hussein, that’s what they used to tell us, too: This will get better, that will get better, the power will get better. And—nothing,” she said, showing Mason the empty palms of her hands. Then she added, in English, for emphasis: “Never.”

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By musings, May 21, 2008 at 9:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m ashamed that one of our soldiers should contradict an Iraqi woman who is sick and tired of war in her country and who prefers the pleasant social welfare state of Denmark.  Isn’t she entitled to her own opinion? If you had the choice of a week in Iraq or one in Denmark, which would you take? “First Prize, a week in Denmark. Second Prize, a week away from Iraq, in someplace nice like Guatamala or Zimbabwe”. Our soldier is pretty dumb if he thinks that Americans dying mean that Iraqis are supposed to be grateful. Did they invite us there to clog their sewers with our severed limbs? No, I didn’t think so.  Occupation is not a war. Winning in Iraq is not an option. Standing around and insulting Iraqi women who hate war is not heroism.

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By Dave, May 21, 2008 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

  You mention sin and crimes…

Power corrupts.Hubris and arrongance is strong and unrecognizable (and deniable) for those who surround themselves with fellow powermongerers. Groupthink overtakes and overrides all amongst this psychotic dangerous shrinking insular lot. 
  When it does’nt end up the way intended or hoped for it is always someone elses fault (the press, the Iraqis, the unfaithful, Al-Quida, liberals, leftists, appeasers and traitors).
  U.S. Imperialism still sucks and is in major decline. Continual preemptive attacks are a sign of weakness and insecurity.
  Pax Romana dictated a “divide and rule” strategy that lasted for several hundred years. Pax Americana is not original. It is going to get a lot uglier.
  Real Patriots should try to slay the Beast any way they deem appropriate.

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By BABS, May 21, 2008 at 10:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I fail to understand why Bush is so very particular about sinking America? He wanted to correct the sin of Saddam with an even bigger crime..if thousands were killed by Saddam, Bush has killed Millions. His misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan definitely have something to do with the economic problems faced by America I guess. The once prosperous America is heading to poverty untill this mad man is stopped from his damaging craft of governence.

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By vtwin, May 21, 2008 at 8:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Its time to turn the war criminals Bush and Cheney over to the Iraqis and bring our troops home.

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By george [:-), May 20, 2008 at 6:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Go back to prior 1939 Hitler’s Germany—history repeats itself. When the economy tanks on purpose young unemployed men will gladly join the military.
It’s a set-up folks—get ready for the worst—hide your sons!

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By rwmenser, May 20, 2008 at 4:45 am Link to this comment

Ah, the quest to find one man, kangaroo court him through and execute him before he starts spilling some beans is certainly worth the cost of a country destroyed, in economic and humanitarian chaos, with millions displaced, perhaps humdreds of thousands killed along with 4,200 troops killed and 10’s of thousands more physically and mentally scarred.  The firing squad and nothing less for all who perpetrated this.  The third estate (with the exception of very few) should also be held highly accountable for this for thier lazy indifference in covering the lead up as well as well as not covering the horrifying events that have been happening inside of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Their absolutely must be a war crimes commission formed and charges brought against this admisistration.  This little rant has nothing to do with oil or the price of gas.  It has everything to do with ehtics and morality, something that this administration has suffered a serious lack of.

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By 911truthdotorg, May 19, 2008 at 10:12 pm Link to this comment

Forget Iraq!  Bush is destroying THIS country
in plain sight and right under our noses.

Martial law is coming before Jan 20, 2009. 
They’re slowly getting us used to being stopped
by police for no reason. 

This video is of a Border Patrol checkpoint
*within* the US borders, blatantly violating the
4th Amendment to the Constitution.

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thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, May 19, 2008 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment

How is this for a scenario: you walk around in a strange foreign country with no money no business, only to have delivered a week later, a million US dollars in cash which is supposedly going for domestic airport security, a subject which you haven’t a clue. As if that made any difference! Mustahfah of the regional command authority was quite nervous when the wheel barrel of hundred note bricks arrived all shrink-wrapped and tidy. Makes you proud to be a business partner. P.O. Box to a one level ranch style house in California, which also serves as a conduit to another post office address in the Bahamas, where a Mister Nightsong takes care of many details. You quickly learn that this is a land of opportunity without any accountability. You see it is all cost plus. A handy enough term to explain away any social or moral ambiguities. Especially during the hot dry season when you emerge from the oasis of air conditioning and discover that these wretched people live much of their lives inside a natural oven. Where running water, let alone electricity, are an iffy proposition at best.

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By Don Stivers, May 19, 2008 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

What would Bush say?  He needs to walk around these cities and see what he has done.  Then he needs to be abandoned in the streets of Iraq to let the people he brought “FFFFFFFFrrrreeeedom” to give him whatever aid he might need to keep on living.  I am sure that after five years, working on six, things are in glorious shape in Iraq.  The free Iraqi people would LOVE to see Bush walking down the street.  Even Rush L. walking down the street with his microphone reporting on the clean streets of Baghdad.

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By hippy pam, May 19, 2008 at 6:20 am Link to this comment

Blame “bullsh*t and Company” for this womans problems…We could find ourselves in a similar situation as soon as CHINA and THE U.A.E. realize they own the U.S. due to “bullsh*ts”  policies-the citizens of the U.S. will not deserve the invasion any more than the citizens of those areas deserve it….BUT IT COULD HAPPEN HERE…...

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