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  • ummyakoub
    EVEN THE OPTIMISTS ARE LOSING HEART AS IRAQ GOES FROM BAD TO WORSE Rory McCarthy, Guardian, 8/27/02 http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1030002,00.html
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2003
      Rory McCarthy, Guardian, 8/27/02

      Rory McCarthy returns to Baghdad after two months to find electricity
      and water still in short supply, aid workers leaving, and insecurity

      Wednesday August 27, 2003
      The Guardian

      It was late June and the searing heat of summer was taking hold when
      finally, after weeks of searching, I found what I had been looking
      for. Over several days I met a group of extraordinary young Iraqis
      who - without anger, fear or hatred - were beginning to shape the
      outlines of a bright future for their country.
      The first was a Shia Muslim whom Ba'athist thugs tried to execute in
      a mass grave in March 1991. Miraculously he had escaped and crawled
      to freedom. He was now working with a handful of human rights lawyers
      in the town of Hilla, where they were drawing up the evidence to
      begin trials of those responsible for the killings. They were calm
      where others would have been vengeful, committed where others would
      have balked at the scale of the task ahead.

      For weeks I had chronicled endless lootings, killings, betrayals,
      broken promises and tragic misunderstandings, the grotesque
      accoutrements of a modern military occupation. Nothing else I had
      seen in Iraq since America's war spoke to me with such hope as these
      men and their promise of a reasoned, moral reckoning that would drag
      their country away from the legacy of three decades of dictatorship
      towards a brighter future. I left believing that against all the odds
      there was still a chance Iraq would succeed.

      Nearly two months later, I have returned to Iraq and so much has
      changed. A wave of fury and despair among Iraqis has drowned out the
      few voices that filled me with hope. Those of my Iraqi friends who
      clung resolutely to their optimistic dreams are finally losing heart.
      They shrug their shoulders and begin to list the unrelenting failures
      of the new Iraq.

      It is not that the power supply has still not improved. It has
      worsened. Four months after television screens across the world
      showed the victorious toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdous
      Square, power cuts are more frequent, not less. In many Baghdad homes
      the water that flows from the taps is brackish and undrinkable. Water
      treatment plants, short of electricity and poisoned by their own
      rusting pipes, are failing.

      How could a country, the Iraqis ask, that spent $9bn (£5.73bn) a
      month fighting the war against Saddam not restore the power supply to
      a city within four months? When I was here in June, I listened to
      Paul Bremer, the American administrator of Iraq, insist that there
      was now more electricity being supplied than under Saddam. The Iraqis
      scoffed at his exaggeration. Now when American officials promise that
      prewar supply really will be restored by the end of next month few
      believe them.

      Two months ago eager aid workers were arriving in droves, filling
      empty hotel rooms and beginning dozens of long overdue projects.
      After last week's bombing at the UN headquarters in eastern Baghdad,
      those same young people are hurrying to leave. Many UN staff, some
      deeply traumatised by what they have suffered, have already gone. At
      the weekend the Red Cross, an organisation with a reputation for
      enduring the riskiest of environments, from Afghanistan to Chechnya,
      announced it would drastically reduce its staffing. Yesterday Oxfam
      pulled out too. Who could make the unenviable judgment to stay on and
      complete the work that is so desperately needed when the risks are so

      The US military were the first to suffer from the growing security
      nightmare. To begin with the army was reluctant to admit how many
      attacks it was facing. Now officers talk of more than a dozen
      incidents every day. British soldiers in the Shia south, which was at
      first thought to be less hostile to the occupation, are now as much
      targets as their American allies. Several aid workers have been
      killed or had their cars stolen at gunpoint.

      British diplomats, who once spoke proudly of working from the grassy
      lawns of their old embassy with its wonderful views over the bank of
      the Tigris, have been forced to retreat inside the "secure zone," a
      vast and heavily guarded complex hidden behind rows of barbed wire
      and concrete blocks that includes Saddam's old Republican Palace, a
      convention centre and the Rashid hotel, once famous for its a mosaic
      in the lobby floor that showed a grinning George Bush senior above
      the words "Bush is criminal".

      Now US patrols in many of the most troubled areas of Baghdad appear
      to have been markedly reduced. Once, convoys of Humvees would roll
      down the high street in Karrada, past dozens of shops burgeoning with
      cheap fridges, air conditioners and televisions. Soldiers would stop
      to eat in some of the more crowded restaurants, but no longer. Better
      to cut patrols than to lose men, the commanders decided. Security
      outside US military bases is tighter and more paranoid than ever. A
      sign outside a recruiting station for the new Iraqi army warns people
      not to stop, stand or park near the entrance. The advice is given
      bluntly: "Violators are subject to deadly force."

      Officials working at the coalition provisional authority, the
      civilian administration ensconced in Saddam's palace, used to slip
      away to meet Iraqis across town or to chat to journalists by a hotel
      pool. Now officials have been told they should not leave
      their "secure zone" without several close-protection bodyguards and
      at least two armoured four-wheel drives. Few bother chancing it at

      There are, it should be said, improvements. International flights are
      restarting. Internet cafes have sprung up everywhere. Many
      shopkeepers and a handful of bold Iraqi businessmen are profiting
      from a new freedom of trade. Some of the telephone networks destroyed
      during the war are working again. Old signposts have been replaced
      with freshly painted notice boards. More Iraqi police are on the
      streets, directing traffic or standing at busy junctions. Yet
      although crime levels are notoriously hard to gauge ordinary Iraqis
      still cite the lack of security as their overwhelming fear. Richer
      families have begun employing armed bodyguards outside their villas.

      Down in Hilla the human rights lawyers are still methodically working
      their way through their cases. I am cheered to see that one of the
      bold young lawyers I met in June has been rewarded with a seat on the
      25-member governing council, the group of Iraqis charged with
      beginning the job of government. Yet it is desperately sad that six
      weeks after council members began their work, disputes and personal
      rivalries have meant they have achieved barely anything at all. Iraq
      is not lost yet: it is just that the optimists are harder and harder
      to find.



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