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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | April 15, 2003

Why should the Americans rule us?

Resentment on streets of Baghdad

By Owen Bennett Jones
BBC correspondent in Baghdad

One week after American troops entered Baghdad, the people of the city are still waiting to hear what form of government the Americans are planning for them.

"We need a government. The last week was a disaster. The Americans should have made arrangements for what they planned to do now," said a civil servant who didn't want to be named.

He rejected the American plan to have a transitional military government run by a retired general, Jay Garner.

"Why should an American general come here? Iraqis should govern themselves."

On the streets of Baghdad, many Iraqis agree with him. "Why should the Americans rule us?" asked one man, a teacher.

"They say they came here to liberate us. We have paid a heavy price for the removal of Saddam Hussein, so the Americans should go now."

The growing anti-American sentiment is a result not only of the military campaign and the casualties that it caused, there is also acute resentment that the Americans have allowed a situation to develop in which there is looting and continued insecurity in the Iraqi capital.

The US marines have secured a limited area, just a few blocks of buildings, in the centre of the city, but elsewhere there is great insecurity.

'Fayed is dead'

US marines are still coming under fire from Saddam Hussein loyalists and some residents of Baghdad are wondering whether the fighting could go on for weeks or even months.

There is significant anti-American sentiment, our correspondent says
Some are trying to organise security for themselves. Doctors armed with Kalashnikovs are guarding their hospitals. Elsewhere armed civilians have set up road blocks to deter looting.

But those manning the check points say they fear the Americans will see their weapons, mistake them for Saddam Hussein loyalists, and shoot them dead.

The sense of uncertainty is not helped by the fact that throughout Baghdad families are coming to terms with the casualties caused by the war.

To be fair, the US planning assumed that the Iraqi government would remain in place while Garner worked with them. Now, with SCIRI boycotting the meeting in Nasiriyah, while clearly flooding Baghdad's Shia Saddam City with their agents, the question is when do they make their move. The US may not want them to play, but they are in the field and suited up.

Even if some Iraqis were inclined to cut us slack, the anarchy which has followed, often in the view of armed Marines and soldiers, has made us seem as if we could care less about the fate of the Iraqi people. All of the big talk turned out to be cheap, considering doctors in Kabul can leave their Kalashnikovs at home, despite their rank poverty, and doctors in Baghdad, can't, despite their relative wealth.

The protests may only get larger and angrier when the US decide to impose governors to run Iraq. Unless we can promise an end date and a short one, the SCIRI may declare open opposition to the US administration and when you have a 15,000 man guerrilla army to make your point, as well as the weapons and organization to add tens of thousand more men, previously trained by the Iraqi Army, you may well have the ability to affect change in a way we may not like.

Steve Gilliard

Posted April 15, 2003 05:25 AM | Comments (79)


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