November 7, 2003


Rediscovering Iraq: Yahia Said, returning to Iraq after a twenty-five year absence, finds a people yearning for freedom, normality – and an end to violence. (Yahia Said, 11/06/2003, Open Democracy)

I have just spent eight days in Baghdad and Amara (a town just north of Basra). I went to assess the damage inflicted upon my country over the last twenty-five years, since I was forced to leave with my family as a teenage boy. I was looking for a glimmer of hope while expecting the worst. It did not help that five bombs exploded in Baghdad upon my arrival, on the first day of Ramadan, killing forty-two Iraqis and one American soldier. The victims included two children and nineteen women.

As the eight days went by, I started to revise assumptions formed under the influence of western news coverage dedicated almost exclusively to the reporting of violence.

Indeed, for the majority of Iraqis the security situation is as close to normal as it has been since 1991, when Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait and the long war with America began.

And it is Saddam Hussein who stands to lose the most from the new Iraqi police service. Unlike the occupying authorities cooped up in their fortified compounds, perched on the periphery of Iraqi society like a fly on an elephant, the new police service represents tangible evidence of regime change. Despite its circumscribed powers and lack of resources, it is the first institution of the Iraqi state to be outside Ba’ath party control in thirty-five years.

The effects are beginning to be felt. The wave of lawlessness which gripped the country upon the fall of the regime has largely subsided. Night curfews have been lifted and Baghdad residents are gradually venturing out of their homes. Many now eat out in outdoor cafes and restaurants, instead of hurriedly grabbing takeaways. Goldsmiths on Karrada Street, one of the few revived shopping destinations in the capital, displays its wares late into the night, a big change apparently from just weeks ago.

There are plenty of other signs of Iraq’s rebirth conspicuously absent from the news bulletins.

News reports these days tend to diverge so drastically from the accounts of so many non-journalists who've visited Iraq that it's hard to give the press much credence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 7, 2003 12:50 PM

32 dead American soldiers in one week.

Posted by: Steve Sailer at November 7, 2003 10:35 PM

Is like a bad minute on D-Day or at Antietam.

Posted by: oj at November 7, 2003 11:05 PM

It's way lower than the 30K US dead that my Democratic friends were promising in February, but it's kind of fatuous to propose that Iraqis are tired of violence, isn't it?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 7, 2003 11:25 PM

Why? That there are some retrograde elements hardly reflects the nation.

Posted by: oj at November 8, 2003 7:20 AM