Monday, March 19, 2007

Stephen Hadley Says Iraqis Are Willing to Pay the Price for Bush's Mistakes

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What colossal arrogance:

Mr. Hadley, when asked whether Mr. Bush would have invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, had he known the vast challenges it would face, replied, “I think he would.” Mr. Hadley acknowledged that “the cost has been enormous”; but he added, on the ABC News program “This Week,” that most Iraqis seemed willing to pay the price to be rid of Saddam Hussein.

Here is that price Hadley's talking about:

A new national survey paints a devastating portrait of life in Iraq: widespread violence, torn lives, displaced families, emotional damage, collapsing services, an ever starker sectarian chasm — and a draining away of the underlying optimism that once prevailed.

Violence is the cause, its reach vast. Eighty percent of Iraqis report attacks nearby — car bombs, snipers, kidnappings, armed forces fighting each other or abusing civilians. It's worst by far in the capital of Baghdad, but by no means confined there.

The personal toll is enormous. More than half of Iraqis, 53 percent, have a close friend or relative who's been hurt or killed in the current violence. One in six says someone in their own household has been harmed. Eighty-six percent worry about a loved one being hurt; two-thirds worry deeply. Huge numbers limit their daily activities to minimize risk. Seven in 10 report multiple signs of traumatic stress.

What does it mean to say that "Iraqis seem to be willing to pay the price" of the U.S. invasion when they had no choice?

And at that, being "rid of Saddam Hussein" has not brought any of the good things the Bush administration promised it would. It has not brought security; it has not brought clean water or working electricity or gotten the mounds of sewage off the streets. It has not brought jobs. It has not brought an end to kidnapping or rape or torture or murder by government- and military-sanctioned thugs . It certainly hasn't brought liberation or freedom. Iraqis are no freer now than they were under Saddam -- arguably even less so:

Now, said Zaid Hisham, "You worry about everything." The 29-year-old Shiite engineer has postponed plans for his wedding until he can find a job. He and other Baghdad residents were interviewed by USA TODAY to supplement the poll findings. "When I go out, my family calls me every five minutes or whenever there is an explosion — there are many — to see if I am still alive. It's worry, worry all the time. You can't see your future, and you can't even try to put an outline for your future."

"We are in hell," said Solaf Mohamed Ali, 38, a Shiite woman who works in a bank.
Most Iraqis say they have altered their daily routines to accommodate the realities of violence:

•More than two-thirds are careful about what they say about themselves to other people.

•Fifty-five percent try to avoid passing by public buildings, often the target of suicide bombers.

•Fifty-four percent stay away from markets and crowded areas.

Four years of upheaval have taken a toll on Iraqis' mental health. Most report symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Three in four say they have feelings of anger and depression, trouble sleeping and difficulty concentrating on work.
"I can say that my house is like a police station now," said Samer Jaleel, 22, a Sunni student. "The outer wall is 2.5 meters (just over 8 feet) high. We changed the doors into higher and stronger ones. Not only us, but all the houses in the street did the same. Before, we had a very nice street where you could walk and see the gardens. Now it looks like many small jails in one street."
"I don't feel safe even at my home," says Munaf Mahmood Lafta, 35, a Sunni taxi driver. "My brother was taken from his house by people wearing Iraqi commando uniforms. That was on Jan. 12, 2006, and we don't know where he is even now. My mother died from her sadness. So where is the safety you speak about? No safety at all and no security — not in our neighborhood, nor in my house."

Remember the famous photograph of the Iraqi man helping to topple the statue of Saddam Hussein in April, 2003? He had good reason to hate Saddam. Saddam's son, Uday, sent him to Abu Ghraib for objecting when Uday stiffed him after he repaired Uday's motorcycle. And many of his relatives were either imprisoned or executed under Saddam. Now he wishes he had left the statue where it was:

His hands were bleeding and his eyes filled with tears as, four years ago, he slammed a sledgehammer into the tiled plinth that held a 20ft bronze statue of Saddam Hussein. Then Kadhim al-Jubouri spoke of his joy at being the leader of the crowd that toppled the statue in Baghdad's Firdous Square. Now, he is filled with nothing but regret.

The moment became symbolic across the world as it signalled the fall of the dictator. Wearing a black vest, Mr al-Jubouri, an Iraqi weightlifting champion, pounded through the concrete in an attempt to smash the statue and all it meant to him. Now, on the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, he says: "I really regret bringing down the statue. The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day."
... [H]e now says he would prefer to be living under Saddam than under US occupation. He said: "The devil you know [is] better than the devil you don't. We no longer know friend from foe. The situation is becoming more dangerous. It's not getting better at all. People are poor and the prices are going higher and higher."

Saddam, he says, "was like Stalin. But the occupation is proving to be worse".

So go on smoking whatever's in that pipe, Stephen. You don't know the first thing about the price Iraqis have paid for your boss's criminal negligence, or about their willingness or lack of willingness to pay it. And you care even less.

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