The Picture Gets Worse

Two pictures put up in an internet café in Baghdad make for a vivid statement of how Iraqis have come to see U.S. occupiers.

One shows a woman in the United States hugging her dog. A second shows a hooded Iraqi prisoner sitting on the ground, hands tied behind his back. A soldier holds a gun to his head.

The picture seems to get worse in Iraq every day, and it also gets worse for the United States in Iraq.

Iraqis are incensed already over widespread damage caused by U.S. military operations to their mosques both in Fallujah and southern Iraq, and by the photographs documenting torture in Abu Ghraib prison.

Now the killing of 40 wedding guests, mostly women and children, in a military helicopter attack, have enraged people further.

“The Americans must have no religion,” Hashmiya Al-Abdulla, a housewife in Baghdad said of the slaughter at the wedding. “Anyone with religion cannot torture people, destroy mosques and homes, or kill people at a wedding ceremony. They worship force, not God.”

In Haditha, a small city northeast of Baghdad on the banks of the Euphrates River, shop-owner Ali Zamhuir speaks of the consequences for the United States. “U.S. companies will never be able to work in Iraq after what their military has done here. The mujahideen will never allow it.”

U.S. actions seem to have improved the image of Saddam. “Even Saddam wasn’t as cruel as the Americans,” said Tassin Awad in Haditha. “Even he didn’t torture like the Americans. Everyone in Haditha believes Saddam was a criminal, but would prefer him over the Americans.”

Iraqis are less than optimistic about the “transfer of sovereignty” June 30.

“The Americans have fulfilled none of their promises,” said Sa’adoun Aziz, an unemployed construction worker. “Where is the rebuilding?”

Many people want Saddam back because the present situation is terrible, he said. “After June 30 the oil, finance and trade ministries will remain in the hands of the Americans, and we will have no army of our own.”

Aziz pointed across the Euphrates to a damaged electricity tower. “This is freedom.”

At his home in Haditha, Hammed Abdulla believes the attack on the wedding party was intentional. “The Americans are provoking people on purpose to get a reaction,” he said. “Iraq is sitting on top of a volcano.”

He added angrily, “I would like to see Mr. Bush and tell him that Saddam is better than he is.”

Schoolteacher Mohammed al-Hakim said “the Americans are speaking of freedom and democracy while they are the cruelest, most brutal army ever.”

Sitting nearby, an unemployed school manager too says June 30 will bring no change. “They will not pull out after June 30,” he said. “But the Americans cannot control Iraq. America promises so many things, but they have fulfilled none of them.”

Several men and women around him nodded in agreement as he spoke. “They promised prosperity, yet they have destroyed everything. They shot up the wedding party because they are the terrorists.”

One man added, “They said they would bring real freedom, but we see our people tortured in prison, looted, and their homes raided.”

Daily attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq remain high, and many Iraqis believe this number will only increase as June 30 approaches.

The highway through the desert to Haditha bears several scars from improvised explosive devices that have detonated under U.S. military vehicles patrolling the area. They are only one sign of Iraqi anger with U.S. forces.

Author: Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail has reported from inside Iraq and is the author of Beyond the Green Zone.