Touch-and-Go : From the Streets of South Central Los Angeles to the War In Iraq

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Was it possible that in five and a half months no way could have been found to avoid inflicting another ghastly war upon this sad planet? The Iraqi leader, the diplomats said, wanted to wait a day or two after the deadline had passed to demonstrate that he had not been intimidated. For the United States, with half-a-million troops poised for battle in Saudi Arabia, this was unacceptable. These reasons were both mundane and implausible. It was, however, a peculiarly crass reason to go to war, if it came to that, halfway around the world. During the entire lengthy buildup to the war, during the war, after the war, no one was sure they understood why Bush had intervened in the Persian Gulf, and then taken the United States into war.

Congressmen, journalists, editors, plain citizens kept asking, almost pleading at times, for the president to clearly and unambiguously explain his motivations, and without contradicting what he had said the previous week. Economists and think-tank intellectuals found it professionally awkward to admit their uncertainty, and thus wound up writing lots of authoritative-sounding mumbo-jumbo.

Bush seems to be switching his reasoning day to day. Taking place in the Persian Gulf, as it all did, of course lent itself to the belief that the liquid gold had a lot, if not everything, to do with the conflict. This, however, is a thesis which can not be supported by the immediate circumstances. Supply was not a problem — the Energy Department acknowledged that there was not an oil shortage, and Saudi Arabia and other countries increased their production to more than make up for the oil lost from Iraq and Kuwait, which, in any event, together accounted for only about five percent of American consumption.

There was a whole world ready to supply more oil, from Mexico to Russia, as well as large untapped American sources. This indicates the difficulties faced by any single producer — Hussein or anyone else — who might try to control or dominate the market; which in turn raises the question: what would such a country do with all the oil, drink it? As to the price of oil: did oilmen George Bush and James Baker and the depressed American oil states want it to go up or down? A case could be made for either hypothesis. What these men really believe and feel in each instance is something we are not privy to.

But this only makes it a profit problem, not an oil-supply problem. Moreover, the vast potential residing in alternative energy sources must be included in the equation. At this time, the United States — seemingly in a panic about danger to the Gulf oil supply — was receiving about 11 percent of its oil from the region, while Japan, which got 62 percent of its oil, and Europe which got 27 percent from there, were hardly stirred up at all, except for Margaret Thatcher who foamed at the mouth when it came to Saddam and former colony Iraq.

This has not always meant the use of force. In , when OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, used substantial price increases and an oil boycott in an attempt to force Washington to influence Israel into withdrawing from its recently occupied territories, the United States did not launch, or even threaten, an invasion.

The matter was resolved through extensive diplomacy without a shot being fired. What saved the OPEC states from a violent fate may have been the combination of the Vietnam war still hanging heavy in the air in Washington, and the Nixon administration on the verge of being swallowed up by Watergate. The danger-to-Saudi Arabia explanation was a non-starter. Iraq never had any designs on Saudi Arabia, as a simple look at a map makes clear.

Bush backed away from the oil rationale when critics charged that he was only trying to protect the interests of the oil industry.

CIA activities in Iraq

President, bring our troops home from Saudi Arabia! No blood for oil! The fight is about naked aggression that [we] will not stand. Indeed, there is evidence that Washington encouraged Iraq to attack Iran and ignite the war in the first place. Even as it officially banned arms sales to either combatant, the US secretly provided weapons to both.

And they were not a pretty pair. Saudi Arabia regularly featured extreme religious intolerance, extrajudicial arrest, torture, and flogging. Kuwait, oddly enough, was virulently anti-American in its foreign policy. After the country had been returned to its rightful dictators, it behaved very brutally toward its large foreign-worker population, holding them without charge or trial for several months; death squads executed scores of people. The targets of the campaign, which took place in the presence of thousands of US troops, were primarily those who were accused of collaboration with the Iraqis, although this was something most of them had no choice in, and those who were involved in a nascent pro-democracy movement.

Democratic Party Proposals on Iraq

Additionally, some Iraqis were forced to return to Iraq despite fears that they would be harmed or executed there. The elite of the region did not display much gratitude for all that George Bush said America was doing for them. We have Pakistanis driving taxis and now we have Americans defending us. Bush also warned that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. True enough. But so did the United States, France, Israel, and every other country that already had nuclear weapons. Iraq, on the other hand, according to American, British and Israeli experts, was five to ten years away from being able to build and use nuclear weapons.

His warning came only after a poll showed that a plurality of Americans felt that preventing Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons was the most persuasive argument for going to war. To get Noriega? How many lives can you expend? Just before ordering the start of the war against Iraq in January, Bush prayed, as tears ran down his cheeks. God, one surmises, might have asked George Bush about the kids of Iraq. And the adults. Tanks pulling plows moved alongside trenches, firing into the Iraqi soldiers inside the trenches as the plows covered them with great mounds of sand.

Thousands were buried, dead, wounded, or alive. US forces fired on Iraqi soldiers after the Iraqis had raised white flags of surrender. The navy commander who gave the order to fire was not punished. The bombing destroyed two operational nuclear reactors in Iraq. It was the first time ever that live reactors had been bombed, and may well have set a dangerous precedent. The American government and media had a lot of fun with an obvious piece of Iraqi propaganda — the claim that a bombed biological warfare facility had actually been a baby food factory. But it turned out that the government of New Zealand and various business people from there had had intimate contact with the factory and categorically confirmed that it had indeed been a baby food factory.

The United States also made wide use of advanced depleted uranium DU shells, rockets and missiles, leaving tons of radioactive and toxic rubble in Kuwait and Iraq. Uranium is also chemically toxic, like lead. Inhalation causes heavy metal poisoning or kidney or lung damage. Iraqi soldiers, pinned down in their bunkers during assaults, were almost certainly poisoned by radioactive dust clouds. The civilian population suffered in the extreme from the relentless bombing.

Middle East Watch, the human-rights organization, has documented numerous instances of the bombing of apartment houses, crowded markets, bridges filled with pedestrians and civilian vehicles, and a busy central bus station, usually in broad daylight, without a government building or military target of any kind in sight, not even an anti- aircraft gun. The United States said it thought that the shelter was for VIPs, which it had been at one time, and claimed that it was also being used as a military communications center, but neighborhood residents insisted that the constant aerial surveillance overhead had to observe the daily flow of women and children into the shelter.

An American journalist in Jordan who viewed unedited videotape footage of the disaster, which the American public never saw, wrote:. They showed scenes of incredible carnage. Nearly all the bodies were charred into blackness; in some cases the heat had been so great that entire limbs were burned off.

The crippling of the electrical system multiplied geometrically the daily living horror of the people of Iraq. As a modern country, Iraq was reliant on electrical power for essential services such as water purification and distribution, sewage treatment, the operation of hospitals and medical laboratories, and agricultural production. Two months after the war ended, a public health team from Harvard University visited health facilities in several Iraqi cities.

The immediate cause of death in most cases will be water-borne infectious disease in combination with severe malnutrition. After the war, the Pentagon admitted that non-military facilities had been extensively targeted for political reasons. In the Iraqi case there was a further motivation: to encourage desperate citizens to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Said a US Air Force planner:. Whenever they see a car or truck, the planes dive out of the sky and chase us. They just shoot. But even this was too much for George Bush to grant. His defeated forces are retreating.

He is trying to claim victory in the midst of a rout. This could not be permitted. Thus it was that American air power in all its majesty swept down upon the road to Basra, bombing, rocketing, strafing everything that moved in the long column of Iraqi military and civilian vehicles, troops and refugees.

But heaven forbid that the Americans should offend any of the people of the Gulf. I bear no malice toward your people. Did the GIs bear any malice toward their female soldiers- in-arms? One post-war study found that more than half the women who served in the Gulf War felt that they had been sexually harassed verbally, while eight percent almost 3, had been the objects of attempted or completed sexual assaults. Ever since the Iraqi invasion in August, and despite the many confusing soundbites and heavy rhetoric emanating from the White House, one thing seemed clear enough: if Iraq agreed to withdraw from Kuwait, military attacks against it would not take place, or would cease, whatever other punishment or sanctions might continue.

Thus, it seemed like a ray of hope, however late, when the Soviet Union succeeded on February in getting Iraq to agree to withdraw completely the day after a cease-fire of all military operations went into effect. The agreement came with specified timetables and monitoring. George Bush refused to offer a cease-fire, per se. He could not even bring himself to mention the word in his replies. The point Bush emphasized the most during these two crucial days, as well as earlier, was that Iraq must comply with all 12 UN resolutions. In the end, Bush gave Saddam 24 hours to begin withdrawing from Kuwait, period.

When the time came and went, the United States launched the long-expected ground war, while the aerial attacks — including the carnage on the road to Basra — continued until the end of the month. But you will see. I want to say thank you to so many people across an ocean. We shall take good care of this school. Psychologically, we are much better today. But maybe there's a reason he is not coming that I should look into, like his parents making him work. But now Saddam has gone, we have democracy in place of dictatorship and I am proud to be playing my part. Like a new school term, it's a fresh start for all of us.

After 35 years of tyranny, it is not easy and there are many problems, but I think the future will be bright. Twenty-one years later, she is one of the faces of the new Iraq, a town councillor in a country where unmarried young women normally play little part in public life. Electricity in the city remains spotty, but it is now on more than off. There are still lines at gas stations, but they are shorter.

Stores are stocked with goods, and restaurants that used to close at dusk for fear of bandits now stay open until 9. The U. There are occasional army patrols, and there is a huge military presence out of sight at the airport and in other encampments. But this looks less like a city under occupation. Attacks on soldiers are rare, violent crime rates are low and Iraqis have worked with Americans to restore basic services to pre-war levels. They have done many good things. Kirkuk [Iraq] is a stable city. Before the war, Saddam Hussein's relatives were untouchable. That's a big happy for the Iraqi people.

The strong would eat the weak. When Saddam Hussein was in power, the young men were forced into the army or into other state things. He imposed himself on even the tiniest things in our lives. He's gone and we have more space in our lives, and the boys find freedom to play what they love.

We play with full freedom now. There will be even more chaos if they leave. But if you didn't have the right relatives or friends you were kicked out of the soccer clubs. Now we have a government of ministers. We do not have to fear. Alkateeb, Governing Council Secretary, September 4, "The Americans did us the biggest favor of our lives, so we can say nothing against them. I gave them flowers when they entered the city. They want to avenge their dignity, which Saddam and his henchmen wanted to deny indefinitely. It's a very rich country. They didn't know the future. Now they feel it's time to buy.

Now we can offer much more, and so people buy more. It's a little like raising a child. But we can do it. His prisons and palaces are gone. Look at all the happy faces of the people. But the freedom has its own limits. High in the mountains of southern Saudi Arabia the nation whose players had been tortured for years by Saddam's psychotic son have rediscovered their pride, dignity and ability not only to win again but also to play without fear. No more terror in our players' eyes. No more returning home to pain and humiliation if our boys are defeated.

Now we are free to play the game all Iraqis love as we would wish. He did not allow courses for referees or coaches, no books to help us. Now we are free again and must look to the future. We will start by mid-October for sure. It has been a long time, but I think now I can be happy. Saddam is in the dustbin of history, and the black cloud has gone from the Iraqi sky.

We had famous poets, and we took many heroic stands. When Saddam fell, everyone here fired shots in the air. Before the war, we couldn't have the internet, satellite TV or sat phones. There is all this technology in the world that we have been denied. The Americans have been here for only four months The Kuwaitis worked with the US for 13 years to fix their war damage They look and say, 'You live! Ibrahim al-Basri, Saddam's former physician who was imprisoned for 13 years after refusing to join the parliament, The Boston Globe, August 7, "I am fighting for democracy. I am going to do my best.

I am not afraid of any person. The only one I'm afraid of is God. Now the best job is done, there is no more Saddam Hussein and his regime. It is a great thing.

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I can rest now. Ice-cream stands are jammed, soccer fields swirl with the dust of matches and bookstores down from the Shabandar [cafe] are open all hours and selling posters of imams and politicians once-reviled by the ousted regime.

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  8. Booksellers grin when asked about their new reality. In the past no one would dare to just speak out. Now everybody is talking. About federalism, about a monarchy. I think our aims are just one, to eliminate persecution for anyone ever again. I don't want to say we can do it or we'll do it well. But the way we've suffered in the past 30 years, we will try to create a new way.

    One of the communities that suffered the most under Saddam is the marsh Iraqis. If we're ever going to see justice done in Iraq, part of that justice is restoring these peoples' way of life. This is a matter that goes beyond the environment. He needed to go. Zhaiya, who recently returned to his native Iraq, Associated Press, August 4, "I used to serve sick people, but when I discovered my country was sick I came to politics.

    I hope to see my country treated, so I can return to a hospital and put my stethoscope back on. He made us go from war to war.

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    But we had no choice, only to go along. If I had just quite and gone home, I was afraid that the people who worked for him [Uday] would have stalked me and killed me. I can get up in the morning and decide whether I want to shave or not; if someone in my family is sick, I can stay home with them. I don't need to ask permission. That is changing, as Iraqi teachers and parents team up with U. Saddam was there in all the books, even the math books. Nothing about war. We want flowers and springtime in the texts, not rifles and tanks. Education is very important to the reconstruction of our society.

    If you want to civilize society, you must care about education. I am astonished and angry. They are fishing again from boats that had not floated for years. Water seems to hold the promise of reviving an old way of life. The coalition doesn't interfere in our work but, of course, we have our own red lines. Children and weeping women thronged around the bus as it drew to a halt. Out stepped Thabed Mansour, frail and weary after 12 years of exile, for an overwhelmingly emotional reunion with his wife and family.

    Mansour was one of men who returned to their native country yesterday in the first formal repatriation of Iraqi refugees since the war ended. The focus obscures a larger truth: Life is returning to normal in Iraq-better than normal, actually, because this 'normal' is Saddam-free. All of the country's universities and health clinics have reopened, as have 90 percent of schools. Iraq is now producing 3. We are seeing a change. People are starting to realize that the soldiers are not here to occupy Fallujah forever-they're here to help us rebuild.

    It's good to work with the American soldiers. They give us new training and a mutual respect. We should wait to see what the Americans will do. But you can not rebuild a city or country-a country destroyed by war-in one month. It is a rich country and the Iraqi market is enormous. All the world wants to come and do business here. Their victims and the sons of their victims, who lived for 35 years under oppression, are feeling proud and happy. My father gave me the full freedom to marry whom I choose. We will be able to start a new regime of Olympic sport in Iraq.

    OK, he's gone. We start a new life. Free from Uday. We were so afraid to go out in case Uday saw us. I don't want to speak about the reasons. But I was so happy. I was at home when I saw it on the TV. I woke up my aunts and told them the good news. I used to hate those guys so much and so I felt so at ease in my heart. Without them, people would be killing each other. The difference is that there no longer are any mukahebrat secret police agents roaming the campuses and sitting at the back of classrooms to make sure lecturers and students do not discuss forbidden topics.

    Nor are the students required to start every day with a solemn oath of allegiance to the dictator. Among the banned authors were almost all of Iraq's best writers and poets whom many young Iraqis are discovering for the first time. Stalls, offering video and audiotapes for sale, are appearing in Baghdad and other major cities, again giving Iraqis access to a forbidden cultural universe. They are outlaws. They just want to make problems. I don't see them hurting anyone. Now there are different topics.

    But he amputated their claws, and he took away their freedom, just like the people. I think he used to treat the lions better than the people. The most horrible damage on Iraqis was inflicted by Saddam himself. The Americans who are giving their lives to stop his Middle East Stalinism will end up saving many more lives. In our old army, we were always under pressure and strict military orders.

    There was tough punishment. We are all equal now. This is justice. I was hoping it would make the situation better but, well, you can see. I have hope that things will get better now, that the new government can get rid of all the problems. It's not the Americans' fault. I like the Americans. We had security, jobs, people were getting paid.

    People used to get on and would help each other I am in favor of the new government. I feel that Iraq has started back from zero. We have wasted 75 years waiting to taste freedom. It is better than Saddam's government of destruction and dictatorship. It's unbelievable. But now that Saddam has fallen, it's OK.

    We can wait for the future now. They have been dreaming for so many years to have a government run by not only one man. It will require the participation of all Iraqis from all political and social strands who are willing to help accomplish this historic task. E-mail is already on the desktop. It's not important that the Americans are here. What is important is that they got rid of Saddam Hussein.

    Now I feel free. We've got a wonderful and brilliant future in front of us. Now people freely jab their index fingers on the streets. To a visitor returning, it's something of a shock. Today we combined the celebration with the fall of the second monarchy-the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Other stores with similar numbers-but fewer styles-of men's and children's shoes are open for business.

    People are desperate here for a neutral free press after 30 years of a totalitarian state. He knew very well that most journalists were not supportive of his father. By day they did their jobs quietly. By night many worked against the regime. God willing we will work to achieve the hopes and wishes of the people. This council has nothing to do with any regime because all of them are intellectuals and chosen by the people.

    Now that the cover has been removed, you can't imagine what you will discover. We're very very happy. Look at my hair. It's already turning gray, and I don't even know how to get on a plane at the airport yet. I haven't done anything. Now the future is very different. I'm free. I can travel, and no one will follow or arrest me.

    All Iraqis are feeling freedom. This is a good start of a new Iraq. We were living under terror and we all suffered from it. It was for our own survival not to talk about politics. We could not even discuss our personal problems openly. I talk about these issues with my families and friends. This could never happen during the Saddam years. We were living only to survive. Now I have lots of dreams and hopes. They will have more opportunities to travel and learn and have more control of their lives. Alongside these do-it-yourself radio and TV stations, dozens of newspapers representing every kind of political viewpoint are suddenly available.

    The story revolves around a leader who is given a choice between using the rule of law or the sword to prevent his people from criticizing him. Qaftan said the play's obvious parallels to Saddam Hussein's regime made it impossible to stage until now. Being here and seeing so many other people here signifies that, despite everything, life goes on.

    Cartoons, fitness programs, movies and commercials are flooding into Iraqi living rooms. These days, in fact, when a favorite show comes on, Iraqis on rooftops yell to neighbors to alert them. They say they're buying freedom. There was no room for creativity. With official news sources tightly managed by Hussein's son, the Mukhabarat, or secret police, monitored and disseminated jokes and rumors using agents from its legendary Fifth Squad. Now I hang it up to show respect. He is the evilest man that I ever saw.

    Iraq and the internet’s coming of age

    We are not in a very secure society yet, but at least we can say whatever we like. Free e-mail would have dissuaded people from signing up for subscriptions to Iraqi Internet service providers. Now Iraqis are free to use the Internet as they like. We are also no longer afraid that some official will force us to become partners and take part of our revenue. The Iraqis now want to enjoy new cars. Because we have freedom. Now he cannot see anymore. We also tore all his pictures from our textbooks. I only left one portrait on my math textbook as a souvenir, but I put mascara on his eyes and colored his lips in red.

    They never let us express our feelings. After being oppressed for 35 years, we are now scrambling to grab these songs, to which we listen with impunity. I'm flying now. The Iraqi people could not change that regime with their own hands or overthrow it with their available means. The Americans came and solved this problem quickly and easily and in a way that gladdened the Iraqis.

    Mowafak Gorea, director of the newly named Thawra Hospital in Baghdad it used to be Saddam Hospital , believes the radical Shiites may get the attention, but everyone from Communists to Christians to unemployed engineers is doing the same thing: venting after decades of tyranny so suffocating that parents couldn't speak freely at home for fear their children might repeat something damning at school. We are liberated.

    It's freedom now! I don't want to let these people dictate my thoughts. I am an educated woman. I am a religious woman. I know my duties to God. We must help the Americans, and show them our traditions. But now on Thursday evenings, hotels across Baghdad are pulsing with the beat of traditional drums and the shouts and songs of relatives welcoming honeymooning couples. But after all these years, Iraqi people need to understand democracy, and that it must come in stages.

    Mahmood Abbas, the country's leading taekwondo coach, cannot wait to follow suit. Now, for the first time for nearly two decades, Iraqi players and trainers have no need to fear beatings or imprisonment if they fail to secure a high finish in an international competition or if one of their team-mates defects on an overseas trip. Iraq is dark, but free. Soon we will have both freedom and lights.

    This will be a very happy day. We are very, very happy. Unshackled for the first time in years, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were now refilling thousands of acres of dry marsh. We want to teach our children how to fish, how to move on the water again. When the signal went off, we'd hear Saddam.

    Even in our dreams, we heard his voice. It's better than before. Before, we couldn't live. But life has changed from bad to best in Sulaymaniyah. I hope everyone in Iraq can live like us soon. I feel I have been deceived. I am shocked to hear about his crimes against our people. It took the sight of American tanks rolling through their cities to get many Iraqis talking freely about Saddam's reign. Saddam always talked about his faith and what he was doing for the country, but the reality was different. Before, we couldn't even say his name, and now we can know the truth.

    Five members of my family were executed. I came here in order to help this neighborhood. I could not be appointed a teacher because I was not a member of the Baath Party so I worked as a merchant. I'd like to work on this committee to help set aside the past. Forced to rehearse in their car and record birthday greetings for Saddam Hussein rather than the love ballads they favor, the band members had difficulty finding their voice.

    US and Iraqi troops begin new security plan

    But after the U. From the moment Iraq was liberated I felt as though my two sons had been brought back to me. I like them all. We used to get central instructions from the Ministry of Information. Now we no longer do. Azzaman is independent. It lets the readers learn and decide the political currents. The walls of the capital - once decorated with portraits of Saddam Hussein - have become a battleground for competing ideas. They even show a sense of humor. In Baghdad this week, the following was neatly written in marker on the back of a double-decker bus: 'Very urgent, wanted: New president for Iraq.

    There's not the same fear. I didn't see my future here before. Now, maybe I do. The Americans liberated us and gave us our freedom. We hope they stay to protect the minorities like us. This is the freedom we want. The people will feel better when their bellies are filled. They will calm down.

    They will see what is possible. Thank you, George Bush. Thank you, America. Every day I thought, now they're going to come and take me. I was always waiting. Democratic elections are a new phenomenon in today's Iraq. True democracy appears with the absence of dictatorships and tyranny. Too happy. When [we] were born, we opened our eyes to Saddam and everything was forbidden.

    Our life was all about fear. Everything was forbidden. I was unable to tell them that we were ruled by a dictator. If I did, my neck would be on the line. After so many years of dictatorship, we have chosen our own leader. Nage used a pen to cross out passages that focused on Mr. Hussein, the Baath Party he represented and his many supposed achievements.

    It was an act that could have led to her death just a few months ago. Before, we lived like exiles in our own country. Trade with Syria has been reopened, schools are functioning, and police are patrolling together with the Americans. It is a beautiful thing. Everyone is excited. Everyone is here. Not complaining. Coming to vote.

    It was a difficult task, and we thank the Americans. We keep writing about the ex regime. Now, we are free. Help is coming. Day by day, life is for the better. Today I feel happy. We wanted this channel to be free and speak in the name of all Iraqi people. Most Iraqis do not know what democracy is, but they will certainly love it once they taste it. Across the country, teachers are discarding portions of history books, abandoning 'patriotic education' classes, and in some cases taking down flags.

    Now we're free. But they are lying. We want to thank the coalition troops. We want them to demonstrate the rebuilding. We will give them a chance to do that. We are ready to rebuild our town, and we are ready to rebuild our country. They have declined since the arrival of Uday. Now we want to rebuild them with the help of the international community.

    Following the collapse of the old regime, and a temporary media void, there are now dozens of newspapers on offer around the capital and in other major cities across the country. Obediently they flicked through the pages until they reached the familiar photograph of a smiling Saddam Hussein standing in front of an Iraqi flag. It blows their minds when we tell them they should just do what they want, they don't need our permission or anybody else's to change jobs.

    Mark Hadsell, describing some Iraqis' difficulties with freedom after living in a under Saddam Hussein, Scripps Howard News Service, May 14, "Trained under the old government that put Uday Hussein, one of Saddam's sons, in charge of the Union of Journalists, the reporters and editors of Al Azzaman are used to being forbidden to use certain words, like 'democracy,' or to examine certain issues, like the oil industry.

    Almost every day, someone asks Mr. Saad Bazzaz if it is all right to criticize some public figure or another. Still it's great to be free. It's a primordial feeling -- this tyrant coming down. The teachers told me to love Saddam. My parents told me he was a bad man. We will not raise our weapons because freedom is within our sight. We want an Iraqi government that represents all Iraqis. Sunni and Shia Muslims, Kurds, Turcomans and religious minorities -- they will have their rights in this land.

    The people of Iraq want democracy. They lived without it for 35 years. It was like Russians under Stalin. Not Iraqi TV. Not Saddam Hussein TV. Sales are very good. What was prohibited is wanted. I feel free. They are scrambling to woo voters with promises of democracy, prosperity and free phone calls to relatives abroad. After three decades of official repression, a cacophonous jumble of long-dormant ideologies has come tumbling out into the daylight of the country's unshackled political marketplace.

    So I have dreamed of freedom, of traveling abroad, of feeling life the way all young people do. Maybe now I will. Iraq's downtrodden writers and poets, who have endured a quarter-century of censorship and surveillance, could board 'a big ship, like Noah's Ark,' he suggested, for a six-month trip around the globe. Even another desert, he said, would be a welcome change. It is an exciting time. But we hope to improve and widen our coverage to include all such activities across Iraq. We need such productions. The Iraqis have been deprived over 35 years from watching religious programs.

    A year resident of the area, Alwan said during Saddam's regime, police would stay on the periphery of the Hayyaniyah housing area and avoid walking through a crime-ridden neighborhood altogether. It was the rise of Baghdad. And many recall the thought that raced through their minds with the strange speed of that statue tumbling down: Time to go home. They were about only Saddam. For us, this is the real meaning of freedom. Los Angeles Times, May 5, "You cannot imagine what it means for us to be here on this national stage, where everything we stand for was forbidden.

    Now it is ours. About athletes and other sports officials planned a demonstration May 5 in Baghdad to drum up support for an Iraqi sports federation to replace the one headed by Saddam Hussein's son, Uday. Uday is said to have tortured and killed athletes who failed to win or performed worse than expected. Now we have the most important thing that we need. There is no one to stop us from saying anything we want onstage. Los Angeles Times, May 5, "This is the first step on the road to democracy.

    I promise I will be a faithful soldier. I've been waiting for this moment for at least 30 years. They lost their country.

    They lost their comforts. They felt so powerless, and they saw such intense suffering by the people who couldn't leave the country. It's so important for him to rebuild it. I saw where we were. I saw presidents and cities and people from everywhere! The whole world! Which means practically everything that was ever printed! About absolutely everything. Bush I think he must be a Muslim for what he did for us This is God's land.

    Everyone deserves it. Every Christian, every Jew and every Muslim needs to live in peace -- and eat from God's gifts -- not from Saddam Hussein's hands. We all want peace and freedom. He deprived us of these things. He destroyed us. We ask God that he never returns, because we are happy and -- God willing -- things will be better. We heard a wide spectrum of views. This political meeting is something Iraqis have not been able to do in 45 years.

    We would pretend we were happy, but on the inside we were sad. One is me when I am in front of people related to the Baath Party, the secret services, the family of Saddam; I support them. Otherwise they would definitely put me in the jail or execute me. Among friends, people I know I can trust, I tell them what I really feel. Most Iraqis have that double personality. Then came thousands of other Iraqis, in cars and alongside the road, who hailed the U. Army troops as the Humvees passed through the city.

    The soldiers had missed most of the war after Turkey denied their division passage into northern Iraq from Turkish soil. I just met him. I must give him a chance.

    Dr James D Key | Learn More About the Dr's Books

    But until now we haven't practiced it. We are here to represent Iraqi women, who have in the past played very little role in Iraqi politics. People want real participation. I am participating in this conference because those who are concerned with Iraqi issues must hear the voice of the people.

    And today nothing will happen, and this will prove that none of us liked him, not a one. I thank the Americans a lot -- we praise them for ending Saddam, with God's help. Keith Westheimer's notebook and wrote a message in broken English, hoping someone with clout would see it: 'People Iraqi in Mosul need king leader of Mosul. People Iraqi very happy because Americans are here.

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