Iraqis say Americans are gone, but problems remain

People of Baghdad say they were glad to see the 'invaders' leave, but the bombings continued

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2012, 6:16am


Abu Mohammed loudly laments that problems in Iraq, from violence to unemployment, have not improved since US forces departed a year ago.

"Whether the occupation was here or not, for us, nothing has changed," Mohammed, 59, said while selling used clothes from a cart in the crowded open-air Bab al-Sharji market of central Baghdad.

"During the occupation, there were explosions and today there are explosions. Unemployment is still the same, the situation is still the same," he said.

The American forces' "treatment of Iraqis was not good, Iraqis were like slaves for them", he said.

"They only left fear inside Iraqis. What do we remember about them? Nothing good."

The last in a convoy of US armoured vehicles rolled across the border into Kuwait on the morning of December 18, last year, marking the complete US withdrawal from Iraq.

A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, toppling dictator Saddam Hussein and beginning a conflict that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis, thousands of Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Almost 10 years later, many Iraqis still lack basic household services such as consistent electricity supply and clean water, and while levels of violence are down, insurgents continue to carry out bombings and shootings almost on a daily basis.

In Khilani Square near Bab al-Sharji, Mahmud Yassin, 48, who sells tyres and vehicle batteries, expressed satisfaction that US forces were gone.

"I walk and I see no Americans; that makes me feel better," he said. "Who likes to see occupation? Any patriotic person will not accept foreigners in his homeland. We Iraqis are known for our pride; we do not accept occupation."

But aside from the satisfaction of having the US gone, Yassin said there was little else to celebrate in the Iraq of today.

"Nothing changed since their withdrawal, except that the situation went from bad to worse."

"We are two states in one state," he said, hinting at the dispute between the federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan region in the north.

The two sides are at odds over issues including territory, oil and power-sharing.

"Security might be better if the Americans were ... controlling the situation more, but despite that, their departure must be permanent," Karim Gata, a tailor specialising in military uniforms, said in his small shop in Bab al-Sharji.

"They did not understand us, and we did not understand them. They came for their own special interests, and oil is the most important."

Abed Alayan, 47, was seated surrounded by cardboard boxes holding clothes and other goods on sale on the side of a street near Khilani Square.

"Our aspirations and wishes are very simple but they were not met," he said.

"I say to the American occupation that when the English occupation was here in the 1920s ... they built new bridges and streets for us, but you did not build us anything.

"You took everything and went away, and left pain and suffering for us."