When the US military arrived at Baqer in April 2003, this vast airbase - unused since the 1991 Gulf war - was at one with the rural wasteland beyond its gates. Today the airbase - now renamed Logistical Support Area Anaconda - has become a replica of American suburbia, with a cinema, an air-conditioned gym, a salsa club, indoor swimming pool and avenues lined with mobile homes for 21,000 troops. Despite a few superficial improvements, the countryside beyond Anaconda's concrete walls, barbed wire and gun turrets remains the desolate backwater it was under Saddam Hussein. Anaconda has become one of numerous well-guarded American settlements attesting to the vast gulf between US personnel and ordinary Iraqis. Shut off from the needs and lives of ordinary people, Americans here often sound more like politicians addressing swing-state voters back home than visitors of a country spiritually ravaged by decades of dictatorship and war. Coalition spokesman Dan Senor, for example, cited free trade and tax rates as two of the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA) 'tremendous' accomplishments since it took control of the country a few weeks into the occupation. Few Iraqis bother with taxes and traders easily circumvent customs duties across Iraq's porous borders. American officials display ignorance of Iraqi society, history and culture. One CPA official cited Iraqi boys and girls attending school together as another example of progress under occupation. In fact, Iraq has had co-educational schools for decades. 'We should have conducted ourselves with less arrogance,' said one US diplomat. Many Iraqis and even some critics within the CPA blame the occupation leadership for failing to grasp Iraqis' daily needs and growing resentment, thus fuelling the anti-occupation insurgency. Ultimately, the 135,000 American soldiers still in Iraq will have to wrestle with the legacy of occupation. For all the goodwill missions, medical clinics and infrastructure improvements, US convoys and bases are still attacked regularly. Spokesman Mr Senor, an adviser to US administrator Paul Bremer, told reporters Americans knew they were not popular, but did not use that as a yardstick of success. 'We do not measure our success by how much we are loved when Ambassador Bremer departs on June 30. We measure our success on whether Iraq is on a path toward a sovereign democratic future.' He added: 'That is the path we are on.'