Seven years after the US-led invasion, Iraqis count the cost  

Posted by Big Gav in

The SMH has an article on the formal end of the US occupation of Iraq - Seven years after the US-led invasion, Iraqis count the cost.

KARADA IN STREET should be Avenue of the Victors. A colourful commercial strip in the capital, it is an enclave of Iraq's Shiite majority, which has been in the ascendancy since the demise of the dictator Saddam Hussein.

But with the formal end today of the US combat presence in their country as another milestone in the journey of their chaotic lives, many on the Karada In pavement wondered about the price they were paying for being rid of a tormentor.

Demographic maps of today's Iraq reveal that the Shiite regions are the least educated, most impoverished and most underfed. Resource maps reveal they have the bulk of the country's formidable oil and gas reserves and, despite their great political strength, they have been unable to harness the latter to ameliorate the former in the seven years since liberation in April 2003.

Awaiting the call of the mosque to signal the break of their Ramadan fasting on Sunday evening, shoppers were subdued, revealing mixed feelings about the US draw-down to 50,000 troops, whose brief from now on is ''liaison and training'' - unless they are needed for combat.

In street interviews with the Herald, there was a sense that the price for all the trappings of a freer society had been too high. Others had little confidence in their political leaders' ability to take them to the bright future that ought to be achievable with Iraq's resources treasure trove.

Most expressed a fear that the US departure left them vulnerable to the worst element of their own society. And a few questioned how, apart from toppling the dictator, despite their military and diplomatic might, the Americans had made such a hash of the post-invasion years. Selling women's headscarves from a stall, Adel Abbas, 30, rated the demise of Saddam as the only good thing the US had done. "They could have been more clever than to create so much chaos here. They demolished everything. They have left us with nothing - not even a government." ...

US taxpayers have spent more than $US700 billion but potable water is scarce, health and education services function badly and, worst of all, with constant temperatures of nearly 50 degrees through the long summer, Iraqis have electricity for only a few hours a day and petrol is often in short supply. Government is missing in action. Corruption is chronic.

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