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    Battle for Falluja Rouses the Anger of Iraqis Weary of the U.S. Occupation


    AGHDAD, Iraq, April 21 — After suicide car bombs ripped into the relative calm of the southern city of Basra on Wednesday, merchants in a middle-class neighborhood here directed words dripping with venom at the American occupiers.

    The comments along the commercial boulevard of Outer Karada echoed those heard throughout the country in recent weeks: that the fighting in Falluja had proven the occupiers to be barbarians; that encircling Najaf to capture a rebel cleric was a step toward violating one of the holiest cities in Shiite Islam; that the nearly three-week-old uprising — and the American failure to handle it — had essentially turned Iraq back to last summer's lawlessness.

    When asked about their thoughts on the recent surge in violence in Iraq, none of the people interviewed mentioned the deadly attacks in Basra on Wednesday that killed at least 68 people, including 23 schoolchildren. Nor did anyone mention that guerrilla fighters were trying to undermine any national stability. And no one talked about the ouster of Saddam Hussein and his brutal dictatorship a year ago.

    Instead, several people running businesses along Outer Karada pointed first to Falluja, 35 miles to the west, where marines are trying to rout undisciplined but determined Iraqi fighters.

    "Frankly, we started to hate the Americans for that," Towfeek Hussein, 36, an electronics salesman, said of the siege of Falluja as he sat behind a desk in his shop. "The Americans will hit any family. They just don't care. Children used to wave to the American soldiers when their patrols passed by here. Two days ago, the children turned their faces away."

    More than anything else, Falluja has become a galvanizing battle, a symbol around which many Iraqis rally their anticolonial sentiments. Some say the fighting there exposes the lie of American justice by showing that the world's sole superpower is ready to avenge the killings and mutilation of four American security contractors by sending marines to shell and invade a city of 300,000 people.

    News reports, including those on the widely watched Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, two Arab satellite networks, cite hospital officials in Falluja saying that hundreds of people have been killed, including many women and children. American military officials say those reports are inaccurate.

    The invasion of Falluja has shattered the remaining hope of many of those Iraqis who thought the Americans might be able to free the country from might-makes-right rule, which has shadowed this region from the days of the Ottoman Empire to British colonial rule to Mr. Hussein.

    "My opinion of the Americans has changed," said Hassan al-Wakeel, 38, the owner of a men's designer clothing shop on Outer Karada. "When the Americans came, they talked about freedom and democracy. Now, the Americans are pushing their views by force. All of us feel that."

    "First of all, we'd like Iraqis to take responsibility for security, for the government," he added, standing near piles of boxes of leather shoes. "We need to have a state. Then we need the reconstruction they promised us. We have a shortage of water and electricity, and it seems nothing is coming."

    People like Mr. Wakeel and Mr. Hussein are the kind of middle-class Iraqis that the Americans are relying on to help them rebuild the country, with livelihoods already rooted in the principles of free-market capitalism. Yet their sense of kinship with Iraqis in Falluja, Najaf and elsewhere runs deeper than any pull toward abstract notions of democracy offered by the Americans — notions that to them appear increasingly hypocritical given the reliance of the occupiers on overwhelming force as a means to an end.

    "Four American people were killed in Falluja," said Omar Farouk, 35, the owner of a convenience store next to the electronics shop where Mr. Hussein works. "Because of that, 500 people were killed in Falluja. The message of the Americans is that `we have the power.' Iraqis will never accept that."

    Waleed Yusef, 38, a Christian fish restaurant owner, said he feared a civil war if the Americans pulled out of Iraq. At the same time, he condemned their recent use of force.

    "My opinion now is the same as that of the people of Falluja," he said. "They don't need the American people."

    Mr. Yusef said he had been handed a leaflet asking storeowners to close their shops on a recent day to show solidarity with Falluja.

    He had not hesitated, he said, even though his business is suffering because people are afraid to go out.

    "I don't think it'll get any better," Mr. Yusef said. "I see the crisis growing."

    Mr. Yusef added that he had been shocked to hear that American soldiers had on Monday shot and killed two Iraqi employees of a television station, Al Iraqiya, which is financed by the American government. The American military has said it is investigating.

    Then there are the piles of garbage on the streets and the dirty water and the sewage, Mr. Yusef said.

    "They should try to carry out their promises," he added.

    The gap between the expectations of many Iraqis and the flagging abilities of the occupiers to improve conditions seems to have widened to a chasm. The occupiers are blamed for everything that goes wrong — British soldiers rushing to the scenes of the suicide bombings in Basra on Wednesday were pelted with stones.

    Many Iraqis say they simply cannot believe that the United States, with all its power and wealth, has not righted the twisted country it took from Mr. Hussein.

    "Now it's a disaster," said Nouri Massoud, 32, a salesman in a sweets shop.

    "When they first came here, the Americans were smiling," he said. "You could go up to them and talk with them. But now you look at them and see that their faces are very grim. They think all of us are enemies."

    Mr. Massoud suggested a solution.

    "The Americans must withdraw and allow the United Nations to come and observe elections

  • #2
    We need to stop APPOINTING their government and let them elect their own.

    Freedom is NOT "OK these are your representatives"

    Freedom IS elections.
    Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.