by Peggy Gish
“From bad to worse,” is a common phrase Iraqis use when describing what is
happening in Iraq. Working here, outside the isolated Green Zone or
military bases, we get a different picture from the optimistic depictions
released by the U.S. government. I mostly hear from Iraqis that the presence
of American military has lowered their quality of life, and set back their
progress in building a peaceful and democratic society.
Even from those who say it is necessary for the US military to remain longer
in Iraq to prevent greater factional fighting or civil war, we hear despair.
They speak of the snail-pace progress in repairing infrastructure, the
growing humanitarian crisis, the depressed economic system, and the lack of
Some brief examples:
1) Of the three million residents of Sadr City, a poor area of Baghdad, 72%
have hepatitis A or E, because of polluted water. In Sadr City we saw
trenches dug along the main streets for sewer system repair. According to
leaders of Sadr City, this project does not include replacing the cracked
and inadequate pipes along the side streets that connect to the people’s
2) Although more manufactured goods are available in the markets of Iraqi’s
cities, poverty is severe, with an estimated 40% unemployment, and
increasing malnutrition. Cheaper foreign goods flooding the market and the
take over of Iraqi businesses and oil production by U.S. companies, continue
to erode the economy.
3) Families in Fallujah are slowly starting to rebuild with little help
from the US or Iraqi governments. Since the Nov. 2004 attacks, U.S. forces
still wage active warfare in many other cities and villages. U.S. and Iraqi
forces currently [Gish wrote this release on August 14] surround the city of
Tellafar, west of Mosul and have used heavy bombs in attacks on the city of
5) Iraqi people live in daily fear of explosions and kidnappings by the
violent resistance groups as well as violent house raids, indiscriminate
roundups, abusive interrogations and imprisonment by U.S. and Iraqi forces.
6) They are also worried about corruption in the new Iraqi government and
the brutal violence of the newer Iraqi special police commandos, trained by
the US and operating under the Ministry of Interior. Some call this “state
terrorism.” Iraqis tell us about family members being abducted from their
homes, tortured and sometimes found dead by a roadside. Prisoners’ families
report paying thousands of dollars to prevent the prisoners from being
tortured or forced to give confessions on TV of crimes they did not commit.
Meanwhile, most Iraqis are trying to go on with life as normal as possible,
caring for their families. Countless Iraqis try to keep hope alive by
working with organizations that foster unity, human rights and local
democratic activity. They worry, however, that all the sacrifices and
hardships they have endured will not lead them to a freer and safer life.
25 August 2005