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Iraqis Debate Impact of War

  • Scott Bobb

It has been 10 years since the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in central Baghdad, an act that came to symbolize the end of his regime and a new beginning for Iraqis. Only a single boot remains of the statue of Saddam Hussein today in Baghdad's Paradise Square.

For many, the day Iraqis -- aided by U.S. troops -- toppled the statue marked the the end of a brutal dictatorship and the beginning of a new hope. Today the square is bedecked with campaign posters for this month's local elections, the fifth in Iraq since multiparty democracy was installed.

In central Baghdad, the main streets seem cleaner and in better repair than during the years after the war. New cars clog the intersections at rush hour. Traffic jams can last for hours. But most Iraqis say democracy has not improved their lives. Unemployed construction worker Mahdi al-Moussawi survives on occasional day-work.

"In general the security situation has improved a little bit, but there still are security problems," said Mahdi al-moussawi, unemployed construction worker.

The bombings have diminished from the height of the sectarian conflict several years ago. But the largely-sectarian violence continues to kill and maim hundreds of people every month.

In Baghdad's central market, shoppers complain that prices are much higher than before the war, when fuel and basic goods were heavily subsidized. Mother-of-five Intissar Fadl said "It's tragic. Tragic. Some people don't have enough money for one kilo of food. We have something to eat. Others don't. We just live day by day."

Iraq's petroleum industry has largely recovered. But many Iraqis say its wealth goes primarily to an elite few. Corruption is rampant. Public services are poor.

Yet Iraqis try, when possible, to live normal lives. They take their families to Zawra Park for picnics and boating. Sara Gae'ib is the editor of a local newspaper, Al-Gad Al-Mashriq.

"When we are in the park we feel Iraq is peaceful and we are in a good place. But when we go out of the park everything is different," said Sara Gae'ib, newspaper editor.

The amusement park, long a respite for Iraqis, has been rebuilt. From its Ferris Wheel, people can see the fortified Green Zone, forbidden to all but the few who live or work there.

Some say life is improving; it will just take more time. Others say it is becoming more and more like before. Regardless, no one commemorates the war that -- depending on one's opinion -- changed so much, or so little.

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