BAGHDAD, IRAQ —
It's been 10 years [March 20, 2003] since U.S.-led forces launched an offensive that toppled the government of Iraq's then-President Saddam Hussein. Although some Iraqis say life since then has improved somewhat, many are angry at the legacy left by the war.
It's early morning in central Baghdad's Bataween district. Out-of-work laborers huddle on the street hoping to pick up a day's wages.
Abed Khaled is a house painter. He's been coming here for 10 years. He said he works a few days a month. It earns him about $35 a day.
“Everybody is suffering. There are no jobs. When an employer comes by everyone rushes him, competing to get hired. The income is very little. It's bad and every day seems to get worse,” said Khaled.
Baghdad's streets are choked with vehicles as workers head to their jobs. Tight security slows traffic even more. Most residents say life is hard. Only a few seem to have benefited from the conflict that took more than 100,000 lives, and continues to do so today in reduced numbers.
In a central market a few kilometers away, Najila Ali Saba shops for her nine children and 21 grandchildren. She said bombs are a major worry.
“Life is difficult because of the security situation, the terrorists. Most of the terrorists are not Iraqis. They are coming from foreign countries,” said Saba.
Ten years ago, U.S.-led forces launched the air strikes and subsequent ground invasion that brought an end to the regime of President Saddam Hussein. But most Iraqis say the system that replaced him has not fulfilled their hopes for freedom or democracy.
They are especially angry at their politicians. They accuse them of widespread corruption and of stoking ethnic and sectarian tensions to further their careers.
Hadi Jallo Mare, who leads Baghdad's Center for Political Analysis, said, “There are deep divisions among the Iraqis. Some Kurds and Shiites reject Saddam Hussein. But some Sunnis would prefer him because they believe the current political situation deprives them of their rights.”
In the well-to-do Mansour district, people come out in the evening to shop. Osama Rasheed said business at his clothing store is good some days. But it drops off after a bombing because people are afraid to leave home.
"Security is better than two, three or four years ago, but we hope it will improve even more,” said Rasheed.
Some residents of this still vibrant city despair of ever seeing a return to normal life. Others remain hopeful. Many say they are living day-to-day.