— 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.
Smoke rises from the Iraqi Trade Ministry in Baghdad after it was hit by a missile during a U.S.-led attacks, March 20, 2003.
Smoke rises moments after the bright light at the right faded during U.S. strikes in downtown Baghdad in this image from television, March 20, 2003.
Then President George W. Bush makes a statement to reporters while Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld look on following a Cabinet meeting, March 20, 2003.
An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003.
U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad, April 9, 2003.
Iraqi men run through a neighborhood with looted items, Baghdad, April 10, 2003.
Iraqis cheer a column of U.S. armored vehicles arriving in Bagdhad, April 10, 2003.
A detained Iraqi man with a plastic bag covering his head sits in garden of a house searched by U.S. soldiers during a night raid in Tikrit, Oct. 30, 2003.
Iraqi policemen guard the burning pipeline near Karbala, Feb. 23, 2004.
British Army troops are covered in flames from a gas bomb thrown during a protest in Basra, March 22, 2004.
Coffins of U.S. military personnel are prepared to be offloaded at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware in this undated photo released in 2004.
A still from Al Iraqiya television shows masked executioners putting a noose around former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's neck moments before his hanging in Baghdad, Dec. 30, 2006.
A man runs down a street warning people to flee shortly after a twin car bomb attack at Shorja market in Baghdad, Feb. 12, 2007.
A U.S. soldier guards an arrested man after a gunfight in central Baqouba, Iraq, March 29, 2007.
Demonstrators wave Iraqi flags during an anti-U.S. protest called by fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, April 9, 2007.
Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn a banner representing the U.S. flag during a protest in Baghdad's Sadr City,July 3, 2009.
U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles drive through Camp Adder before departing Imam Ali Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq, Dec. 16, 2011.