Nothing much happening here, as near as I can tell, and I’m still under “hotel arrest” — for my own security, of course. People seem to be laying lower, if not low, but TIME has asked me not to go out of my compound unless it’s an emergency. *Sigh* At least this gives me some time to catch up on some writing. I’ve got one, possibly two decent stories coming out in the _New York Daily News_ tomorrow, _inshallah_, and I’ve got a column due for _New York Magazine._ So the work is fine.
Now, some have asked me what do Iraqis think of Allawi and others in the interim government. Some commenters suggested they must hate him because he’s an American client with ties to CIA, MI6 as well as a former Ba’athist. Well, they don’t hate him, that’s for sure. From about dozen interviews over the last couple of weeks, it seems a rough consensus has been reached — at least among Baghdadis:
Iraqis like Allawi
He’s tough, he’s Iraqi and he’s the right man for the job. You could practically hear the cheering when Allawi reacted to Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi’s threat to kill him with a bit of threat of his own:
“Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi doesn’t threaten just me, but the entire country,” he said in an interview with an Italian newspaper. “He is just a criminal who must be captured and tried. … We will pursue him and we will be after him until we have got him.”
In your face, Zarqawi! Of course, such bluster didn’t prevent insurgents from dynamiting the offices of Allawi’s party, the Iraqi National Accord, into rubble yesterday in Baqoubah.
Iraqis want martial law
The U.S. has growled about the government’s very public musings about whether to impose martial law over parts of the country because having an American-installed Arab government use Saddam’s laws to restrict civil liberties — just like most of Iraq’s neighbors do — doesn’t exactly jive with Washington’s goal of making Iraq an example of democracy in the Arab world.
Iraqis couldn’t care less. They just want some peace and quiet.
“The security system must be solved,” said Kais Yahya, 24, a recent graduate from Baghdad University’s medical college. “It was supposed to be democracy, but instead it was chaos. They should have done some non-democratic things.”
This is hard to write, but I’ve come to the conclusion that after a year of horror and insecurity, the average Iraqi doesn’t want freedom. They want a set of laws that they can live with, do business under and raise their kids. If it takes a benign dictator to do that, then they’re more than happy to have one. Remember, the most beloved recent Iraqi leader, Abdul Karim Qassim, was more or less a benign dictator.
And they want the death penalty brought back. It was suspended by Bremer early in the occupation, but Iraqis think it will now act as a deterrent anyone upending social order.
The Americans have to leave — now.
This is kind of a no brainer, and there’s not a lot of nuance. What little movement on this issue came from some Iraqis that I interviewed who said the Americans should just get out of the cities. And when they say “Americans,” they mean all foreign troops. They’re desperately anxious to take control of their own security.
“The American troops should get out of the whole country,” said Nizar Adnan, 24, a new police officer. “We as Iraqis can handle ourselves better than the foreigners.”
Whether the Iraqi Police, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and the newly minted Army actually have the ability or will to do so remains to be seen, but the Iraqis seem to be trying.
When in doubt, blame the Americans
This is the catch-all. Everything is America’s fault. Nothing positive has been done. The occupation is worse than Saddam. At least, that’s what you hear if you listen to Iraqis.
I don’t know where the CPA is getting the happy Iraqis who love Americans — aside from those being paid to work for the CPA or in the government — but the Iraqi street sees the Americans as the reason things have been so bad over the last year. They don’t blame the Americans for setting the bombs — well, most of them don’t, anyway — but they blame them for not securing the borders, not having enough troops and not taking a hard enough line against the violence. At the same time, they blame the Americans for horrible abuses, firing randomly into crowds and in general using too heavy a hand.
The resistance has broad support; the terrorists have almost none
“I disagree with the civilian attacks, but against the Americans, it’s legal and acceptable,” said Dalal Yaseen, 25, a political science student at Baghdad University. “Any occupation force will never leave the country without fighting. They [the Americans] did not come to save the Iraqi people, they came for their own interests.”
In Friday prayers, Sheikh Mehdi al-Sumaidai, the imam of the Ibn Taymiya Mosque in Baghdad said almost the same thing. “It is legal to resist the occupation and their spies and their agents who help them occupy the country,” he said. “But we have seen too many innocents killed who want to serve Iraq.”
It’s unclear who the “agents” and “spies” are that imam al-Sumaidai was speaking of. CIA agents? Translators? Cooks at the palace? But the innocents who want to serve Iraq are pretty obviously the Iraqi security forces.
The Ibn Taymiya Mosque is a hard-line Sunni mosque of the Salafi school of Islam.
As an aside, I’d really like to take more pictures, but alas, walking around with a camera attracts way too much attention. And not the nice kind. Maybe things will get better someday.