BAQUBA - Broken promises have brought a dramatic increase in anti-US sentiment
across the capital city of Iraq's Diyala province.
Many people in Baquba, capital of Diyala 40 km northeast of Baghdad, had supported
US forces when they ousted former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But failed
reconstruction projects and muddled policies mean the US has lost that support.
"The Americans based their strategy in Iraq on certain Shi'ites here who
have direct enmity with Sunnis and allegiance to Iran," resident Ayub Ibrahim
told IPS. "This was the source of the gap between certain Shi'ites which
the US backs, and certain Sunnis they back."
The US has also alienated people through its policy of extensive detentions.
Many believe that raids that lead to arrests are based on motivated information
given to the US military by Shi'ite militiamen who have infiltrated the Iraqi
army and police.
"We never witnessed an attempt to arrest Shi'ite people either by the
US army or the Iraqi police and army," resident Abdul Sattar al-Badri told
IPS. Most people see no reasonable basis for many of the arrests.
In November the International Committee of the Red Cross said that around 60,000
people are currently detained in Iraq.
"The Americans occupied our country and put our men in prisons,"
Dhafir al-Rubaiee, an officer from Iraq's previous army told IPS. "The
majority of these prisoners have been arrested for nothing other than for being
Sunni. Every one of these prisoners has a family, and these families now have
reason to hate Americans."
Others blame the lack of security and the destroyed infrastructure for the
increasing anti-US sentiment.
"The lack of security is a direct result of the occupation," resident
Abu Ali told IPS. "The Americans crossed thousands of miles to destroy
our home and kill our men. They are the reason for all our disasters."
Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity added, "We lived
in need during the period of the Saddam government, but we were safe. We were
compelled to work sometimes 20 hours a day to earn our living, but we were happy
to see our children and relatives together." US forces, he said, have
ended all that.
Abu Tariq believes the US military intentionally destroyed Iraq's infrastructure.
"The Americans destroyed the electricity, water pumping stations, factories,
bridges, highways, hospitals, schools, buildings, and opened the borders for
strangers and terrorists to get easily into the country," he said.
The large number of Iraqis killed by US forces has also hardly endeared the
forces to the people.
"When targeted by a roadside bomb or suicide bomber, US soldiers shoot
at people randomly. Innocent civilians have been killed or injured," Yaser
Abdul-Rahman, a 45-year-old schoolmaster told IPS. "Thousands of people
have been killed like this."
The anti-US sentiment in Baquba is now so high that people no longer hide their
distrust of the US.
"At the beginning of the occupation, the people of Iraq did not realize
the US strategy in the area," Abu Taiseer, a member of the communist party
in the city told IPS. "Their strategy is based on destruction and massacre.
They do anything to have their agenda fulfilled.
"Now, Iraqis know that behind the US smile is hatred and violence,"
Taiseer added. "They call others violent and terrorists, but what they
are doing in Iraq and in other countries is the origin and essence of terror.
America is the biggest producer of terror, and they spend huge funds for creating
and training death squads all over the world."
Despite the differing US ways of dealing with Shi'ites and Sunnis, the two
sects seem one in their hatred of the US.
"Look at our country, it will need 30 years to get back again," Edan
Barham told IPS. "This has nothing to do with sects; all of us are Iraqis,
and we should think of Iraq in a better way than sectarian lines."
"People of Iraq of all sects now realize that it is the occupation represented
by the Americans that has damaged the country," resident Khalil Ibrahim
Political analyst Azhar al-Teengane says the only Iraqis who support the occupation
are those benefiting directly from it.
"The occupation is good for politicians who have made money, militiamen,
contractors and opportunists," Teengane said. "These form not more
than 5 percent of Iraqi people."
Self-rule could help lower anti-US sentiment, said resident Jalal al-Taee.
"In order to improve the situation, the US army should let the people
of this city run it."
(Inter Press Service)