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Friday, March 14, 2008 

Two great pieces on Iraq.

As a teenager, Mazin Tahir dreamt that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would bring new freedoms and democracy with the fall of Saddam Hussein.

As a young adult, his hopes have been replaced by despair after five years of unremitting violence.

"It's sad, or funny. The Iraqi dream has turned into a nightmare," said Tahir, who was 15 when the Americans came.

"When I was young I dreamt of getting rid of the dictatorship and replacing it with democracy. Saddam has gone but Iraq is in worse shape. There are killings every day, politicians are like thieves ... it's like a curse from God."

Tahir had his life before him when the invasion started and his heart was full of hope. Now, like many others who grew from teens to adults during the occupation, he just wants to get out.

Fatma Abdul-Mahdi was 17 at the time of the invasion.

"When Saddam was ousted I thought the doors of happiness would be opened, I thought I could stop wearing second-hand clothes and I could be like the girls I was watching on TV," the 22-year-old said.

Fatma now works as a teacher in the southern oil hub of Basra but, like so many of her peers, she says her life is worse and her family is poorer after five years of instability and hardship.

"I still wear second-hand clothes. If I could find a job, even in Sudan or Somalia, I would flee Iraq as soon as possible. I wish I had never been born in Iraq," she said.

Psychiatrists fear that young Iraqis, so badly disillusioned after their teenage hopes and dreams were dashed, might turn to more drastic measures than just seeking to leave.

While Robert Fisk and the Independent come up with some little short of shocking figures on the number of suicide bombers that have killed themselves in Iraq:

But a month-long investigation by The Independent, culling four Arabic-language newspapers, official Iraqi statistics, two Beirut news agencies and Western reports, shows that an incredible 1,121 Muslim suicide bombers have blown themselves up in Iraq. This is a very conservative figure and – given the propensity of the authorities (and of journalists) to report only those suicide bombings that kill dozens of people – the true estimate may be double this number. On several days, six – even nine – suicide bombers have exploded themselves in Iraq in a display of almost Wal-Mart availability. If life in Iraq is cheap, death is cheaper.

This is perhaps the most frightening and ghoulish legacy of George Bush's invasion of Iraq five years ago. Suicide bombers in Iraq have killed at least 13,000 men, women and children – our most conservative estimate gives a total figure of 13,132 – and wounded a minimum of 16,112 people. If we include the dead and wounded in the mass stampede at the Baghdad Tigris river bridge in the summer of 2005 – caused by fear of suicide bombers – the figures rise to 14,132 and 16,612 respectively. Again, it must be emphasised that these statistics are minimums. For 529 of the suicide bombings in Iraq, no figures for wounded are available. Where wounded have been listed in news reports as "several", we have made no addition to the figures. And the number of critically injured who later died remains unknown. Set against a possible death toll of half a million Iraqis since the March 2003 invasion, the suicide bombers' victims may appear insignificant; but the killers' ability to terrorise civilians, militiamen and Western troops and mercenaries is incalculable.

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Here's another one - from a Sunni woman, recently forced into exile in Damascus, who has been blogging throughout the occupation. Her blog is an awful mixture of heart-rending first hand anecdotes and accurate biting cynicism about the motivations of the invasion, its consequences for ordinary Iraqis, and the sheer banality of the Western populations that ostensibly support it. Her views will be dismissed as too extreme by Western arbiters of 'acceptable discourse' on the whole issue, but they are a solid indicator of the hatred that the West - and especially America - have succeeded (with amply justification) in provoking in much of the Arab world's disenfranchised populations. Whenever I lapse into a sort of soporific 'what the hell can I do about it anyway' sort of indifference to US/UK crimes in the Middle East, I read Layla Anwar's Blog. It's akin to taking a cold shower of reality.

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