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[casi] Iraqis Defiant at the Prospect of Yet Another War

Iraqis Defiant at the Prospect of Yet Another War

October 28, 2002 08:23 AM ET

By Samia Nakhoul

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Faced with the prospect of their third war in two
decades, Iraqis show little sign of panic.

Having lived through eight years of war with Iran in the 1980s and the
U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991, many Iraqis believe they have survived the worst the
world can throw at them.

"We have a saying in Iraq: 'Those who are already wet aren't scared of rain'.
What is there to be afraid of?" said Ahmed Falah, an engineer.

On the streets of Baghdad, most people have a fatalistic attitude to the
possibility of an attack by Washington, which wants to oust Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein for his alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

"We believe that what has been written by God for us will happen. Nobody
likes war but if someone comes and invades your country what would you do?
Wouldn't you fight?," said businessman Wahab Ahmad.

Iraqis, once among the most cultured and traveled people in the region, feel
isolated as never before after 12 years of U.N. sanctions that have wrecked their
economy and cut them off from the world.

But despite the privations sanctions have brought, they try to live as normal
lives as possible. Coffee shops are packed with men smoking water pipes and
playing backgammon. Weddings are celebrated in traditional style and some people
are even building new homes. Teenagers hang out in Baghdad's new computer centers,
most of them hooked on computer war games in which the enemy is invariably the
United States.

"This is between us and our enemy," says Ihab Bashar, 14, as he and his
friends play the latest shoot-them-up video game.

"It is like us versus America and Britain."

Fingers clicking on the console, Ihab shoots at helicopters with a
multi-barrel rocket launcher. The helicopters explode with satisfying regularity.
Soldiers parachute out. He turns his fire on the soldiers and the war goes on.


There is little to indicate that Iraqis are ready to greet invading American
soldiers with open arms, as officials in U.S President Bush's administration have

Indeed such talk only seems to rile Iraqis, some of whom scour the Internet
for news of what is being said about their country in the outside world.

"If there is a war we will all be united with Saddam. Bush's policy is
imperialist. He has a grudge against Iraq because it is the only Arab country that
defied America. He wants revenge," said Mohammad Hilal, a graphic designer, at one
of Baghdad's new Internet centers.

Access to the Internet, a new phenomenon in Iraq, has given young Iraqis a
view of the world denied to them by sanctions. Now they can see new books, movies
and the latest technologies.

"Men of my age a generation ago had traveled the world. I haven't been
outside Iraq. I haven't been on a plane. How can I know the world?" said Sarmad
Shaker, a 29-year-old mechanical engineer.

"I missed so much in my life because of war and sanctions."

Now all eyes are on the debate going on at the U.N. Security Council. The
United States, backed by Britain, has introduced a new resolution which Iraqis see
as a license for invasion. They hope objections raised by France and Russia will
be upheld.

"We read the news to see if the world is sympathetic to us or against us.
America has taken its decision to attack, but France and Russia are with us. We
will see in the next few days if the international community will be fair to
Iraq," said Hilal.

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