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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, 10:47 GMT
Iraq log: 29 November 2004
What is life like for ordinary Iraqis and others caught up in events? We are publishing a range of accounts here from people inside Iraq about how they, their families and friends live day to day and what the bigger events in the headlines mean to them.

You can bookmark this page and come back to read the latest posts each day over the next two weeks.

Please send us your comments on this log.

THREATS AND INSULTS
Posted by Yasmin Baghdad, 29 November

I'm working as part of a national inoculation programme. My team consists of a driver and a male nurse and me. We've been working in health centres to the south of Baghdad, in places like Latifiya, Mahmoudiya, Yousifiya. We've also been working in an area between Zafaraniya and Ramadi to the south west of Baghdad. This is an area in which former regime figures such Saddam's son Uday and others had their farms.

On arrival at our destination, I felt like elements of the Saddam regime were still present there. While in that region, we suffered insults and threats, especially from the leaders of the main tribes there. They accused us of working for a "lackey regime". They said our drugs were made in Israel and would harm children!

The state of housing was miserable. Even drinking water was not available. I found many children suffering from diseases such as typhoid. These conditions, left untreated, could lead to death. I also came across victims of missiles that have missed their target and saw a number of people disabled by war injuries.

The overall situation was difficult, but we had to return to the same region over a five-day period to complete our work.

One day while inoculating children in a small farmhouse, a man emerged from a house next door and fired a rocket propelled grenade towards Baghdad. The noise was deafening. It was obvious that he could not possibly have known whether his missile would reach its target or not.

I was not able to talk to people freely in the area. Many seemed persuaded by the idea of jihad and by the notion that Saddam will one day come back and that the current interim government will fall. I was worried that we might be killed there and then, without anyone knowing what happened to us.

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SCHOOLS CLOSED
Posted by Sarab al-Delaymi Baghdad, 29 November

My children's schools have been shut since the Eid at the end of Ramadan. My 16-year-old son's school was closed because of threats to teachers daubed on the walls of the school.

The sound of explosions seems to escalate after dark. Some explosions are caused by rocket propelled grenades, others by car bombs being detonated on the al-Dorah express highway, which passes farmland which used to be owned by an uncle of Saddam Hussein. I'm able now to distinguish between various types of explosions, just by the noise. It seems I have become an expert!

I am still waiting for a decision from the ministry of education on my request to return to my old job as a schoolteacher. I submitted my application many months ago.

As to my daily chores, I tend to do the shopping myself but sometimes I send out my son to get a few things. However, I would not risk sending him out for anything after 1900. I worry about him being kidnapped or even killed.

The availability of goods in the shops has improved. Everything is now available, but prices have gone up. A loaf of bread is now 50 Iraqi dinars. The prices of locally manufactured medicine are reasonable even though it costs about 10,000 dinars to get a prescription.

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MORE CHOICE AND MORE CHOOSING
Posted by Dhia Abdulwahab Baghdad, 29 November

I started my current job as a civil servant about seven months ago. I used to work in the private sector and had no predictable or fixed income. Before the fall of Saddam's regime, I didn't work for the state because I did not want to be answerable to some party apparatchik. I was also afraid that I would fall foul of someone with influence in the regime and I or members of my family would suffer.

Now, though I worry every time I get into the official car that I use to get to and from work in central Baghdad. I have to collect a number of colleagues in the centre of Baghdad and take them to work. I drive in the middle of heavy traffic with my eyes darting all over the place, looking and watching.

I want to get to work as soon as possible before an explosion hits us or an attack is launched. The traffic in Baghdad is bad because there are so many more cars on the roads. It is now possible for anyone to buy the car they want, even importing cars from overseas. There is more choice and more people are choosing.


Posted by BBC Host 29 November
We're pleased to have received many comments from readers. Some readers have put direct questions to the contributors. We will forward these and hope to post replies in the coming days.

We have also received comments asking why we don't have a wider range of contributors in terms of ethnicity and regional spread. We hope over the next few days to broaden our spread of contributors to cover a greater sweep of Iraqis - socially and geographically.


DAILY ROUTINE
Posted by Rana Imad Baghdad, 29 November

My daily routine runs like this: I get up at 0730 and go to work every day except Thursday and Friday. My brother drives me in his car and I arrive at work at about 0830. We have lectures on Sunday and Wednesday and I work on my research on ovarian tumours on the other working days.

The incidence of cancer is increasing in our country alarmingly. It is appearing in patients at a younger age and becoming more aggressive. There are many reasons for this: the bombardment and exposure to depleted uranium, psychological trauma, poor immunity due to malnutrition and neglect and ignorance on the part of patients.

People don't seek medical help until the disease has already progressed too far. It kills me to see the torture and pain they suffer and there is not much that can be done.

I get home at 1330. I live with my family in an apartment and it is near to work. I have good relationships with my colleagues. They are all kind and helpful. We all face the same problem due to lack of security, electricity and other facilities concerning our study but we do our best.

All of us in Iraq have a hard time. It is depressing when you live without security. We wake to the sound of explosions and at any time there might be a fighting near your home, or work. I feel sorry for my people as a whole - most of them are too poor even to afford a very low standard of living.

There is so much pressure on all of us. I feel guilty about thinking about leaving Iraq again but sometimes I can't endure the pain. After all these years of hard studying and hoping for a better future, we still suffer under unstable and unpredictable circumstances.

SADDENING NEWS
Posted by Stuart Baghdad, 29 November

The news on Friday was saddening for us all, to hear that four Gurkhas had lost their lives in Thursday lunchtime's rocket attack. This brought home to all of us just how dangerous the International Zone (IZ) is. The Gurkhas always have a smile and greet you with a breezy "hello" as one passes through their checkpoints.

From the point of view of the insurgents, Friday was a quiet day in the IZ. The odd explosion could be heard across the Tigris which sounded like car bombs. A few times our senses were aroused by pairs of F16s streaking overhead. Judging from their flight paths, they were most probably heading for targets in Falluja again.

Saturday was also quiet, though distant explosions could be heard from across the Tigris from time to time. As I walked to the Canteen for breakfast, the sun was just reaching over the horizon with its first rays of warmth. But this moment of tranquillity soon passed - a raging gun battle had erupted across the Tigris which lasted about 10 minutes.

Mid-morning, news started to filter through that the first airport convoy of the day had been hit by a car bomb. Luckily, there were no injuries - though underwear changes would no doubt have been a necessary!

A heavy explosion was heard around 0230 on Sunday, though not by me. Apparently, it was close enough to make our cabins vibrate. So far, I've no idea what it was. Then as I was walking to take breakfast in the Palace, around 0700, a massive car bomb went off just the other side of the Tigris.

Come lunchtime, a few of us are avidly reading the Stars & Stripes, the US military newspaper. It is reported that US forces are now holding some 8,300 people in detention, with a recent increase of "4,000 as a result of assaults on insurgents in Samarra, Falluja, Mosul and north Babil province". I think all of us found these numbers quite surprising and, we guess, encouraging.

I read in the news today about speculation that a lot of British forces may be transferred to Iraq from Northern Ireland. Hopefully, this will happen. When I overhear the US soldiers talking amongst themselves, getting more soldiers to forces into Iraq seems is a real necessity

KNOWING THE IRAQIS
Posted by Lieutenant Bryan Suits Baghdad, 29 November

My official role in the battalion is as a Company Fire Support Officer. That is, I am the artillery and air support specialist responsible for co-ordination, delivery and direction of artillery fire and air support.

This said, let me explain how things really work: we are not shooting artillery. We are, however, in a low level conflict where information can have very real, rapid and lethal results. Whether it's a street rumour or some news on a 24-hour Arabic language station, someone needs to detect and assess the flow of information. This is broadly called Information Operations. It includes many other aspects, but for me it boils down to one question: What do the Iraqis know?

What TV channels do Iraqis trust? Why are some gas station lines shorter than others? Would a Shia vote for a Sunni? Finding answers to such questions is my job. Today I went to a five-village government council meeting. After that I hung out and conversed for a few hours with those attending.

I'm also responsible for a publication called How to Talk to Iraqis. My translators and I watch TV and read daily newspapers, and listen to talk radio every day.

And that leads me off on a brief tangent. I am a talk show host. And I don't mean metaphorically. I host the aptly named Bryan Suits Show in Seattle, Washington on a radio station called KVI. I'd like to think my employer misses me horribly, but the cachet of having the country's only radio host who actually wears the uniform is undeniable.

I have been in Iraq for nine months and I judge my personal success rate as mixed. Some things have gone well by design, some have failed because of the design, and some have succeeded only because of extraordinary coincidence.

As Iraq's national election looms, I can say without hubris that I am literally in the right place for the right job. I've been mortared, ambushed, car bombed and rocketed. I don't take it personally. All it takes is one Iraqi adult to thank me and my men and it makes our day. Luckily this happens a lot.

SHOPPING AND A HAIRCUT
Posted by Rana Imad Baghdad, 26 November

I went recently to the market at al-Kadhimia. It's well-known in our country as the site of a sacred shrine. People come for shopping and for worship, and in spite of the general situation here in Baghdad it was very crowded.

I went with my mother and brother as it's not safe to go out alone. All the time we were out of the house we were frightened. Attacks can strike at any time.

I had to buy some winter clothes. Normally we would shop for clothes to celebrate the Eid at the end of Ramadan - it's a kind of tradition. We also used to visit our relatives and exchange gifts. But this year, because of the street battles between the US and Iraqi fighters, we had to stay at home all the time.

After shopping I went to the hairdresser - it has been more than two months since I'd had a haircut.

We saw American troops on the way. I'm always afraid when I see them and try to avoid them. It feels like clashes could break out at any time with insurgents. As a bystander the danger is that you get caught up in fighting or a bombing. Many innocents have died this way.

Since Saddam was deposed we've had satellite TV, mobile phones, the internet in our homes and our salaries have increased four fold. This is all true. But we have lost all security and I believe this undermines all the improvements.

While I was at the hairdressers, people were talking about the elections. In general people seem to doubt they will succeed or bring about much of an improvement for Iraqis. It is now a year and a half since the invasion and we have been promised so much that has not materialised.

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HOSPITAL BOMBED
Posted by Samir Ali Baghdad, 26 November

It has been a hard few weeks for me in Baghdad. First a car exploded near the hospital earlier this month and many of my colleagues were wounded, although fortunately none were killed.

Immediately after that, there were three days of almost continuous fighting in the city streets between the US Army and the insurgents. I believe 18 people were killed, two were my friends. Another friend of mine, also a doctor, was hit in the chest by a bullet and only just survived. All through the Eid at the end of Ramadan, people were forced to stay indoors and could only wish each other a happy feast by phone.

For the last week I've not been working at my usual hospital - because of the bombing. The work at the new hospital is harder and the doctors' accommodation is terrible. There is no nearby internet service and it's harder to check my emails. How am I supposed to keep in touch with my friends? It's so nice when you can speak to someone, even if it is only in an email. I spoke to my mother recently, trying to tell her I should leave Iraq for Jordan, but she won't listen and just screams and cries, and now the phones are down and I cannot reach her.

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JOURNEY TO BAGHDAD
Posted by Stuart Baghdad, 26 November

My second 20-day stretch of holiday is over and as I sit on the plane heading for Kuwait I'm psyching myself up for that unnerving ride between Baghdad Airport and Baghdad's International or Green Zone. It's apparently the most dangerous bit of road in Iraq.

Fresh in my mind was an attack on a convoy to the airport the day before I left Baghdad. An insurgent dropped a load of nails and grenades off a bridge onto the bus convoy heading to the airport. It didn't stop the convoy and the Texan driver kept his bus moving even though the tires were shot. I had the same driver for my uneventful outward trip, and he seemed totally unfazed.

To get back to Baghdad I fly from Kuwait to Mosul in the north, and from Mosul to Baghdad. The flight and landing in Mosul were perfectly smooth. After takeoff from Mosul we stayed at treetop level for ages - evidently to build up speed - then the Hercules went straight up. It felt like my cheeks were round under my chin and my stomach was somewhere near my feet. I had never experienced G-forces like it.

We arrived at Baghdad Airport in the early evening but it was way too late for transport to city, as this is restricted to daylight hours. I spent an uncomfortable night in the military terminal transit "lounge" - a big tent.

I found an empty camp bed, but sleep was virtually impossible - troops moving in and out all night by helicopter and Hercules planes. Fighter planes also seemed to be on the go all through the night, this time on sorties to Mosul, I believe.

Between 0600 and 0700 there were two very loud explosions not too far off. It sounded like car bombs. Then during the next three hours more explosions in the distance, but I have no idea what. At 1030 there were more explosions in the Baghdad direction, then 15 minutes later the convoy appeared - armoured buses, Humvees and cars.

We boarded the buses, but weren't going anywhere. The 1030 explosions were a car bomb and four mortar rounds close to the airport checkpoint, but luckily the convoy had just passed through. We were held for an hour until the military decided it was "safe" to proceed, but when we reached the airport checkpoint, we were halted again for 20 minutes before moving off.

I'm sat in the lead armoured bus and everyone on the bus is pensive and silent. The radio crackles into life: "Watch for white car ahead, think it's the same one we saw coming out." The rifleman sitting on top of the Humvee waves the car to the side and another army vehicle blocks the car until the convoy passes.

We are now approaching the first of the bridges, always a concern. We're all watching for any vehicle overhead that looks like it may be stopping, but no, all traffic keeps moving. As soon as the lead Humvee has passed under a bridge, the rifleman is facing us and scanning the bridge with rifle, panning from side to side. But there are no problems on this trip - through a checkpoint and everyone sighs with relief.

As for me, I said a prayer before venturing out onto the road and, now that I have been "delivered" safely into the zone I utter another prayer of thanks. Not that I am particularly religious, but I do find some solace in prayer at times when I feel in danger. You're not exactly safe in the International Zone, but you're much safer than outside on Baghdad's streets.

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These are some of the comments we have received so far on this log:

I admire Yasmin for her efforts and bravery. I enjoyed reading her entry in the journal. I myself long to assist in humanitarian medical efforts abroad but I disagree with many of the political views of these needy countries and would fear for my safety and that of my team. But, nonetheless, it is good to know that some aid is getting through.
Tess, New York City, New York, USA

These are reflections of a highly selected sample of people living in Iraq. It includes only persons who read and write English and have an access to the internet. It would be extremely unwise to make any conclusions out of them. Nonetheless, very interesting to read.
M Elamin, Gillingham,UK

I feel sorry for Iraqi people. We had a similar situation a few years ago. Now, after the collapse of Taleban, everybody is optimistic about the future. Now we have an elected president, a well trained army and police - though yet to be completed in size and quality. Maybe the big difference between Iraq and Afghanistan is that the US forces are not viewed as occupiers.
Mohammad A Quraishi, Kabul, Afghanistan

I wish every Iraqi could have the chance to share their own story and how this war has affected their lives and that the American media would actually present it - unedited.
Teal Dunbar, London, Ontario Canada

I cannot imagine what sort of horror and torture Iraqis have to go through daily. I feel that their voices and suffering must be made known to the world before any policies are implemented by some politicians who are not living in that country. I salute those brave Iraqis. Please continue to air their stories, BBC!
Joyce, Malaysia

There are many Iraqis posting on the net and anyone who wants to can find blogs and such to get a taste for what it's like for civilians. I fault the BBC for concentrating only on Baghdad; opinions are more diversely expressed if polled from a wider geographic area. I find the responses to the Iraqis the most interesting. It seems that whether supportive of the war or not, everyone sees what they want in the Iraqi postings. It's amazing how genuine reports from Iraq do nothing to change those of us with strong views.
Paul Marek, Saskatoon Canada

I sincerely hope that Sarab al-Delaymi will be able to work as a school teacher again very soon and in secure surroundings. Meanwhile, how about setting up a temporary school for the children whose school has been closed? It is not an ideal situation, but better than nothing. Education is very important and these young ones deserve every bit of a chance of a bright future.
Esther Angel, London, UK

I will be going to Iraq shortly (for the election) and the first-hand accounts regarding security (or lack thereof) in the International or Green Zone and the airport are very helpful. I believe democratisation is the one step needed to begin the process of securing Iraq. The people need to believe their government is legitimate and elections will provide this legitimacy. While I do fear for my own safety, as one who was in favour of this war (although not how it has been executed), I feel obliged to put my money where my mouth is. That is why I will go to Iraq next month, regardless of potential hazards.
Chris, Alexandria, Virginia, USA

This is excellent and much needed to give the rest of the world a better sense of what really happens in Iraq. Thanks for doing this and keep it coming.
Daniel Richards, Mimbres, New Mexico, USA

I was always curious to what life was like for the Iraqi citizens. I must say that from those stories I have read, you Iraqis are truly brave individuals. I am a New Yorker who lived through 9/11, and I cannot possibly imagine what life would be like in such conditions and dealing with such everyday threats. I try to picture what it would be like if I had to travel like that from Kennedy Airport to Times Square in an armoured bus or to be forced stay home during the holidays and not see my family. I know that imagining what life would be like does not even come close to what life is actually like. I honour the bravery of Iraqis and I pray for a peaceful and stable future.
Bill Savio, Staten Island, New York, USA

What I would love to know is what most ordinary Iraqi's think about the "insurgents" and what they think should be done to save Iraq and the region from this deepening quagmire? Is there any league of Arab or Muslim nations that could secure Iraq when the huge resources of the US cannot? Is there anyone out there who has any alternative plan at all?
Ciaran Mundy, Bristol, UK

I have been in working in Iraq since January, moving between Baghdad and my office at the airport. The security is situation is getting worse daily. The coalition troops are well known for shooting carelessly if they are nervous. On the way to the airport, my car has been shot at by US soldiers for no reason and even though they put tanks and more patrols on the airport road, car bombs are daily events. Yes there is a big threat by terrorist but there is more threat for us who work close to military camps from friendly fire and from the continuous mortars fired by the "resistance".
Wawa Ambewe, Baghdad, Iraq

It's great that the British are allowing people to read the real thing... it will help each other to know about Iraq, and everyday occurrences that take place. I pray for these Iraqi people, and that peace will prevail in their beautiful country.
Margaret Griffin, Vancouver Canada

Thank you for doing this. Not a day goes by without our wondering how the average Iraqi is coping. In war, there are always profiteers, and I would like to hear the views of those Iraqis as well. Are the very wealthy affected? And what about people in the International or Green Zone, do they feel truly safe? Finally, only we Americans will call people fighting in their own country insurgents and terrorists. Maybe that is what the Brits called us during the US Revolution.
W. Lawrence, Bayonne, New Jersey

I wonder how representative these postings are. I should imagine that only a small section of the Iraqi population have access to the internet - ie the wealthy and highly skilled. Perhaps the rank and file have a far more negative view/experience of the situation in Iraq. It's obvious that a significant minority are unhappy about the American presence.
Graham, Notts, England

It would be nice if there was some balance in the reporting from Iraq. Why do we never hear from a Kurd or Marsh Arab about what it is like to live without fear?
Tony, London, UK

Hello Rana Imad. You said "it is now a year and a half since the invasion and we have been promised so much that has not materialised". Is it possible that the reason for this is because of the continuing insurgency, the deliberate destruction of the oil pipelines, the dangers involved in all the attempts to re-establish all vital services to the people of Iraq, including security? What do the insurgents hope to achieve? Are they not aware that their resistance will eventually be broken? Why don't they work towards rebuilding Iraq instead of adding to its destruction and suffering of its people?
Abe, Colchester, UK

I am an Anglo-Iraqi. I was born in the UK but lived most of my life moving between London and Baghdad, not to mention living through the first Iraq-Iran war and the Second Gulf War in Iraq. I know how hard it is to lead a normal life in the midst of all the chaos and insecurity. But, as Iraqis, life has taught us to look further to the future and hope that it would be a better one! That's what keeps us going!
Maya al-Jubori, London, UK

Aside from all the other unfortunate occurrences in Iraq, I find those who wish to flee their country rather than stay most unfortunate. It is a little more understandable than those here in America that whined and cried, saw their shrinks and checked in their citizenship and bought tickets for Canada after our past election. I believe in this fight, I have since the first Gulf war. So much so in fact that even though I am making great money, have two small children and am 31, I will be joining the Army Reserves or Guard in the hope that I will be able to help in the effort to make the Iraqi people strong. The only problem is that if the zealots and fans of tyrannical government have more fight in them than the Iraqi people it is all for nothing.
Shante', Chesapeake Virginia

I travelled in the Kurdish north of Iraq, my home, this summer and it's a completely different story over there. You wouldn't even believe it was Iraq. The rest of Iraq could be like that if the insurgents left for good.
AgirÓ, London, UK

This is the reality. I have been 6 times to Baghdad as a freelance TV reporter since April 2003. Security is gone. There are too few US troops to bring security back. Are all those who are fighting terrorists? On which side are the population? If the so called insurgents have no support within the population, they could not get very far. So I think that they should also be called "resistance". We know from the time of the Nazis in France that the French resistance only worked by support of the population.
Gerhard Tuschla, Vienna, Austria

Many of your readers tell the Iraqis to be patient while they deal with the lack of basic necessities. I would say that is very big of them. If this war had been planned with more foresight, then many Iraqis would not have to now suffer while we are stuffing liberty and democracy down their throats. I hope we as a country will remember to go beyond our self-righteous ideas of justice and freedom, and remember the loss of non-American lives as well when we start another war.
Kathleen, Prague, Czech Republic

A bystander's fear of getting caught up in fighting or a bombing, a female wishing to be beautiful, to go to hairdresser's and t buy some new clothes, regret over the impossibility of exchanging gifts at Eid at the end of Ramadan... It's like a stream-of-consciousness story.
Ranka Mitrovic, Podgorica, Montenegro

According to your commentary you have gained much in terms of salary and amenities in Iraq but that you're not sure you are better off. I would hope that Iraqis understand that it is not the Americans or British who are killing people or who are causing the problem with violence... it is the insurgents who don't want to set Iraq on a path of self-governance and freedom. If these terrorists would go away, I'm sure Iraq would be a much better place than under Saddam. The change you are undergoing will take time. Be patient. Freedom comes at a cost. The alternative, which is tyranny, you already know.
Philip, Columbus, Ohio, USA

I never realised just how terrifying a journey from an airport to the centre of a city could be! How many people make this journey? It makes you wonder, if people are unsafe in such huge convoys how can ordinary Iraqis cope?
Angela Richards, Brooklyn, NY, USA

Well done the BBC. Keep it up. The world needs to hear from real people in Iraq, not just the spin we get fed daily by those with vested interests.
John Farmer, Henley-on-Thames, UK

I left Baghdad two weeks ago after a stay that started in April 2003. I experienced all the changes the city went through in this period, and my evaluation of the situation at the moment is simply that it is very bad. There is no security whatsoever and the terrorists control Baghdad and its people. The government, police and American troops have no control or presence on the streets. I used to live near the airport and had to use that dangerous road a few times a day. It is a few kilometres long and is the only main route that the American troops used to go in and out of Baghdad. They are hit almost everyday by roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenades and suicide car bombs. I wonder how can an army stand helpless in securing a four kilometre stretch of road they use daily? If we want to restore the Iraqi people's confidence we have to let them know there is a government keen on security that they can rely on... a government who can catch and punish those who kidnap, kill, or destroy. I haven't seen anything to convince me of this so far.
Abbas Hassan, former Baghdad resident

It is good to know about the common man's life in Baghdad and other places in these times of conflict. They have to bear with a lot of inconveniences. It is very difficult to get rid of the vestiges of regimes who wielded enormous power by dictatorship. When the people of Iraq want to be truly democratic in their governance, they will succeed. It will surely take a long time, but patience and love of democratic values will do it.
M Lrishna, Mumbai, India

Thank you - I believe a personal account to this horrible, horrible, oil war is necessary. All too often in the United States we get tied up in what the media - our media - feeds to us. Tales of bombing here, X number of soldiers died, X number of Iraqis killed, this place was invaded today, that place was invaded. Half of this I'm sure isn't true. These people are human beings and their stories need to be told. Both sides of this war will be forever changed, putting a face to the "names" and a story to the headlines is very important in my opinion.
Amanda Lockhart, College Station, Texas, USA

Westerners cannot understand how Iraq has become the way it is now. An analogy I use would be to have them imagine that all the police have taken their annual holidays at the same time, the military have all gone home leaving arsenals unguarded and all the jails in the country have released their inmates while the staff have a break. Only then can you begin to imagine what is going to happen when the worst of men are running amok in a country. My fervent hope is that a few good men take up the challenge of leading the peoples of Iraq into a bright new future and do so soon.
Pete Moore, Blackburn, UK

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