The latest log entries in our series about everyday life in Iraq look at child health after the US assault on Falluja, contrasting views about the insurgency and the piles of rubbish on Baghdad's streets.
You can bookmark this page and come back to read the latest posts each day. Earlier entries can be found by clicking on the dated links on the right hand side.
Posted by Sarab al-Delaymi Baghdad, 9 December
I usually shop at the large market at Doura because the prices in our own neighbourhood are beyond our means. It is risky to use my husband's government car, so we use taxis.
I shop for enough supplies to keep us going for up to two weeks; things like chickpeas, lentils, tomato paste, canned food, and fruit and vegetables that have a long shelf life.
In the market, you can see caution in eyes that have long lost their lustre. People treat each other with great apprehension and a lack of respect. I, and no doubt others, wonder which one amongst the crowd at the market is concealing a weapon under his clothes.
Shoppers go about their businesses hurriedly fearing an outbreak of gunfire, or worse, a car bomb. Sometimes I am too tired to scrutinise people, while at other times I look carefully at their bags searching for anything suspicious. We can put up with anything except the bad security situation.
Posted by Dhia Abdulwahab Baghdad, 9 December
It is good to see that a lot of products and goods are now available on the stalls of the Assyrian Market, but I am repelled by the heaps of rubbish in the streets surrounding the market. People discard their rubbish everywhere, including their own front doors. The capital's municipality is not doing its best, much like the Baghdadis themselves who seem to have become more sloppy.
In some cases, people show complete lack of interest in crimes committed before their very eyes. Their justification is always "it's none of my businesses". I am afraid Baghdadis have lost the chivalry they were long renowned for.
I feel ashamed when television cameras come to film these areas for programmes that will make viewers think that Iraq is an unclean, backward country. We were not like this before; it is the Saddam regime that destroyed our spirit and has brought us this low.
BOOTS FOR SUITS
Posted by Lieutenant Bryan Suits Baghdad, 9 December
Iraqis respect the fact that many, if not most, National Guard soldiers are losing money while we're here. My top sergeant is a concrete contractor and grosses $250,000 a year. He employs four other men. They had to find new jobs because he's gone for a year and a half.
For the regular army, the combat pay and tax-free status means a substantial pay rise. For the citizen-soldier, it can be a substantial financial burden. How do you lead such men? Empty slogans and textbook answers don't do it. Officer Candidate School doesn't teach it either. As my men and I have ably demonstrated, anybody can get ambushed by an improvised explosive device or mortared. But it requires a special kind of man to go back out the next day without prompting or complaint.
There are official channels and then there are ways of getting things done. When the temperature began dropping two months ago, I was a bit shocked by the number of children without proper footwear. I asked the official channels if we could make a "local purchase" for giveaway boots and the answer was "I'll ask about that."
So I called my radio station in Seattle and told them that if I could have rubber boots to give away while on patrol, it would do everybody good. Next thing I know, the radio station has named it "Boots for Suits" and within a few weeks my hallway was filled with large and small boxes of boots and socks. I used my personal mailing address because I don't trust middlemen. My popularity in my building is waning as the boxes accumulate.
I once had an unnamed Arabic language TV crew video me and my translator talking about upcoming elections with a bunch of Iraqi construction workers. The reporter ( a Bahraini) asked me a meandering question about the election, ending with, "Won't it result in a puppet regime?"
I answered, "It will result in votes that will be counted publicly. The Iraqi with the most votes will have a seat in the transition government... Can I ask you something?"
"Of course," he said.
"You're from Bahrain? When was the last time you publicly criticised the king, or voted?"
He said I was using a "trick of words" and ended the interview. (As always, I was rolling my own video.)
One of the workers then said, "If I lose my job I will fight you!"
I gave him a bottle of water and said, "Then let's make sure you stay busy!"
It's taken a few months, but I know harmless rhetoric when I hear it.
Posted by Yasmin Baghdad, 8 December
Over the last three weeks, I noticed an increase in the number of patients in the infants' care unit. Most of the cases admitted to the unit tend to suffer from diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition. I was told that the reason behind this was the influx of refugees from Falluja to the triangle of Yusufiyah, Mahmudiyah and Latifiya.
They fled their houses, left their belongings and ran for their lives. I am appalled by the state of the children in the unit. Their vaccination records went missing after the destruction of the medical centres in Falluja. Many of them are in desperate need of specialist medical care.
In Yusufiya's primary care unit, many mothers were in a state of shock because of their recent experiences. In a single day, I supervised three abortions carried out on pregnant women. There are only two doctors, including myself, left in that centre. It is hard to look after the tens of families who are in desperate need for assistance. I wish humanitarian aid organisations could intervene, but the question is: How?
These are some of the comments we have received so far on this log.
Some refer to the previous logs:
The situation is improving but slowly. People here in Diyala have become hostage to the terrorists. Terror and the Baathists have been allowed to flourish because of the absence of strong government and the weakness of the security forces.
Mouhanid Majid, Diyala, Iraq
My son who is seven came back from his first Thursday at school. Thursdays are when schools have Iraqi flag ceremonies, including the singing of the national anthem. He told us that he cried when the flag was raised and the national anthem was sung. I challenge any Iraqi to tell me that such a reaction would have occurred in the days of Saddam. Our love for our country is returning and if you do not believe me check with those who produce flags in Iraq and ask them by how much their output has increased. You can also look at the number of cars in Iraq that now display the Iraqi flag.
Maythem Husseini, Baghdad
To those Iraqis who have a problem with the presence of American forces in the country: do you have a better alternative? Are you going to continue sitting at home, moaning, groaning, and blaming others? Sarab, Yasmin and Dhia whose blogs we have been reading are doing something real every day. We must work hard in spite of what is happening. We must stand shoulder to shoulder and fight those who kill our fellow citizens or threaten them. Stop blaming America or anyone else. When are you going to open your eyes and learn from the experiences of others?
The occupation and those who work with it are behind the bad security and economic situation. This is the consensus amongst all Iraqis and fair-minded people around the world. I don't believe that any sensible Iraqi will take part in the forthcoming elections and give his or her vote to those Iraqis who have only recently arrived here from overseas. Khaled al-Zubaidi, Baghdad
In 1943-1944 I was stationed in Baghdad in the UK forces and was able to help, with the British Council and local doctors, to put on an exhibition and radio broadcast about infant mortality, poverty and deprivation in what was then a developing country with great hopes for the future. It seemed that so much could be achieved. Are those hopes still strong 60 years later?
Tony Walton, Kent UK
Explanations and justifications for the current situation do not ease the degenerated life of most Iraqis. The reality of everyday life in Iraq is so much worse than during Saddam's regime that it raises the question as to whether it would have been better to suffer the lesser evil of the past than to endure the current and foreseeable tortures of a fragmented Iraq. Although the previous regime was not acceptable, we are now left to wonder whether the imposition of democracy does afford freedom, human rights, economic stability and the hope of national dignity.
Ghazi Attia, Bath, UK
I can't appreciate why some Iraqis will team up with foreign fighters who claim to be working for the liberation of Iraq from the Americans. Nobody can deny the fact that the American are in Iraq partly because of their interests. But if the Iraqis and their Arab neighbours really analysed things well, they would come to appreciate that America's interest is also the interest of the common Iraqi.
Dominic Annnor Mintah, Kumasi, Ghana
Please continue this very interesting and informative daily log. As cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, many of us here would like to learn as much about Iraq as possible because we will probably spend time there once we graduate. Many cadets have added this log to their daily reading and want to continue to learn as much about Iraq and the Middle East as possible. Thank you for this.
Jake Brady, West Point, NY, US
Lieutenant Suits - why are you so bewildered that Iraqis starved while Saddam built palaces? As if it is not enough for Americans to install Saddam, fund his war against Iran, give him weapons to kill his people and his neighbours, impose crushing sanctions on Iraqis, help Saddam destroy the Shia uprising against him in 1991 - as if all that is not enough, you ask why they didn't resist?
Hawra Karama, New York, USA
I would just like to send a word of praise to a true Iraqi and fellow resident of Basra, Haider al-Mousawi, who posted an incredible message earlier. He was right on the money with his comments. I cannot understand for the life of me why these so-called insurgents and their Iraqi collaborators are taking up arms now, but never bothered to do so in the 35 years Saddam and the Baath were in power. Why is their "courage and bravery" showing now and not in years past? What courage is there in blowing up a school, hospital, police station or oil pipelines? How come they were not man enough to stand up to Saddam and the Baath, but are willing to openly do it to the US and UK forces? These people are "either Saddam followers or people who never uttered a single word of objection during the rule of Saddam" - and shame on them for it.
Ali al-Dhaher, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
I would like to ask Lieutenant Bryan Suits if he sees ordinary Iraqis tiring enough of the situation to start turning in the terrorists in their neighbourhoods. It seems impossible to me that you would not know that a terrorist is living next door to you or using your mosque for a weapons stash. Thank you and God bless you!
Patrick Moroschan, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
I have some questions for the contributors. We hear about how ethnic and religious differences affect Iraqi attitudes to the occupation forces, but what about economic ones? The Iraqi contributors seem to be relatively well-off, judging by their jobs. Are poorer sections of society less sympathetic to the coalition's presence?
Martin Osborn, London, UK
I called my brother today. He said that the last couple of weeks have been the worst days he has ever, ever experienced in Baghdad. There is no electricity, no heat and only dirty water. There are no jobs, there is no security. His son was mugged on the street. My nephew has not ventured out since due to the shock. My brother mentions that it is even worse than when the sanctions were imposed. At least then they had good rations supplies. They can not even buy oil, can you believe that? Some of the people here that have commented should live in an Iraqi house for a couple of weeks then they will know how the situation is now. And now they are going to ask the people to vote. Instead of spending the money on such a useless exercise, why don't they give to the people or spend it on hospitals?
Kareem, Iraq, UK
I must applaud the people in Iraq for their endurance of living in such difficult conditions. I was in Iraq for three weeks earlier this year and had to put up with gun fights outside my grandparents house, hardly any electricity, long waits to obtain petrol, the sight of tanks on the roads and bombs in the night. So imagine it day in day out living in fear of these so called 'resistance' fighters.?
H Jawad, London, UK
I appreciate Bryan Suits and what appears to be his open-mindedness. I agree that killing children, aid workers, and non-combatants is wrong. And ironically, so does the religion of Islam. But what struck me most about his latest comment is his inability to understand Saddam's regime. He asks why Iraqis did nothing when Saddam was building palaces. Well, there was nothing they could do. Saddam had absolute power and ruled by making people afraid. If Iraqis would have opposed Saddam, in any matter, they would have been killed. I hear all the time in America, why weren't Iraqis revolting against Saddam years ago? A little history lesson, they tried after the first Gulf war and were massacred by Saddam and the helicopters the "coalition forces" let him keep. This is a reason many Iraqis don't trust America. We told them to revolt against Saddam in the early 1990s. And when they did, America abandoned them to be slaughtered.
Tyson Patros, La Crosse, U.S! .A.
Bryan Suits, you say about your prisoner: "I should add that the evidence for his guilt would satisfy the most exacting legal standards anywhere". However in most places in the world guilt is established by a court. You deciding he is guilty without due process meets only the legal standards of places like Guantanamo Bay. As for wanting to kill a living being, I hope you don't follow the example of many of your fellow countrymen and abuse or kill innocent Iraqis. As for forcing democracy on a people Japan and Germany, these are old examples. Please explain how it worked in Vietnam?
Eric, Adelaide, Australia
For Samir, Firas: I think that you have a valid point. As an American, I know that my friends, my family, the people that I know would not want a foreign power occupying us. If the Iraqi army were occupying our cities and towns and in our neighbourhoods, we would be the first to want them out. Even if we believed that a change in our government was necessary, having to constantly encounter foreign invaders or "liberators" would certainly take its toll.
Brandie, Virginia, USA
It is wonderful to read some opinions of Iraqi citizens and learn more about their daily struggles. Living in America and enjoying its freedoms, I can't imagine what life must be like for the average Iraqi citizen. I wish I could believe that we invaded Iraq for the sake of its citizens. What a noble reason it could be to free a nation from the tyranny of an insane, ruthless dictator? I wish I could tell its citizens that we put you through this hell to save you from the dangerous perils of Saddam. But I don't believe this to be the case. I pray to God that in spite of our wrongful intentions, some good will come to the Iraqi people.
Jerry, Warsaw, Indiana, USA
I was glad to read where the Iraq police in Samarra actually stood up to the insurgents instead of running away or even helping them. It's about time. I don't agree with Bush having invaded the country under the pretence he used (WMD). However, what's done is done and you don't cry over spilled milk. I get discouraged to read how the Iraq people won't help themselves though. I know this is not true of all Iraq's people and I know some of them are scared and threatened but, if you are going to die anyway in one form or another by the terrorists, why co-operate?
Reading about Rana's experience really hit home. If you remove the war, her priorities would be no different than any of my neighbours. However, there is a war and she is stuck in the middle of two very committed sides. Rana, your family will be in my thoughts, please stay strong and safe.
Edgar, Murrieta, California, USA
Reading through the comments I could not help but notice how many people offer a prayer for the people of Iraq. Although it is nice to see so much goodwill directed at the people of Iraq, is that the only solution left for these desperate people? Intervention in Iraq was a human decision with real consequences. Only solutions from the human world will help these people, so let us get the UN into Iraq to dispel anti-American propaganda that feeds the insurgency.
James, Sheffield, UK
To Firas in London: I promise you, if I lived under a dictatorship and a foreign power came to liberate me, I would welcome them with open arms, no matter what religion or skin colour. In fact, Americans, Indians, Australians, Jamaicans, Canadians and so many more people did come to our aid, when we were fighting the Nazis. I wasn't born then, but I am still grateful for their sacrifice.
Paul Andrews, Wrexham UK
I stand in awe at all Iraqis. To see them stand the way they have done after all that they have been through is something quite remarkable. I feel proud to be an Iraqi and to know that Iraq will always be great if its people remain loyal and true to the country. Sarab and Yasmin's diaries bring sorrow to my heart as I picture my beloved Baghdad burning as Rome did under Nero. The question I ask myself is who is our Nero? The resistance? Terrorists? Americans? Saddamites? I feel compelled to believe that in reality it is a mixture of all these factions and more.
Marwan, London, UK (originally Baghdad)
I agree with many of the comments, however as mentioned I feel the sample of posts are somewhat biased to only those who read and write English. Regardless, they are very informative and well worth it to read. I think BBC did an excellent job by coming up with this idea, I would definitely continue it! Let's continue to pray for the world.
Humera , Minnesota, USA
Posted by BBC Host
Thanks for emailing us, Humera. We've tried to avoid an English-speaking bias by getting some log entries and readers' comments from our colleagues at BBCArabic.com. Heba and Haider's comments below, and Ramsis's comment from yesterday all were sent to the BBC in Arabic and were translated here. So are all the log entries from Yasmin, Sarab, Dhia and Shehab.
That's not to say - as many of you have already pointed out - that other factors don't create a bias in the spread of contributors: access to a computers and whether people of certain opinions would actually want to contribute on the BBC, to name but two.
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