Monday, March 17, 2008

Patrick Cockburn: Iraq is a country no more. Like much else, that was not the plan

The death rate in Baghdad has fallen, but it is down to ethnic cleansing

Sunday, 16 March 2008

'It reminds me of Iraq under Saddam," a militant opponent of Saddam Hussein said angrily to me last week as he watched red-capped Iraqi soldiers close down part of central Baghdad so the convoy of Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, might briefly venture into the city.

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, the US and the Iraqi governments claim that the country is becoming a less dangerous place, but the measures taken to protect Mr Maliki told a different story. Gun-waving soldiers first cleared all traffic from the streets. Then four black armoured cars, each with three machine-gunners on the roof, raced out of the Green Zone through a heavily fortified exit, followed by sand-coloured American Humvees and more armoured cars. Finally, in the middle of the speeding convoy, we saw six identical bullet-proof vehicles with black windows, one of which must have been carrying Mr Maliki.

The precautions were not excessive, since Baghdad remains the most dangerous city in the world. The Iraqi Prime Minister was only going to the headquarters of the Dawa party, to which he belongs and which are just half a mile outside the Green Zone, but his hundreds of security guards acted as if they were entering enemy territory.

Five years of occupation have destroyed Iraq as a country. Baghdad is today a collection of hostile Sunni and Shia ghettoes divided by high concrete walls. Different districts even have different national flags. Sunni areas use the old Iraqi flag with the three stars of the Baath party, and the Shia wave a newer version, adopted by the Shia-Kurdish government. The Kurds have their own flag...[Open in new window]


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