Allied Raids Push Iraqi Capital Back in Time
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Relentless allied bombing raids have pushed the city of the Thousand and One Nights into the past. Horse-drawn carts replace cars, water is drawn from the Tigris River, twigs are gathered for fuel.
The once-bustling capital, with a peacetime population close to 4 million, is without electricity. Its discos and nightclubs are shut down, and people head home before dusk, going to bed early because candles are costly.
After more than three weeks of allied air raids, residents suffer from shortages of food, drinking water, medicine and fuel. But they are learning to cope with the deprivations and the almost nightly raids. Some play dominos to pass the time, others are learning to play chess.
Many Iraqis say they are in favor of ending the war, but not at the cost of Iraq’s pride. Many fear that a U.S.-imposed settlement will make them vulnerable to Western domination.
″We may die, but we will die with honor,″ said Sarmad Mohammed, a 26- year-old officer with the state security department who came to a market Sunday with his wife to buy food.
″We are suffering a lot,″ he said. ″Our kids do not have milk. Our parents do not have medicine. We have problems getting anything from toothpaste to eggs.″
Near the market, outside the 1,200-year-old al-Khadamia mosque where President Saddam Hussein often went before the war, a women shouted at the top of her voice: ″We can fight for 10 years 3/8″ But she also said: ″Tell America we do not want war 3/8 Stop this bloodshed 3/8″
About a dozen women and men nodded in appoval at the tirade from Kesma Hamid, a 31-year-old mother of two.
″We really want to stop the war, but not under America’s order,″ said Mrs. Hamid, whose husband is in the army in Kuwait, ready to fight the U.S.-led multinational force.
″We love our leader. He’s our heart,″ she said of Saddam as officials of Information Ministry, who took a group of journalists on a tour of Baghdad, stood by.
Although many Iraqis seem confident that their country will somehow escape destruction, some threaten revenge on President Bush for their misery.
″Someone someday will kill Bush, just wait,″ said Mohammed Jassim, a 18- year-old student who took a day off from compulsory military service to shop at the market for some candles for his parents.
Elsewhere, children could be seen waving toy rifles in mock attacks on ″Satan America.″
To cope with the air raids’ effects, improvisation is needed.
At the Al-Rashid Hotel, normally a luxury establishment, the housekeeping staff comes to the rooms holding lanterns to provide light. Guests are told how to use a bucket for flushing toilets. There is no running water or room service.
At the restaurant, open only for limited hours, guests are requested to take small helpings of sugar with their tea or coffee.
Breakfast consists of two pieces of bread, a small portion of meat curry and piece of lemon to help wash it down.
No longer are Iraqis inclined to waste food. Even a half-eaten piece of bread is saved for the next meal.