Seven Year Anniversary since the First Bomb dropped in Baghdad

Seven years after the first bombs in the war to oust Saddam Hussein, Iraqis went about their business yesterday with little observance of the anniversary. 

Perhaps more important in the minds of many was the wait for final results of the country’s second nationwide parliamentary election. The milestone will determine who will oversee Iraq as US forces go home, but it could also point the direction the fragile democracy will take down the road: either deeper into the sectarian divide that followed the fall of Hussein or toward a more secular, inclusive rule.

“Now we have democracy and freedom, but the cost was dire, and Iraqis have paid that price,’’ said Raid Abdul-Zahra, 38, a technician in Najaf.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition appears to be ahead in the tight race. With almost 90 percent of the vote counted by yesterday, his coalition was leading in seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces, compared with five provinces for his closest rival, the Iraqiya coalition led by secular Shi’ite Ayad Allawi.

Many, especially among the country’s Sunni minority that dominated Iraq during Hussein’s rule, blame the United States for the sectarian violence that erupted after the invasion.

“Failure is the word that should be linked with the US war,’’ said Mohammed Thabit, a retired teacher from Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

“The Americans brought people to power, but those people are specialized in reprisals, blackmail, inflaming sectarianism, and robbing.’’

While violence has plummeted since the height of the bloodshed in 2006 and 2007, attacks continue.

At least four people were killed in bomb attacks yesterday across Iraq, and gunmen killed an Iraqi soldier in Baghdad.

Many Iraqis view the United States withdrawal plans with mixed feelings: pride that their country is regaining its full sovereignty but also concern that the lull in violence may break and bloodshed return.

 “If the forces leave speedily, there will be a power vacuum and more problems will erupt because Iraqi forces are not loyal to Iraq but to their party affiliations,’’ said Abdul-Karim Moussa, 55, in Baghdad.


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