Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kerry is Baghdad's Choice

On the eve of the United States election, many residents of the Iraqi capital are hoping for change in the White House.
By Awad al-Taee

“If Satan was Bush’s rival, I’d vote for Satan.” Baghdad resident Manaf al-Ubaidi’s feelings about to the current incumbent of the White House might seem a little strong, but it highlights how high anti-Bush sentiment is running among many Iraqis ahead of the November 2 American election.

“Bush sold us a big lie,” continued al-Ubaidi. “He said he was saving Iraqis from the suffering and despotism of Saddam’s regime, but in return for this ‘favour’, we’ve seen massive destruction in our country, people’s suffering has got worse, and now no one feels safe anymore.”

While Republicans in the United States may be trusting in President Bush’s hardline tactics to keep them safe, his approach hasn’t been so well received in Iraq.

“We’re tired of Bush’s way of dealing with us and the rest of the world. He has destroyed Iraq. We want a new US president,” commented estate agent Yasser Muhammed. “At the moment, world rule is split between God and the US.”

Bank manager Jamal Abdurrazaq agreed, “Bush ruined our country and our lives when he invaded to find weapons of mass destruction which don’t exist. He has presided over four years of continuous mistakes.”

If he defeats the incumbent, Democratic candidate John Kerry will have his work cut out for him to live up to Iraqis’ expectations. Hopes are high among Baghdadis that Kerry will move quickly to withdraw Coalition troops, and at the same time restore law and order by peaceful means.

“Kerry wouldn’t resort to violence to solve the problems the US is facing in Iraq and abroad. He would find a peaceful solution,” said pharmacist Hana Ibrahim. “Bush may have removed Saddam, but he didn’t have a clue what to do next. Now anything could happen. I believe Kerry would think things through and be able to develop a plan to improve security and carry out reconstruction.”

“The Republicans love wars and destruction, while the Democrats look for peaceful solutions. We expect Kerry to have a more effective, enlightened approach than Bush,” added Abdurrazaq.

In the eyes of Baghdad University lecturer Dr Adil al-Adili, Bush’s policy hasn’t just attacked Iraq, it has targeted Islam in general. “I really hope Kerry wins the election, so that we see a change in US foreign policy towards Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. The current administration has been waging a war against Islam and the Muslims. They’ve already occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, and now they are threatening Syria and Iran.”

Al-Adili believes the US would do well to take a leaf out of the European Union’s book to improve their standing in the region, “The Europeans have the right idea. They don’t act unilaterally and they take the rights of other nations into account.”

Third-year science student Hamza Ubaid Ahmed is less optimistic, saying, “Bush and Kerry are just different sides of the same coin. US policy doesn’t change when presidents change. America will still be hostile to Arabs and Muslims.”

If pressed, however, Ahmed would back Kerry, “He’s weaker than Bush. If he gets in, he’ll probably take Coalition forces out of our country.”

Many Baghdadis complained that the Bush administration had failed to meet its own objectives. “Bush hasn’t put an end to terror, he’s made it worse. He should have arrested Osama Bin Laden straight away, if he is the reason for all the problems in our country. They should have picked him up before Saddam,” said Maisoon Farhan, a housewife.

Despite pro-Kerry support on the streets, a minority are still backing Bush.

“Bush is resolute when it comes to dealing with terror, and you need a strong man to fight this kind of thing,” said civil servant Ali Mansoor. “He may have made mistakes, but he has also made combating terror his prime concern.”

Nail Kadhim, who owns a mobile phone shop in the capital, is another Bush supporter.

“I’ll go to Najaf to pray that Bush wins. He has stated that his father’s policy was wrong and that Saddam should have been toppled ten years ago. Bush was the only one who took Saddam on. He’s not afraid of anyone. He’s a humanitarian in the full sense of the word.”

But Major Majeed Hameed, a police officer, is adamant that another four years of Republican rule would be a disaster for his country. “Bush’s policy hasn’t solved anything. He’s just transferred terror to Iraq.”

Awad al-Taee is an IWPR trainee in Baghdad.

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