posted on Apr, 16 2003 @ 11:48 PM
By NIKO PRICE, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Just days ago, U.S. troops were cheered and kissed as they destroyed the symbols of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime.
Today, after a week of chaos, it's a whole different story.
After looters ran wild, American forces shot
civilians and the lack of basic services spread misery across the land, many Iraqis turned their anger away from Saddam Hussein and toward what they
saw as their new oppressor: the United States of America.
"They are aggressors," wheezed Ali Ahmed, 17, lying in a hospital bed as a tube drained fluid from his lungs. "They destroyed us. They put us in
war and didn't let us sleep. They just raided Baghdad."
Ahmed said he was shot in the back by an American bullet Friday as he left his home to purchase bread for his family's breakfast. A suicide bomber
attacked U.S. troops up the street, and Ahmed accused the Americans of responding with indiscriminate fire.
U.S. troops rolled across the deserts of Iraq (news - web sites) expecting to find people dancing in the streets and cheering their arrival. There was
some of that. But there was also anger.
Many Iraqis say that could subside quickly if the Americans — now de facto rulers of their nation — can quickly restore basic services, bring law and
order (news - Y! TV) to their cities, and stop shooting their people.
Others say they need to do one more thing: leave.
"If Americans and British are here to destroy the regime and liberate Iraq, we welcome them," said Emad Fadil, a 26-year-old worker in the southern
city of Basra. "But if they come to occupy Iraq, we will fight them to the end — like the Palestinians."
On Tuesday, a crowd in the northern city of Mosul allegedly attacked a group of Marines trying to take over a government building. Iraqis threw rocks,
hit the Marines with fists and elbows and spat at them, according to Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks at U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar.
After reporting incoming fire, the Marines opened fire on the crowd, killing seven people, he said.
On Wednesday, another shooting in Mosul killed three people and wounded at least 11, including several who said American troops fired at them from
rooftops. A Marine sergeant near the scene said the Americans were responding to fire from another rooftop.
"They are killing us and no one's talking about it. We want Saddam back," said Zahra Yassin, whose 17-year-old son was shot in the stomach and
wounded. "Let the embargo return. At least there was security."
In the city of Kut, southeast of Baghdad, an anti-American cleric took over City Hall. Hundreds of his followers blocked U.S. Marines from entering
Tuesday with a message that "there is more than just one leader in the region." The Marines departed, opting against confrontation.
In the southern city of Ur, Shiite Muslims boycotted a meeting to create a postwar government because of U.S. plans to install a retired American
general as Iraq's temporary administrator. Thousands protested near the meeting, chanting: "No to America and no to Saddam!"
There have been daily demonstrations in Baghdad as well, many outside the Palestine Hotel, temporary home to hundreds of international journalists and
U.S. Marines. Hundreds of people hold up banners demanding the restoration of electricity, water and phone service. Many also urge the Americans to
Even as people topple statues of Saddam, they criticize the U.S.-led invasion for the death and destruction it wrought, and warn that Americans will
become targets unless they fix what they destroyed and leave.
"America comes to destroy Iraq and its people," said Fouad Abdullah Ahmed, 49, part of a rally setting a Saddam statue on fire. "We are Muslim. We
don't like the Americans and the British."
Many Iraqis believe the Americans launched the war to seize their oil. In what many in Baghdad consider confirmation of that, one of the first Baghdad
buildings seized by U.S. forces was the oil ministry. They are still there.
"Let them take the oil and leave," Mohammed Ramadan said in the northern city of Tikrit, trembling at the sight of American tanks rolling through
Actor Fadel Abbas watched his theater get torched by looters.
"They didn't want to protect these places — only the oil ministry," he said. "Why the oil ministry?"
The U.S. military now says it will work to stop looters. Americans armed newly recruited Iraqi police officers with handguns to help keep order.
Marines and Iraqi police caught about a dozen men trying to loot money from a burned out bank in central Baghdad on Wednesday. Marines wrestled some
of the men to the ground — including one who had a prosthetic leg — and found large stacks of Iraqi dinars on them.
Looting that has plagued Iraq's cities has been the cause of much of the people's anger, and many blame the Americans for encouraging it. Donny
George, director for research at the Ministry of Antiquities, complained that the Americans let Iraq's museums be sacked.
"This is what the Americans wanted," he said. "They wanted Iraq to lose its history."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Niko Price is correspondent at large for The Associated Press. AP correspondent Tini Tran in Basra, Iraq, contributed to this
[Edited on 17-4-2003 by Info]