There's a great interview of Salam Pax, the so-called "Baghdad blogger", on the website of the BBC's Today radio show. Readers were invited to mail in their questions. Salam Pax has both good things and bad to say about the war and the occupation but the overall impression I got was that, even considering their present hardships, he feels that almost all Iraqis welcome Saddam's fall and don' think it would have been possible for the Iraqi people to have accomplished the feat themselves. Key grafs:
Yes, I support the ousting of the regime. Most Iraqis don't have any problem with the coalition coming in. We needed their help. It was never going to happen any other way. I don't think they exaggerated the hardship of life. After 25 years it is a bit suspicious that they look at how Iraqis feel about the regime and publish Amnesty reports which were written years ago. The US was supportive of Saddam during the 80s. When Halbaja happened, the US knew about it. They sent Rumsfeld to tell Saddam not to do it again. Now suddenly they care, so this is what makes people suspicious. Iraqis and the coalition wanted this outcome for different reasons. I hope we can work it out in the end. There was a massive media campaign saying "We're hear to liberate the Iraqis" but we're not so stupid. If they really meant it, they'd have done it 10 years ago when Saddam was killing thousands of people down in the Shia region.
It's not surprising that Iraqis are suspicious of US motives and resentful that the US didn't oust Saddam earlier. I was surprised, though, to hear Salam say that Rumsfeld was sent to Baghdad back in the 80s to protest about Saddam's gas attacks in "Halbaja" [I thought it was "Halabja"]. Usually we're shown that famous photograph of Rumsfeld and Saddam shaking hands as exhibit A in the case establishing America's complicity in Saddam's crimes of that era.
Name: Karen Gregory Question: Dear Salam, Tony Blair said that if he asked the average Iraqi if they would prefer Saddam back they would look at him as if he was insane. What would you do if Tony Blair asked you if you would rather have Saddam back? Do you think Tony Blair's once fabled feel for public opinion now applies to Iraqis? What do you think of UK and us politicians telling us what the average Iraqi thinks?
Answer: There is no comparison in the problems we have with services and the issue of the fallen regime. These things are separate. Everyone is really glad that Sadam has gone. There is no one in Iraq that he wants him back, unless it's someone who benefitted from the old regime. So no, never. It's over. With all the problems we have with services and utlilities, this is a problem that can be dealt with in time. People had unrealistic expectations. I had unrealistic expectations that everything will be up and running in two weeks. The coalition is not in tune with our culture. Tony Blair will never get a feel for public opinion in Iraq. Maybe they rely too much on the opinion of advisors.
The general sentiment is that we needed help to get rid of Saddam. But how it was done and planned could have been better. Wars are never OK, but the actual war did much less harm than everybody was expecting. The Iraqi troops decided not to fight and the way the Coalition forces decided to move into the country and the precise bombing meant that things could have been much much worse. Things are going wrong now post-war. It's the lack of planning and the wrong advisors. They are Iraqi exiles who are out of touch with present-day needs.
Read the whole thing, as they say. You can find more of Salaam's first-hand accounts of events in Baghdad at his blog Where's Raed and his columns in the Guardian. And here's an article about the blogger himself and a short audio interview.