Iraqi Leaders' Holiday Amid Chaos Angers Civilians

With daily sectarian and insurgent violence, an economy in ruin, a health care system in crisis, corruption, sabotage, and chronic shortages of gas and water, the Iraqi government has more than its fair share of problems to overcome.

But just a few months into their first year in office, most of the nascent government went on a monthlong vacation. Widespread criticism followed, from religious leaders and everyday Iraqis.

Recent attempts by NPR to call officials — members of parliament, a former minister of the interior, and representatives of Iraq's main political parties — seemed to confirm the impression many clerics have: Iraq's leaders are taking it easy at the end of summer.

The summer has been brutal in Iraq, with power outages and water shortages making life difficult for people already unsettled by outbursts of violence.

Taxi driver Alla al-Rubaiee, 32, had little sympathy for politicians who aren't on the job.

"Does humanity give them the right to take a vacation and have fun," he asked, "when the people are in these miserable conditions?"

The hard times have helped make an American song from the 1980s into a popular Web download in Iraq: Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger."

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