Iraqis React to Effects of U.S. Troop Increase Next month, Gen. David Petraeus delivers his much-awaited progress report on Iraq, when he will assess where things stand since the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to the country starting this past February. Iraqis on the street in Baghdad share their opinions of whether the added troops have had an effect.
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Iraqis React to Effects of U.S. Troop Increase

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Iraqis React to Effects of U.S. Troop Increase

Iraqis React to Effects of U.S. Troop Increase

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.


And I'm Alex Chadwick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops for Iraq.

Unidentified Man #1: I see progress, a steady progress.

Unidentified Man #2: The new security plan failed.

Unidentified Man #3: It's a hard thing to change from dictatorship around the democracy.

Unidentified Man: #4: Do the Iraqi people feel better about today than it did about yesterday?

CHADWICK: We are beginning a new series today about Iraq and the war. We're leading up to the middle of next month, when the American commander in Iraq, that's General David Petraeus, is to deliver his much-awaited progress report on the region.

COHEN: General Petraeus will assess where things stand since the American surge - the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops that began in February. Over the next several weeks, we'll be talking to all sorts of people about their perspective on Iraq and asking them all this question - is Iraq better off or worse off since the surge began?

CHADWICK: We sent one of our producers in Baghdad out to get perspectives of people on the street there. And here is some of what we heard.

Unidentified Man #5: (Through translator) We are an invaded country. This is something announced even by the U.N. We are an occupied country. No one would solve our problems except us. We are Iraqis. We solve our problems. We are better than the Americans because they do not know what is going on in the country.

Unidentified Man #6: (Through translator) The situations has changed from bad to worse since the security plan started. The best proof is the car bombs that explode daily. A car exploded in the street between two checkpoints. So what is the benefit of this plan? Where is the plan?

Unidentified Man #7: (Through translator) There is no understanding among all ends and the American soldiers who came here are to provide security for their soldiers only, to protect themselves, not Iraqis.

Unidentified Man #8: (Through translator) It's not good or bad. It's just a name. IEDs and car bombs and random killings still exist.

COHEN: We wanted to explore these ideas more in depth. So we talked to Iraqis who speak English from three different cities. One lives in the relatively peaceful city of Hillah, another in Basra, which has become increasingly lawless in recent months.

CHADWICK: But we're going to start in Baghdad, with Adnan al-Musawi(ph). His language skills have landed him a variety of jobs, at one point an interpreter for the U.S. Army, and before that for an Indian trading company, and most recently an interpreter for the NPR bureau in Baghdad. I asked him if things there are better or worse now.

ADNAN AL-MUSAWI: In the past, before the new security plan, before the surge, the insurgents or the militias - they will do 10, 15 attacks to cause 50 casualties among civilians. Right now it's in the quality. It's only one attack causing hundreds of casualties among civilians. Maybe the new security plan and the U.S. troops prevented the militias, the insurgents from doing this big number of attacks as they used it in the past. But unfortunately the surge failed to keep people from dying.

Despite the killing, despite the explosions, despite the kidnappings taking place every day, you find people going on streets, doing their daily activities normally, as if there's nothing wrong. In any other place, witnessing such crimes, such huge explosions, people would flee, would run away. But here, just like Iraqis are getting used to it. They die every day, they suffer every day, but they keep on working every day as if nothing happening.

CHADWICK: People are getting used to the violence. It's not getting better. People are just simply getting used to it.

AL-MUSAWI: Exactly, exactly. Just like violence is something that came as part of their lives. Someone got killed, it's normal. Something usual. That's it.

CHADWICK: Why do you stay in Baghdad? I know you have a job there, but you could go someplace else.

AL-MUSAWI: To tell you the truth, I can't afford going anywhere else unless I have good money. Because don't forget, I've got a family made of six persons. So they need expenses, they need money. And even if I travel abroad, where do I work? I'm hearing from friends that to work outside Iraq, in Jordan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, you will be treated badly because you are Iraqi, especially if you are a Shiite person or if you are a Sunni person, something like this. So it won't be easy for me to leave Iraq.

CHADWICK: Adnan, if you think that the surge has not done any good, what would you like to see happen?

AL-MUSAWI: What I would like to see happening is that whether the coalition forces, the Iraqi forces, the police, and other security force go outside in the street and get the bad guys behind the bars. This is the only thing you need to do. Whether they are Shiites, Sunnis, and even if they are part of the coalition forces. They need someone to go after them and have them arrested. It's as simple as this.

CHADWICK: Adnan, thank you. Thank you for speaking with us. And good luck there in Baghdad.

AL-MUSAWI: Thank you very much.

COHEN: Muhammed al-Dulaimi(ph) is a judge in the city of Hillah, south of Baghdad. We reached him at home, where he lives with his wife and four children, who you'll sometimes hear in the background.

CHADWICK: He told us that although the troops from the surge have not been deployed directly to Hillah, he and his family do feel safer today.

Mr. MUHANED AL-DULAIMI (Judge): I am feel more safe - me and my friends because they go on additional units coming from Iraq today. They make serious operations against the terrorists and the al-Mahdi army.

CHADWICK: You know, many Americans think this war was a mistake. Americans want the soldiers to come back home. What would you say to Americans?

Mr. AL-DULAIMI: I say to America that the American forces make glorious mission here in Iraq. For 40 years I am just a slave - me and my family. Now I feel freedom. So please, I ask the American citizens to be patient, to be patient with us. We know it's very big sacrifice, but it's a glorious mission.

CHADWICK: Muhammed al-Dulaimi, thank you for speaking with us.

Mr. AL-DULAIMI: Thank you, sir.

CHADWICK: Hatam al-Bakiri(ph) runs a publishing company. He thinks things are better overall in Iraq, thanks to the additional troops, but says things are worse where he lives. That's in the southern city of Basra. What is your sense of your own personal safety and the safety of your family?

Mr. HATAM AL-BAKIRI (Publisher): Well, to be honest with you, about two years ago I was threatened by two police cars and they were chasing me and try to kill me because they do things that they should kill anybody who speak freely or would like things to change and we've always liked to make friends with anybody who would help us.

CHADWICK: You can expect American troops to start coming home at some point in the next couple of years. What will happen in Basra then?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AL-BAKIRI: Well, as you started the job and you should finish it. I think that you should not leave things as it is now.

CHADWICK: Hatam al-Bakiri speaking with us from Basra in southern Iraq. Hatam, thank you.

Mr. AL-BAKIRI: Okay. Thank you very much. And I would like to pass hello from Iraq and from Basra to our friends in America. And we thank Mr. Bush for freeing our country.

COHEN: That's Hatam al-Bakiri in Basra. We heard also from Muhammed al-Dulaimi in Hillah, and Adnan al-Musawi in Baghdad. Next week, we'll continue our series on the surge by talking with Iraqi politicians.

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