| An injured Iraqi boy is consoled by family members at the Fallujah hospital after a US air strike in the northern part of the town on Tuesday. Three Iraqis were killed and three wounded in the attack. (AFP)
Baghdad, Sept. 23 (Reuters): Iraqis reacted with scepticism today to a call from President George W. Bush for more international help in rebuilding Iraq, saying the US was looking after its own interests at their expense.
“Bush is afraid for the future of his forces inside Iraq because of the resistance, and in the end what he wants is to get international troops to protect his interests,” said Hadi Hassan, a labourer in Baghdad.
Musa Abdullah, a coppersmith, said Bush was trying to get others to do the US’ work for it. “Bush is contracting others to protect him... and in the end it’s the Iraqi people who foot the bill,” he said. “Bush is afraid of the Iraqis and he’s getting mercenaries, but this will only increase the resistance... Bush is asking for more troops so that he stays in Iraq and says to the world that Iraq is not capable of ruling itself,” he added.
Bush asked a sceptical UN General Assembly for help in Iraq and said it was time to set aside past differences over the US-led invasion. Bush also resisted a speedy transfer of Iraqi sovereignty, which had been urged by some key allies, saying he wanted an orderly process that should not be hurried.
But many Iraqis said they were not prepared to wait for self-rule and wanted an end to occupation. Although many welcomed the toppling of former leader Saddam Hussein, public anger and frustration towards occupying troops has mounted.
Street vendor Ali Hussein said more international involvement would only prolong Iraq’s occupation. “It’s an excuse to stay in Iraq... It will create chaos and will not solve America’s predicament in Iraq,” he said.
“Bush should call back the Iraqi army with the exception of the Baathists, and leave them to police the country,” he said. The US has disbanded the Iraqi army and is setting up a smaller corps of Iraqi troops.
Many Iraqis said more foreign troops — even if they were part of a multinational force — were not the answer. “America is now in a real mess and they want to find a way out... It’s worse than Vietnam but getting more troops will only make it more difficult for them here,” said Abdul Rahman Khalaf, a clerk in a private accounting firm.
Troops not impressed
US soldiers in Iraq shrugged their shoulders after listening to Bush’s speech to the UN today, saying he said nothing new and did not address their main concern: going home.
“I wasn’t particularly impressed with anything he came up with,” said Staff Sergeant Jason Dungan of the US army’s 4th Infantry Division, based in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit. “He just brought up some old issues.”
“We’ve been out here for six months, and it looks like we’re going to be here for another six months more,” said one soldier as he ate dinner in a huge tented “chow hall” at a US base in one of Saddam’s former palaces.
“That’s it. It’s a done deal, so nothing he (Bush) says makes a blind bit of difference to us.”
The speech was broadcast on two television sets on one side of the air-conditioned tent, but the majority of soldiers chose instead to watch American football on the other side, or focus on their beef casserole and ice cream.