- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Now that President Bush had declared the hostilities here all but over, the Iraqi people have two overwhelming concerns: that the Americans will never leave; and that they will leave too soon.Terrified by persistent looting and frustrated by the continued lack of basic utilities and services, the Iraqi people seem to be growing impatient with U.S. presence in their country.”How could we hear Bush’s speech, we have no electricity,” shouted an elderly man in the market here yesterday. “He says the war is over, but I say where is the electricity? Where is the water? Where is the gasoline?”The industrial city of Fallujah, about 30 miles west of Baghdad, this week has been the site of violent anti-American demonstrations. U.S. troops shot 15 persons in two incidents on Monday and Wednesday and seven soldiers were wounded in a grenade retaliation late Thursday.It was quiet in Fallujah yesterday, after the imams appealed for calm in their weekly sermons.But elsewhere in Iraq, gunmen shot automatic weapons and threw a hand grenade outside the central shrine in the holy city of Najaf, and the U.S. military said it was holding two more of deposed President Saddam Hussein’s top aides, including one who helped direct his weapons programs.Two men were arrested in Najaf — and turned out to be suspects in the brutal killing of an Islamic cleric at the same spot last month.The U.S. military said Abdul Tawab Mullah Hwaish, head of the military industrialization ministry that oversaw the development of weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, was taken into custody Thursday. He was No. 16 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.Mr. Hwaish was held along with Taha Mohieddin Ma’rouf, an Iraqi vice president and member of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council, and No. 42 on the list.The continued looting and perception of lawlessness has continued to vex Iraqis, who blame U.S. soldiers for failing to provide security in the cities and channel the political currents that are feeding organized unrest in places like Najaf and Fallujah.Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in London that insecurity remained rife in Iraq. “It would be a terrible mistake to think that Iraq is a fully secure, fully pacified environment. It is not, it is dangerous,” he said after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the end of a victory tour to Iraq and Afghanistan.In some of Baghdad’s more isolated neighborhoods, residents say, young men with guns and lumber set up impromptu checkpoints. Motorists who surrender cash and watches generally escape quickly and unharmed. But the fear is real, and it is growing.”I cannot go out, my family is afraid,” said Kassem Ahmed, 23, who was held up Wednesday on one of Baghdad’s busiest shopping streets. Four men with light machine guns stole 25,000 Iraqi dinars ($12) from the one-armed Mr. Ahmed, who earns slightly less than that each day for fixing car bumpers.”Why is there no security? Where are the police?” Mr. Ahmed said yesterday, while he was waiting for a pair of shoes to be repaired by a cobbler with no power. He seemed underwhelmed by Mr. Bush’s pledge to send hundreds of civilian police to Baghdad to train the local police.Yet, many people here seem afraid that coalition forces, in fact, will not be leaving quickly — if ever.In his Thursday night address, Mr. Bush said, “The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq.”Although the administration’s message has been consistent, there is deep suspicion here of larger motives and grander schemes.”If Saddam is gone, the Americans should follow,” said Jabar al Duleem, a primary school teacher in Fallujah who speaks at least four languages. “They came to liberate us, and now they can go.”• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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