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2003-11-05

Live From Baghdad An Ordinary Iraqi Speaks Out: "The U.S. Has No Intention of Leaving Iraq"

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As the Baghdad headquarters of U.S. occupation forces comes under fire, we turn to a voice rarely heard in the U.S. media — that of an ordinary Iraqi. We go to Baghdad to hear from retired engineer Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar. [Includes transcript]

Click here to read to full transcript A US soldier and a British Royal Marine were killed in Iraq and the Baghdad headquarters of the coalition authority came under fire in another attack against the US-led occupation that wounded three people.

A judge investigating members of Saddam Hussein’s former government was shot dead yesterday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul — the second such killing in as many days.

Meanwhile Spain—a staunch US ally—announced it was pulling most of its diplomats and experts out of the Iraq.

The death of the US soldier pushed the US toll to more than140 since May 1, when President Bush declared major hostilities over. The number of Iraqis killed remains a number impossible to calculate.

For perspective on the latest developments in Iraq we now turn to a voice that is rarely heard in the US media and that is one of an ordinary Iraqi living in Baghdad. Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar is a retired engineer.

  • Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, a retired Iraqi engineer speaking from Baghdad.

TRANSCRIPT

GHAZWAN AL-MUKHTAR: If I was Paul Bremer, I would reinstate everybody that they have kicked out of his job, barring only those people who are criminals, who have committed a crime. In fact, those who are suspected of committing a crime should be even kept in the government and investigated. If they have committed a crime, they should be kicked out of the government. You don’t punish a person by denying him a job because you think he is— he might have done something wrong.

If I was Paul Bremer, I would return all those people to their previous jobs because those are experienced people. Those are people that you cannot replace— it’s not easy to replace. You get somebody from Bechtel, the best engineer from Bechtel, and he doesn’t— it takes him ages to understand what the problem is with the Iraqi oil, the Iraqi factory or the Iraqi telecommunication system. Until now, after seven months, we still don’t have a telephone system. I’m calling you from a mobile system which has a U.S. number because the landline doesn’t work. We don’t have landlines in— about 60% of the telephone lines in Baghdad are not working. Totally not working. Saddam Hussein repaired the telephone system in three months. While Bechtel, et al and all the U.S. corporations and MCI and the rest— so you have to rehire those people. They know how to fix— how to do the things the way— the most expedient and most efficient way. You don’t get somebody from a Brooklyn or somewhere in San Francisco to fix the telephones in Baghdad. You don’t know how— where the cables go. It doesn’t— you cannot even communicate with these people. If I was Paul Bremer, I would bring back those people, too— to be reemployed in the government of Iraq, and do what they have to do. To fix the mess.

AMY GOODMAN: Would he then be reconstituting a pro-Saddam force?

GHAZWAN AL-MUKHTAR: It doesn’t have to be a pro-Saddam force. An engineer who does his job is an engineer irrespective whether he is a pro or against Saddam. Do you think right now that they are hiring only the pro-American engineers working for the ministry of oil? Are you going to be— kick everybody who does not like the U.S., or does not like Chalabi? Engineers and technicians and teachers are free to believe in whatever they want— that’s freedom. You cannot impose.

Now you have deposed the dictator, which, by the way you supported, the U.S. supported. In '94— in ’84, ’83 and ’84, it was Donald Rumsfeld who came and shook hands with Saddam Hussein, and he knew by then that Saddam Hussein was a dictator and he— all that. But he elected to ignore that. While I'm talking to you now, I’m watching— I have a picture in the office on my house of Saddam Hussein shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld to remind me that there is no principle— the U.S. does not have a principle to deal with, they have interests. They are not after democracy. They are not after human rights. They are after their economic interests.

The same people who forced Saddam Hussein in 2003, that is to say Donald Rumsfeld and his group, and it is the same people who shook hands with Saddam Hussein in '83, and we established diplomatic relations with the dictator. And they are the same people who supported Saddam Hussein throughout the war with Iran. And it was, by the way, Bechtel, that was given a huge contract in the 80's to develop the petrochemical industry, so that the— in return for the U.S. support in Iraq and on the Iraq/Iran, and it was Bechtel also to suppress the fact that Iraq used chemical weapons against the Iranians. George Schultz was the secretary. We— somehow we convinced him through Bechtel contract to forget about the thing. And it was the Americans who supported Saddam Hussein with the anthrax spores. It was the West who supported Saddam Hussein with the factories to develop the mass— weapons of mass destruction.

You are penalizing— the Americans are penalizing us, the poor, powerless subjects of dictator for crimes they have committed. We haven’t committed a crime. We, as individuals, haven’t committed a crime against anybody. We are victims of ten years of— 13 years of sanctions, and six months right now, ten months of occupation, and we are going to be punished and punished, again and again, again so that Halliburton and Bechtel and MCI and whoever can make profits. The U.S. has no intention of leaving Iraq. They’re talking about the— how much it’s going to cost them until the year 2013. That’s ten years of occupation. He talks about democracy. What democracy is he talking about? Where the TV stations are subjected to harassment, where journalists are imprisoned, where people are detained for absolutely no reason? For up to 40 days, 50 days with no one knows about them. Read— the American people should read not our— what we say, they should read what the human rights— Human Rights Watch was saying in that report published in— last month. They should read what Amnesty International is writing about the human rights situation— human rights abuses.

AMY GOODMAN: Gaswan Al-Muhktar, a retired engineer living in downtown Baghdad. You are listening to Democracy Now!


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