Exactly four years ago today, the much anticipated US-led invasion of Iraq began. In a symbolic moment a month later, cheering crowds helped US soldiers topple a statue of ousted President Saddam Hussein. But for many, what began as a vivid dream of democracy has ended in death and despair. Tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis have perished in spiralling violence – while polls show more people than ever are losing faith in the future: “Actually, the war’s anniversary means many things,” said one man, “if you want the truth, many people were happy to see Saddam’s fall but that’s no longer the case as we have seen the country wrecked by violence and by criminal gangs. Freedom has its price.”
There are those who believe that troop withdrawal is the answer: “I think that there is some improvement in Baghdad, a very small improvement, which does not equate to the huge number of forces in Iraq. I do not know how long this will last or how long these forces will stay inside Baghdad or how long Baghdad can go on being like a prison with this military presence.”
Facing a vote on war spending later this week, President George W Bush defended continued US involvement. But more than 3,000 US lives have been lost in the conflict – making Bush deeply unpopular on the domestic front. Scores of anti-war protests were held worldwide at the weekend.