Bush legacy: Iraq quagmire

Washington and Baghdad are finalising a new deal which would see U.S. troops staying in Iraq for another three years. The military campaign is the most controversial parting gift that George W. Bush is leaving to the next President.

Suicide bombings are a frequent occurrence in today’s Iraq. Five years after the U.S. invasion, the country is still struggling to overcome the effects of the "War on Terror".

A key nation in the Middle East has been torn apart by sectarian violence and facing huge political and security challenges.

In 2003, Bush urged ‘regime change’ in Baghdad, saying Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, a claim that has never been proven.

It's been the ordinary Iraqi people who've suffered most since their country was occupied. Samir used to run a business in cCentral Baghdad. He lived in luxury, had a degree in electrical engineering and had bright hopes for the future, but all that was to change.

“During the occupation, we, along with many others, were displaced. Business, trade, industry, agriculture were all damaged. We lost everything,” he explained

While Saddam Hussein ruled the country with an iron fist, the current government has troubles both inside and outside its borders. Influence from its neighbour and rival Iran has grown. And Iraq has been unable to prevent Turkish raids against Kurds within its borders, or reconcile bitter divisions between its own Shiite and Sunni communities.

“During these eight years, we’ve won nothing from the Bush administration but wars, destruction and occupation,” says a local resident. “We do hope that McCain or Obama deals with Iraq in a better manner.”

The issue of bringing American troops home has been a hot topic in the U.S. presidential race, with McCain saying it's too early to pull out.

“We’d better be darn sure we don’t leave and make the situation worse, thereby exacerbating our reputation and our ability to address crisis in other parts of the world,” said the Republican.

Barack Obama opposed the war from the very start and says he wants to end the U.S. occupation in 16 months if he's elected.

He argued: “I don’t understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Senator McCain was cheerleading the president to go into Iraq. He suggested it would be quick and easy, that we would be greeted as liberators. That was wrong judgement.”

Some analysts in Iraq seriously doubt that things will change soon.

“I, and many others like me, believe that the U.S. election will not make any change to the American strategy in Iraq, be it Bush, McCain or Obama. The candidates’ only aim is to ensure America's interests,” said Iraqi political analyst Aqeel As-Saffar.

Whoever becomes president, the future of both countries has become entangled by an invasion which will go down in history as the legacy of the Bush presidency. (11.01.2008) http://www.russiatoday.com/features/news/32734

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