At Abu Ghraib, ambivalence on America’s departure

The New York Times reports: On a recent day off, Hussam Saad stood at a roadside vegetable stand across the highway from the prison where he says he works.

“I can still remember guarding the prison at night, and hearing the voices and the shouting while people were being tortured,” said Mr. Saad, recalling the time when the Americans were in charge at Abu Ghraib.

Even so, he claims, it is worse there now.

“It would be better,” he said, “if the Americans were still in charge of the prison.”

It is difficult to verify Mr. Saad’s claims; the government denies harming any inmates although the State Department says cases of torture throughout the country have been documented by Iraq’s own government watchdogs. But as an indication of what type of country the United States is leaving behind, Mr. Saad’s comments were striking.

Given the legacy of the torture scandal at the prison, this would seem as likely a place as any for the imminent departure of American troops to be greeted with unabashed happiness.

The ambivalence reflects how much is left to be done to reinvent this ethnically fractured country as a functioning democracy. Efforts to bring Sunnis into the Shiite-led government have been haphazard at best. Laws for splitting precious oil dollars among ethnic groups and regional fiefs remain unwritten. And nearly two years after a national election, the country’s bitterly divided political blocs cannot agree on who should run the Defense and Interior Ministries.

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