by Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily
"BAGHDAD, Dec. 22 (IPS) - Despite promises from Iraqi and U.S. leaders that 2006 would bring improvement, Iraqis have suffered through the worst year in living memory, facing violence, fragmentation and a disintegrated economy.*
A year back Iraqis were promised that 2006 would be the fresh beginning of a, prosperous, democratic and unified Iraq. Through an elected parliament and a unity government, they would find peace, and start rebuilding a country torn apart by the U.S.-backed UN sanctions and then the U.S.-led invasion and occupation.
But everyone agrees that the situation now is worse than ever. Leaders in Iraq disagree only to the extent they blame one another for the collapse in security that has led to worsened services and living conditions.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, along with many other Shia leaders in the Iraqi government, blames al-Qaeda and "Saddamists" for the degrading situation. Echoing statements by U.S. President George W. Bush, al-Maliki told reporters recently: "Those terrorists hate democracy because that makes them lose power, and all they are doing is killing Iraqi people in order to recapture what they lost after the liberation of Iraq."
Whatever leaders say, people are simply looking back on a hellish year, and fearful of another to come.
"I wish I could flee to any third world country and work in garbage collection rather than stay here and live like a frightened rat," Adel Mohammed Aziz, a teacher from Baghdad told IPS. "We are all living in fear for our lives; death chases us all around.."
The displacement of Iraqis from Iraq is currently the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis, according to the Washington-based group Refugees International which works towards providing humanitarian assistance and protection for displaced people......
......A poll conducted by the well-respected group World Public Opinion last month showed that 61 percent of Iraqis support attacks against U.S. forces. The poll found that 83 percent of Iraqis surveyed want the U.S. to withdraw completely next year.
U.S. casualties increased dramatically during the last three months of the year. This year saw at least 812 coalition soldier deaths in Iraq, with December looking to be one of the deadliest months for them, according to the website Iraq Coalition Casualties.
So far, at least 3,193 occupation troops have been killed in Iraq, 2,946 of them from the United States, according to the website. In addition, there have been 46,880 U.S. non-mortal casualties, including non-hostile and medical evacuations.
With no drastic changes imminent to the failed U.S. policy in Iraq, coupled with an Iraqi government that grows more impotent by the day, Iraqis have dim hopes of improvement in 2007."