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Iraqis challenge Bush to do better than Saddam
Updated: 2004-11-04 20:11

Iraqis challenged re-elected President Bush on Thursday to bring them the elusive new dawn he promised when U.S. forces deposed Saddam Hussein.

"Bush talks about freedom and democracy but all the Americans have brought is death and destruction. Where's our electricity? Where's our oil money?" asked Abu Ghazwan, a greengrocer in southwestern Baghdad.

"Bush got rid of Saddam, the madman behind the mass graves, the wars and the huge debts. Now let him do better. Bush wants to play occupier, then let him improve security."

Struggling with daily bombings and kidnappings that have plagued the country since last year's invasion, many Iraqis were dismayed Bush had won another term, though few had hoped for much better from his Democratic challenger John Kerry.

While glad to be rid of Saddam, many Iraqis, like most Arabs, worried that another four years of Bush would bring more bloodshed to a country that has borne the brunt of his administration's doctrine of preemptive attacks.

"They call Saddam a criminal, but Bush is the biggest criminal and terrorist in the world. I only expect crimes and killings and occupation of Muslim countries from him," said Waad Mohammed Ali, a butcher in Baghdad's central Karrada area.

"Not that Kerry would have been much better. They're all determined to suck our blood."

With more than 1,100 American soldiers killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began and more than 138,000 U.S. troops now struggling with a relentless insurgency there, Iraq was a divisive American campaign issue.

Kerry had accused Bush of mishandling Iraq and pledged to reach out more to U.S. allies. Bush vowed to stay the course.

"Choosing Bush for a new term is a crisis for Iraqis, especially people in Falluja, because it will prompt him to continue his policy of killing and destruction against Arabs and Muslims," said Mohammed Ali, a student from the rebel-held Sunni Muslim city that faces daily U.S. bombardment.


Many Iraqis were less concerned with who was in the White House than whether its occupant would make it safe for them to go out after dark again and would finally withdraw U.S. troops.

"The occupation would have continued even if Kerry won, so I'm not happy either way," said Ismael Saleh from the northern city of Kirkuk. "I'll only be happy when the occupation ends."

Some just hoped they would be able to cast their own ballots in what they hope will be Iraq's first free election in decades, scheduled for January but threatened by violence.

"Even if Kerry had won it would have been the same for Arabs," said Meqdad Qais al-Hakim, a Shi'ite Muslim grocer in Baghdad. "But since Bush won I hope he will pull the American forces out of Iraq and hold elections on time."

Some Iraqis seemed content that Saddam was behind bars and Bush still in the White House.

"I am happy Bush won because he got rid of Saddam's regime and that's all," Hassan Ali al-Jibouri, a young baker, said, giving a reporter five freshly baked loaves to celebrate.

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