Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Jumaili men insist they are typical of postwar Baghdad. Not too poor, although they run the 15-person household on $160 a month. Not too rich, although they live in a handsome house with a garden. And not very political, having shunned the Ba'ath Party under Saddam Hussein and now watching American policy with a wait-and-see wariness.

Religion is paramount, and the house is filled with framed verses from the Koran and glossy images of Mecca. God will determine the family's fate, the men stress.

This is the mindset of most Iraqi people, the Jumailis say firmly, despite the daily reports of US casualties that underscore a stubborn resistance to the American occupation and a growing tide of criticism against the US-sanctioned Governing Council.

"You can destroy a house in two days," said Khaled al-Jumaili, 36, a veteran who served in the Iran war. "But to build a house, it takes months and months and months."...

No one criticizes the American presence. The soldiers are praised as polite, which came as a revelation to the women, who had been warned by the government that the troops would abuse them. The family agrees that reconstruction is difficult, and that the Americans should be given a chance.

Hussein, meanwhile, is vilified as a monster who instilled fear in every household. "If we had invited you here before," Shehaly, the lawyer, says to a visitor, "we should all be put in jail."

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