It is currently ranked the worst out of 215 cities assessed by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, with the lowest score "based on detailed assessments and evaluations of 39 key quality-of-life determinants", including economic, human and social services and development as well as security and safety. (See table below.)

That reflects the worst fears of the two clashing and conflicting attitudes which prevailed during the preparations to invade Iraq: that the situation will slip out of control once the government of President Saddam Hussein is defeated and its security and military apparatus is undermined.

Both sides, those who supported and others who either opposed or were indifferent to the US and UK military occupation of the country, ended up with a "messy" situation which threatens to lead to a civil war and can potentially spill into a security risk to neighbouring Arab countries, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait, the latter playing a major role in facilitating and supporting the US-UK invasion of Iraq.

However that eventuality of chaos and civil war was dismissed, at the time, by US and UK politicians and military commanders and by Iraqi opposition abroad, as scare-mongering by Saddam supporters and non-democratic elements who were accused of attempting to thwart the winds of freedom and democratic change.

The occupiers offered a rosy and attractive image for post-Saddam Iraq: it will have a democratically elected government, respect for human rights and the rule of law, as well as freedom in all aspects of life, social, educational, political and economic prosperity and development.

A table of the least attractive and poor cities in the world (Source: Mercer Human Resource Consulting study of 1 March 2004).

Overall Quality of Life – Ranking, Bottom 10 (New York = 100)

Rank

City

Country

Index

2004

2003

2004

2003

206

206

Luanda

Angola

39.5

39

207

208

Ndjamena

Chad

38.5

38.5

207

206

Nouakchott

Mauritania

38.5

39

207

210

Ouagadougou

Burkina Faso

38.5

38

207

208

Sanaa

Republic of Yemen

38.5

38.5

211

211

Khartoum

Sudan

33.5

33.5

211

212

Pointe Noire

Congo

33.5

32.5

213

215

Brazzaville

Congo

29.5

28.5

214

214

Bangui

Central African Republic

28.5

30

215

213

Baghdad

Iraq

14.5

30.5

None of that has materialised one year after the occupation. They even codenamed the military invasion "freedom Iraq". An Iraqi historian asserts that this in fact echoes a statement by the British General Stanley Maud when he led his colonial army into Baghdad after the First World War saying: "We come as liberators not conquerors."

Bleak image

In verified contrast, Iraqis agree that the current realities present a bleak image of life in post-Saddam Iraq, which is characterised by the lack of social, health, medical, sanitarian, public services and other basic requirements.

Lawlessness, violence, assassinations and the disruption of the people's personal security have set deep roots since the US-UK invasion and occupation of the country.

Furthermore unemployment has soared from around three per cent before the war to 78% according to UN agencies' estimates.

Both sides, those who supported and others who either opposed or were indifferent to the US and UK military occupation of the country, ended up with a "messy" situation.

The human cost is however appalling as death and infant mortality rates have escalated due to the lack of medication, health services and clean water and environment.

It has been worsened by the dual negative impact of: a) the collapse of the economic infrastructure as a result of the US-UK bombing campaign and military operations and b) the decision of the occupation administration to lay off more than a million employees who were working for the Iraqi ministries of defence, interior, information and other government departments.

That decision suddenly deprived more than a third of the population from any source of income to sustain their families or even to plan for a future for their children.

Undermining the situation

Furthermore the worsening security, and general safety, environment had undermined economic and commercial activity and restricted expansion and long-term investment.

Certainly, nowhere in the world had superpower alliances and their strategic schemes produced such misery and death as it had in Iraq. It is chaotic, or can be described as "well planned, well managed and well orchestrated chaos" according to Dr Salman Jumaily, an Iraqi political analyst and university professor.  

He explained that the occupiers, mainly the US, had encouraged, if not planned deliberately to create, the current chaos so that the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) and the occupiers can argue that the presence of US and UK military forces are required to deal with the chaotic situation and establish security in Iraq.

Analysts say the chaos gives the
US/UK forces an excuse to stay

What purpose does that serve?

Dr Sami Ali, an Iraqi media university lecturer, defines the objective of that as continuous US military and political occupation of Iraq to control its oil riches and cripple its ability to play a vital role in the Middle East that can undermine US strategic plans.

However, the worst of all scares, according to recently published opinion in Iraq, is the gazing danger of civil war, the elements of which are simmering and ready to launch into a sectarian, ethnic and political blood bath.

Indicative of that are the ongoing incidents of bombings, assassinations, raids by US special forces and the oppressive operations by Shia and Kurdish militia into civilian homes.

Fuelling clashes

The occupation authorities had contributed to deepening the domestic conflicts and clashes by formalising into political reality the division of Iraqi society along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines through membership shares in the Governing Council and other administrative bodies.

The society has become acutely polarised and is poised to explode into internecine violence with each group seeking its "own rights”.

However, the worst of all scares, according to recently published opinion in Iraq, is the gazing danger of civil war, the elements of which are simmering and ready to launch into a sectarian, ethnic and political blood bath.

Yet the most disadvantaged constitute the majority of the society, described as the "silent majority", whose daily life is disrupted by violence, occupation and the lack of services and basic amenities.

Their future is still as uncertain as when they were living under the previous regime. No democracy is viable in such an environment of death and fear where the IGC and the occupation authorities had refused to hold general elections.

All members of the council, bar one, were brought from abroad with the US and UK invading forces. No economic development can be realised as violence and tension undermine confidence and expel investment while the US occupation authority controls the production and export of Iraqi oil and its revenues.

Despite that bleak picture, a sizeable proportion of Iraqis still believe that there is a real prospect for stability and that their future will be prosperous and the sacrifices for that worthwhile.

Some believe that the political situation will improve as the US administration and its Iraqi followers will be forced to loosen their tight grip in this year of US presidential elections whereas other ordinary persons, such as my 67-year-old mother, have lost all hope for democracy and freedom and only care about their daily diet of bread to avoid being starved to death. 

The irony is that this can occur in a country such as Iraq which sits on the second largest reserve of oil in the world.

Dr Abdul-Hadi Tamimi is a broadcaster, writer and lecturer on Arab politics in the UK. He has recently co-authored a book with Noam Chomsky and other leading journalists and writers called Tell Me Lies, on the media and the war against Iraq.