This is worse than war: the strain of living with the constant threat of war hanging over them is beginning to tell on the Iraqi people. While they play no part in political events, it is they who will pay the biggest price if the US launches an attack.

Position:Current Affairs

As the seconds, minutes, hours and days pass and every deadline for possible war is replaced by another, Iraqis live on the edge, waiting for a war that will decide their personal and collective fate. Edgy and strained they have become "nervy" as a result of their exposure to the endless rumours spreading the latest so-called "news" as well as the "enemy" radio-broadcasts beaming "breaking stories" into the country from Kuwait, Iraqi Kurdistan, neighbouring Jordan and sometimes even further afield.

As 2003 began the average Iraqi felt he/she had little to look forward to. Feeling confused and tired of waiting for a war, an invasion, an uprising and of course, a change in the power structure, most just wished it would "happen" and be over with.

"Living with the uncertainty is worse than living in a state of war, because one is a state of flux while the other involves action," said Issam, a 28 year old store keeper from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. "Our lives are on hold and the wait is wearing us down, the Americans should decide what they want and just do it, we must take our chances," he said listlessly.

Issam is, like most Iraqis, certain that the US has already decided to bombard Iraq and will attempt to take over the country in a bid to occupy its vast oil fields. Speaking to Iraqis in shops, offices, cafes and homes one is struck by how resigned the average citizen is to this fate. For those who do not know Iraq or Iraqis, which includes many foreign correspondents who faithfully report what they see and what they are told, it seems Iraq is a society which has surrendered before the threat of war becomes a reality.

In public, thousands of Iraqis still continue to show up at Baath Party rallies and government organised public relations events. But such is the law of the land. There are no spontaneous demonstrations or government opposition groups that operate openly.

However, what many "observers" may not be aware of is how much the last two wars and more than 12 years of economic embargo have done to bring Iraqis to this state of sheer exhaustion and acceptance of "fate".

The Iraq-Iran war (1980-88), known to Iraqis as the "war of Qadisia", in reference to both the early Islamic and recent (1980-88) battle over Al Qadisia, cost them 500,000 casualties. The number, while substantial, does not indicate however, that every household in the country was affected. Every able bodied man was called to the war front and, it frequently...

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