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20 Mar, 2008 03:35

Iraq counts the cost of war – five years on

President George W. Bush has said he has no regrets about going to war in Iraq. Meanwhile, hundreds of anti-war protesters demonstrated in Washington D.C. to demand the return of U.S. troops.

George Bush made the comments during a speech to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion. He said the war had made the U.S. and the Iraq region much safer.

The protesters chanted slogans and carried banners. Some tried to block entrances to government buildings but were stopped by police. Thirty-two were arrested.

To mark the date Russia Today looks at Iraq five years on.

The country is still being rocked by explosions and blasts almost every day. There is hope for a better future. Although there are some outbreaks of peace on the streets of Iraq, a peaceful existence remains a dream.

Iraqis remain divided about the legacy of the past five years. Some say their lives have changed for the better since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, while others believe things have taken a turn for the worse.

Shopkeeper Mohammed Rasheed says there is democracy and security in Irbil, where he lives, and in all three northern provinces, and there is stability.

Ammar, another Iraqi citizen living in Baghdad, says there’s been no improvement.

“We have lived through five years of destruction and a bad situation. Where is the improvement? Those who appear on television talk about security, but they are telling lies,” he said.

The number of Iraqi people who've died during the five years varies from 200,000 to more than a million. One way or another, it would be hard to find a family in Iraq which has not been affected by the war.

In 2007 the situation deteriorated further because of growing sectarian violence. The conflict between Sunni and Shia factions seemed to be approaching the scale of civil war.

Umm Ali says she got only the head of her eldest son.

“He was badly tortured. Those who did that cannot be human beings, they broke all his bones”.
Despite all the horrors of war, efforts are being made to revive the country. Millions of dollars are being pledged to raise the country's infrastructure from ruins.

The U.S. side of the story isn’t an easy one to tell either.

Some American lives will never be the same. Martin Smith, member of the Iraq Veterans against the war, claims that “Ten thousand Iraq veterans have committed suicide”.

A new frontline has been set-up in the debate on the Iraq war in Washington. On one side are those who believe the conflict has destroyed the lives of American soldiers and their families, as well as damaging the U.S. military and its economy. On the other side are those who say all of this is a lie.

William Page is a member of the pro-war Gathering of Eagles organisation, which staged a protest outside the conference. He says the views expressed by anti-war veterans are too subjective and unsubstantiated.

“They are sitting and giving testimonies not in an official court. Those stories need to be verified before they are put on the news and the people saying it too,” Page said.

However, public attitudes towards the war have become more negative since the U.S. government announced it had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Now a Pentagon report has announced no link could be discovered between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, destroying one of the arguments initially used by the U.S. to justify its Iraq campaign.

In spite of this, as the war approaches its fifth anniversary, President Bush is maintaining his position.

“The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency. It is the right decision at this point in my presidency and it will forever be the right decision,” Bush said.

But it will never be the right decision for the families of the soldiers who survived the war but not the memories of it.