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29 Oct, 2010 03:21

Iraqis left to clear up American mess, literally

With US troops heading home, Iraq is faced with tons of rubbish and leftovers staying behind. Although markets in the country are now flooded with used American goods, many Iraqis are scared to buy them.

Fallujah in Iraq is a city of mosques and is fast becoming the city of leftovers. Junk left behind by the US Army now dots the landscape.

“A lot of things: generators, car bodies, engines – all for sale,” said Hamid Ghanin, a guard at the former American camp.

For just a few dollars, the highest bidder gets to walk away with second-hand goods American soldiers no longer want.

“The prices are attractive, quite reasonable here,” said a potential customer, Adhmad Issawi.

The sellers claim they came across the loot in different ways. Some they found, some was stolen, the rest they bought. A lot was just given to them.

“As for me, I would not buy it,” Hamid Ghanin said. “We Iraqis are not looking for rubbish. We say, take your junk away with you.”

Across Iraq, American troops have left their camps and handed them over to the Iraqi security forces.

Property and equipment that has not been taken to Afghanistan has either been returned home to the United States or left behind.

Still, American officials worry that the tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment left behind could end up in the wrong hands.

“The Americans did not leave anything behind for free, I am sure of it,” said political analyst Dr. Fadhil Al-Badrani. “All the stuff, it is old and wrecked and stuff the Americans cannot use. The Humvees the Iraqi Army got from the American Army, we had to buy them.”

Despite the fact that second-hand American equipment can now be easily bought by Iraqis, not many are eager to jump at the opportunity. There is no love lost for things American in Iraq today.

“People hate America and they are also scared that these things may be polluted and cause diseases,” Al-Badrani said.

Truck driver Abu Saif says he would not take a chance buying anything on sale. He has been warned by local media that there could be poisonous substances in the abandoned US military camps.

“People fear many diseases, including chest related and cancer,” he said.

The concern is backed up by the Iraqi government.

“Of course, there must have been a great impact on the environment, a great number of weapons were used in this war and on a wide scale,” said Deputy Minister of Environment Dr. Kamal Latif. “Our tests show an increase in pollution levels.”

A good chunk of the American army has left Iraq in what US officials are calling their biggest movement of people and machines since World War II.

Still, the soldiers and their equipment remain a stark reminder that the war is not quite over.