— More than two months after President Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq, ABCNEWS sent out six news teams across Baghdad to document the dreams, despairs, dreads, and the sheer drama of life in the Iraqi capital.
With the daily news headlines recording rising casualties, public protests, and attacks on U.S. soldiers as well as Iraqis assisting coalition troops, the crews went behind the scenes to discover how the military occupation is affecting both U.S. and Iraqi lives.
Here is a day in the life of Fatin al-Rifai, a professor at Baghdad University, Sgt. Billy Foster from the 1st Armored Division, Stephen Browning of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Dr. Tamara McReynolds at a U.S. Army field hospital and Sheikh Qais al Khaz-Ali, a religious leader in a teeming Baghdad slum.
Baghdad, July 9, 2003, 6 a.m. : The sun comes up on Wednesday, July 9, the three-month anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein.
8 a.m. : The children of 24-year-old Prof. Fatin al-Rifai slowly start to wake up. The two boys, ages 8 and 10, toss and turn. Eight-month-old Malak (which means "angel" in Arabic) stirs, struggles and sits up in her crib.
Al-Rifai teaches English at Baghdad University, where her husband also works as a psychology professor. She says life in post-Saddam Iraq has not improved. "No liberation," she says, "It is a mess. Just a mess."
8:30 a.m. : The soldiers of 136 Alpha Company in the 1st Armored Division take turns sleeping in a small, dark room on the grounds of Baghdad's al-Kindi Hospital. The face of their leader, 29-year-old Sgt. Billy Foster, brightens when the door cracks open and three young boys poke their heads inside. The soldiers have befriended the boys. (They've even given them nicknames such as "CQ" and "Staff Duty", which are Army terms.)
The boys are a bright spot in an otherwise grim daily routine. The hospital the soldiers oversee is, they say, both corrupt and chaotic. "If someone brings in a family member to a doctor," Foster says, "and he doesn't save 'em, lots of times they come back and try to kill the doctor."
9:15 a.m. : Sgt. Foster struggles to understand the complaints of one of the U.S.-trained security guards the 136th has employed at the hospital.
The hospital's problems run deeper than language barriers, however. As he makes his rounds through the wards, he describes a medical facility without basic necessities. Corruption is also a major problem — this is supposed to be a free hospital but payoffs are common. "Sometimes the doctor just plain won't treat somebody because they don't have the money," Foster says. "On rare occasions, we gotta' lock and load and put a gun in a doctor's face and make 'em save somebody's life."
‘It’s Hard on Your Heart’
10 a.m. : Stephen Browning, who's taking a tour of the Baghdad International Airport, provides a striking contrast to Sgt. Foster's weary realism. "I personally believe," says Browning earnestly, "that there is no mission more important than the mission that we are doing here in this country today."
Browning works for the Coalition Provisional Authority. One of his chief tasks is overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq's crippled transportation system.
When asked about the common complaint — in both Iraq and the U.S. — that the coalition was ill-prepared for the rebuilding mission, Browning is quick with an explanation. "The coalition was prepared, I think, to do a different mission," he says.