Iraqis protest, but against what?
They just want better lives
A reporter's notebook from CNN's Baghdad-based correspondent Ben Wedeman
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- For the past four months Iraq has provided television viewers the world over with tumultuous scenes of defiance. Center stage were Iraq's leaders, the United Nations weapons inspectors, and a cast of characters around the globe.
And throughout the long-running crisis, it seemed that ordinary Iraqis became props, extras, in this political theater of the absurd.
The demonstrations -- never spontaneous and always state-organized -- quickly became tedious affairs, with the same posters, the same chants, the same stunts.
It was clear not everyone wanted to take part, or even understood why they were there in the first place.
The regular shows of force and bravado made good television, and sent the message of defiance to the rest of the world, but it did little to humanize the Iraqi people.
Iraqis don't demonstrate in their spare time. They try to get by, they try to make the most of their lives under conditions that have become increasingly difficult since the beginning of sanctions more than seven years ago.
The streets of Baghdad offer some surprises, like dancers hired by a photography studio to attract customers. Given a choice, most Iraqis would just as well have a good time -- their joys are no different from the joys of people anywhere.
And as they wait for a change, the people of Iraq go in circles, under sanctions, with little power to influence the course of events -- passive spectators to their own demise.
Those who can leave the country have left, those who remain can only hope for the best.
"We don't want other crises for 200 years. We are fed up with crises like this. We want to live in peace," one Iraqi told me.
For the moment the people of Iraq have been spared the upheaval of war. But for this country that has spent almost a generation either at war or under sanctions, peace remains as elusive as ever.