"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
Two and a half years after the American invasion, the violence shows no sign of relenting, and life for middle-class Iraqis seems only to be getting worse. Educated, invested in businesses and properties and eager for change, the middle class here had everything to gain from the American effort. But frustration is hardening into hopelessness, as families feel increasingly trapped by the many forces that are threatening to tear the country apart.
Insurgents fight gun battles on their streets. Sectarian divisions are seeping into their children's classrooms and even their own dinner table discussions. Their secular voices are barely audible above the din of religious politicians and the poorer Iraqis they appeal to. The daily life the middle class describe is an obstacle course of gasoline lines, blocked roads and late-night generator repairs.
Like many Iraqis, Mr. Abdul-Razzaq said, he despised Saddam Hussein. His uncle was in prison for four years. As an officer in the Iraqi Army, he saw five of his friends executed for treason in 1983 during the war with Iran. But he also enjoyed benefits from his connection with the military, securing contracts for spare parts after he quit. Still, Mr. Hussein's fall was a cause for celebration, and he had high hopes for his future here.
But the rise of the religious parties in the past seven months has sapped Mr. Abdul-Razzaq of his remaining hope. The middle class is largely secular, and most of its members are put off by the religious parties that appeal to the poor Shiite masses on the one hand and to embittered Sunnis, who lost their status after the American-led invasion, on the other. Mr. Abdul-Razzaq voted for a Shiite because the candidate was secular.
The religious Shiite government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari, Mr. Abdul-Razzaq said, is pursuing an agenda that favors religious Shiites, driving a wedge deeper into the dangerous divisions in Iraqi society. "The Americans put us in a ridiculous situation," he said. "They came to Iraq and all the religious parties came with them. The religious man in Iraq is like a fox."