Life without Saddam is good

JOEL BRINKLEY NY Times:

". . .On Friday evening, the American authorities lifted the curfew on Baghdad starting early Sunday morning, saying life here was returning to normal. Across the city on Saturday, numerous Iraqis agreed and provided ample evidence. Streets swarmed with people shopping and socializing. Coffee houses were packed. Families strolled; vendors clogged the sidewalks.

"The manager of a travel agency said he is busy for the first time in more than a decade, primarily booking thousands of vacations to the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, where Iraqis had been forbidden to travel since 1991.

". . .Outside the city passport office on Saturday afternoon, dozens of Iraqis milled about, waiting to apply for travel papers. Rouda Jasim Ali sat under a tree outside the office, obviously proud as she held travel papers just issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority, written in English and Arabic.

"She had never left the country before, 'but now I am going to visit my uncle in Jordan,' she said with a grin.

"'Life is getting back to normal; we are adapting to the situation, but we are still afraid of bombs,' said Rana al-Bidhani, 22, a linguistics student. 'It's good to go out again.'

"Before the war, young women were afraid to visit this restaurant for another reason. It was a favorite of Uday Hussein, the president's notorious son, who was known to pick up attractive women he encountered and take them back to his palace.

". . .Assistant Judge Varrack Bassam seemed pleased to observe that he and the other judges could issue judgments without interference from the state.

"'Before the trial was a parody,' he said. If a friend of the government came to the court charged with a crime, 'someone would come into the court connected with the regime and say it was better not to sentence him.'"

It is interesting to note tht the Times did not run this story on its front page.

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