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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

View From Iraq

Aired September 23, 2003 - 10:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: As we sit here this morning talking about polls, and politics and the rest, in Iraq, where Walt Rogers is this morning in Baghdad, the problems are far more basic. Is there going to be electricity 24 hours a day, 16 hours a day, 12? Is the water clean enough to drink? How late will the stores be open? This's what all this the reconstruction money ultimately is about, to provide security and to rebuild the country.
And life, Walt, in Baghdad and in the country is a mixed bag, fair to say?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More than fair.

Aaron, I think if you ask most Iraqis, certainly in the capital of Baghdad, their primary concern at this point, it would be personal safety. If you live in your home in Baghdad, it is not at all unlikely someone is going to break in and do you harm. There is no police force you can call. Many Iraqis are often robbed on the street. Again, no police force that they can call on. Iraqis simply do not feel safe in their own country at this time, five or six months after the Americans invaded their country, and they had much higher hopes for the American occupation and so far been delivered.

One of the principle concerns -- and I asked about this morning -- is the rumor that the United States is going to try to privatize the economy here. Now, under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis got very cheap electricity, privatization means that they are going to be paying more, and they are going to be paying more when many of them don't have jobs to pay for the current low prices on electricity.

More alarming is, of course, the issue of health insurance here, or rather healthcare, if, indeed the rumors are true, which are sweeping Baghdad today, that the United States is going to try to privatize healthcare here. That means many Iraqis fear they won't be able to afford it, because they paid only a nominal cost for healthcare under Saddam Hussein, and this, too, leaves them more than a little anxious.

What's most interesting as I've been listening to your analysis, is that in all of this, the Iraqi people seem to be sitting on the sidelines, waiting for one side or the other to score a touchdown and, so far, that simply hasn't happened. And the Iraqis, of course, sit on the sideline, keep their heads down, because getting involved in politics in the previous quarter century of Saddam Hussein was often lethal, and at the very least, it was dangerous.

So I think most Iraqis are just waiting to see which way this is going to go, whether the United Nations and a multinational force will come in here, whether the Americans will stick it out. It's a very, very difficult time for the Iraqi people who really have the most to win, or lose or gain, or the most at stake in President Bush's speech -- Aaron.

BROWN: One of the realities of post-war Iraqis is this: When Saddam Hussein was in power, the government was the criminal, if you will. There wasn't a lot -- we were talking to Jane Arraf, our Baghdad bureau chief for a long time, and she talked to us yesterday afternoon about the crime essentially in the country was committed by the government, the kind of crime they are experiencing now, street crime, armed robberies, carjackings, the kind of things that Americans are -- particularly urban Americans are all too familiar with, was largely unheard of. So all of this is a shock to the culture. It's just not what they were used to.

RODGERS: That's true, Aaron, but it's the classic case of the collapse of a totalitarian regime. You saw it in the Soviet Union after the collapse of the Communist Party and the collapse of the internal security system. Those were the glue that held the country and the society together in the Soviet Union. The very same thing is here. When the wrapping comes off, the Saddam Hussein security system here, society disintegrates into sometimes anarchy -- Aaron.

BROWN: Walt, thank you.

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