Iraqis See Hope Fade Away

82nd Airborne, Sadr City, Iraq, March 17, 2007
A U.S. soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division guards a school transformed into a temporary clinic for residents of Baghdad's Sadr City March 17, 2007.

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After a weekend filled with countless roundups of how things are going for the United States after four years of war in Iraq, USA Today offers a much-needed – and deeply disturbing – assessment of where things stand from the Iraqi perspective.

A survey of more than 2,000 Iraqis found a nation fragmented by fear and largely bereft of hope for a better future. "Iraqis describe daily lives that have been torn apart by spiraling violence and a faltering economy," the newspaper says. Six in ten say their lives are going badly and just one-third think things will get better in the next year.

"That represents a dramatic deterioration in just 16 months," the paper says, "a reflection of how the security situation and quality of life in Iraq have unraveled." The "bursts of optimism" found in a 2004 poll taken a year after the war's start and again in a 2005 survey before landmark elections "have nearly vanished."

The survey, conducted by USA Today along with U.S., British and German TV networks, found stark ethnic differences, with Kurds the most optimistic about the conditions in Iraq, followed by Shiite Muslims, while Sunnis expressed "almost universal desperation."

There were regional differences, too, with people in Baghdad more pessimistic and fearful than those in other parts of the country. Every one of the 429 Baghdad residents surveyed did not feel safe in his or her own neighborhood, and every one of them said he or she "often avoided even going outside because of violence."

Things were marginally better beyond Baghdad; still, only one-third outside the capital called their neighborhoods safe.

More Heat Over Prosecutor Firings

The flap over the Justice Department's firing of federal prosecutors continues to heat up and may come to a head this week over Democratic demands that Karl Rove and other top White House aides testify under oath before Congress.

The New York Times reports that while the White House is unlikely to agree to such a demand, some Republicans think Rove should appear privately, in order to quiet the growing political firestorm.

The Times points out that the Bush administration " has been particularly protective of executive privilege," and cites "Republicans close to the White House" as saying the decision about "whether, or how much, to cooperate will come down to a calculation of the political risks and rewards."

Meanwhile, both the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post are running stories about what may be emerging as the most troubling of the fired prosecutor cases – that of the U.S. attorney in San Diego who was allegedly dismissed as she pursued a probe of Republican corruption.

The Post reports that U.S. Attorney Carol C. Lam told the Justice Department that search warrants were being issued in a GOP bribery scandal one day before the attorney general's chief of staff – who has since resigned over his role in the firings – cautioned the White House that there was a "real problem" with the prosecutor and urged her dismissal.

The L.A. Times says Lam, who led the investigation that resulted in the bribery conviction of former Republican congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, was reportedly extending that probe to other Republican lawmakers in California.

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