20 years after US invasion, young Iraqis see signs of hope

BAGHDAD: Along the Tigris River, young Iraqi men and women in jeans and sneakers danced with joyous abandon on a recent evening to a local rapper as the sun set behind them. It’s a world away from the terror that followed the U.S. invasion 20 years ago.
Iraq’s capital is full of life, its residents enjoying a rare peaceful interlude in a painful modern history. The city’s open-air book market is crammed with shoppers. Affluent young men cruise muscle cars. A few glitzy buildings sparkle where bombs once fell.
President George W. Bush called the U.S.-led invasion launched March 20, 2003, a mission to free the Iraqi people. It threw out a dictator whose rule kept 20 million people in fear for a quarter-century. But it also broke a unified state in the heart of the Arab world. About 300,000 Iraqis were killed between 2003 and 2019, along with more than 8,000 U.S. military, contractors and civilians.
Half of today's population isn’t old enough to remember life under Saddam Hussein. In interviews from Baghdad to Fallujah, young Iraqis deplored the chaos that followed Saddam’s ouster, but many were hopeful about nascent freedoms and opportunities.

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