BAGHDAD -- Baghdad's back is up, its target, George Bush.
"Bush is a bad man, a cowboy in his heart," said the proprietor of an open-stall shop amid the pandemonium of the ancient Arab souk (market). "We love America. We hate Bush."
Adnan Jenavi, owner of the shop, bore an uncanny resemblance to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Just as he, his four brothers and cousins and millions of other Iraqis are swarthy, black-mustached look-alikes of the Iraqi strongman, so do they seem to share his hate for the American president.
United Nations sanctions, now bolstered with the new Security Council resolution authorizing enforcement by military power, are choking imports. But the Jenavis talk tough. "We will eat the fruit of plane trees," Adnan told us.
Westerners, showing patience and good temper in their terrible danger here, awake each morning in clammy fear wondering what their situation may be in the next 24 hours.
The chief American diplomat, Joe Wilson, shepherds his flock of some 800-odd known Americans like a village priest. At 4:30 Sunday morning, he was helping 55 wives and children of U.S. diplomats from Kuwait load themselves and their few remaining possessions on transport for the long haul across the desert to Jordan. He shows the stuff of heroism. Nine American diplomats remain here with him, along with some 50 U.S. officials from the embassy in Kuwait (now run by a skeleton staff of 10).
Adnan Jenavi does not concern himself with the Americans' fear of impending doom. His sentiments spring from a different source: resentment and fury at George Bush. "We are not Panama," the proprietor of an adjoining stall told us. "Saddam is not Noriega. We teach Bush good manners."
In the forlorn cafeteria of the super-deluxe Sheraton Hotel, supplies are running low. The only Americans here are a five-man contingent from CNN. There are British and Swiss citizens, many Filipino kitchen workers and waiters and a sprinkling of other non-Iraqis.
A sad-faced Filipino who wants out told us, "We will be the last priority. Maybe two months, maybe two years."
But even here where Iraqis have prospered from rich American guests, the mood among those who obey Saddam Hussein is anger at George Bush. "He will kill 1,000 of us," whispered an Iraqi waiter. "We do not cry. We will kill 10 of you. You will cry."
White flour is running out in the Sheraton. So are sweets, fruit juices, meats, some green vegetables and carrots. Prices are rocketing upward. The legal exchange rate for the Iraqi dinar has reached $3.30 -- a reversal of the dollar's true value of three dinars. With rising inflation, a bottle of middling French wine, Longchamps rose', priced at 44 dinars, costs $145.20. We paid.
Saturday night, a power shortage cut off lights and air conditioning at 4 a.m. Power was restored at 5:30 a.m., but it was a foretaste of what is to come as U.N. sanctions pinch tighter.
Will the piano wire tightening around Iraq's neck compel Saddam Hussein to cry "uncle"? What shards of evidence there are suggest the answer may be "no."
"Sanctions," said an official in the information ministry, "will start biting, but they will bite you before us."
Just emerging from its nine-year war with Iran, Iraq may find the answer to the sanctions weapon in the will of its people, however tight the piano wire. An American reporter walking the streets and nosing around government departments can get only the barest facts, not nearly enough for solid conclusions.
But top Western diplomats say that in confronting George Bush, Saddam Hussein has "total political control" -- as of today. And the bas-relief monument to Iraqi soldiers on Moustinseria Square suggests a toughness that matches street rhetoric. It shows an Iraqi soldier with his arms tied to two Iranian jeeps driving away from each other. The soldier is ripped in two.
"If Iraq will never forget this," the descriptive legend says, "it will succeed in facing even greater danger." That suggests a fortitude Bush must not ignore as he pursues his high purpose.