THERE have been disturbing reports in the British and American press of Iraqi villagers clapping with joy as they realised that the helicopter which had been shot down near their homes last Sunday was American and that several US soldiers had died. The immediate images which came to mind were those of Palestinian villagers seen on television dancing and laughing as they heard the news of the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11. There was always a doubt about those television pictures; poor villagers will always dance and laugh for a few coins from an unscrupulous cameraman. But the Iraq reports have a ring of truth about them and include comments from several eye-witnesses of the scene. The burden of these comments is that ordinary Iraqis are beginning to wonder what the difference is between the oppression some of them experienced under Saddam Hussein and the oppression they now feel when any contact with the US servicemen occupying their country is at the end of a gun. They say they want to be left alone to sort out their own problems, for better or worse. It is a tragic situation: the US forces that expected to be greeted as liberators are increasingly under attack and as a result have become ever more suspicious of, and thererfore distant from, the people they are there to help. THERE is accumulating evidence in the United States of the lack of understanding by the Bush administration of the daunting task it would face in Iraq after the war. There is probably now no chance of recovering the lost ground; the only solution is the speedy establishment of Iraqi governing institutions backed up, as necessary, by an international force under UN auspices.