When you step out on the streets of Baghdad you notice immediately that all is not right in Iraq.
Thousands of concrete barricades divide city neighbourhoods into small cantons.
Everywhere are reminders that this is a country under occupation. It is a bleak vision of this ancient city.
This pattern repeats itself at a smaller scale too. Even in local areas roads are blocked by concrete barriers.
Everywhere there are checkpoints manned by the Iraqi security forces.
They are set up at will and prevent people from moving around freely. There are constant traffic jams and no traffic lights.
After six years of occupation there is still a huge shortage of drinking water.
Electricity is often off for more than 12 hours a day—which is unbearable in the heat of the summer.
Baghdad is in a worse state than during my last visit in October 2003.
The dust that covers the city is an indication of a huge environmental disaster taking place.
Contamination and falling levels of water in Iraq’s two major rivers are turning huge swathes of agricultural land into a desert.
The country was once capable of feeding its people. But now Iraqi fruit and vegetables have disappeared from the markets.
The situation is even worse in southern cities like Basra, which was once a beautiful place.
Its famous network of streams and small rivers are now open sewers. The stench hits you as soon as you enter this great city.
This not the image that the US paints of Iraq.
The occupiers claim that reconstruction is taking place, and that they have created a democratic state with a system based on consensus and power-sharing.
But the US has created a weak and fragmented state, and they want it to stay that way so it is easy to control.
The political process is based on religious sectarianism and division. The constitution is a minefield that is turning region against region.
Ministries are divided on sectarian lines and there is massive nepotism and embezzlement of public funds.
The occupiers have squandered huge amounts of public funds.
The only “achievement” of the occupation is the widespread corruption that is eating away at the Iraqi state.
The former electricity minister Ayham al-Samarrai was accused of embezzling $100 million in a scam involving the import of electricity generators.
He was sentenced by an Iraqi court, but was spirited away from the security of the occupiers’ Green Zone in Baghdad to a new life in the US.
Another notable scandal involved Hazim Shalan, a former defence minister. He was accused of importing non-existent or faulty weapons.
The most recent case involves trade minister Falah al‑Sudani, who resigned last week after being accused of corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
His two brothers are also implicated. They stand accused of fiddling import licences for the rationing system which millions of Iraqis depend on for food.
Occupation forces and Iraqi political parties took control of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. They divided up the spoils like thieves, and took buildings that belong to the people.
The Al-Fadhila Party took over the huge unfinished Al‑Rahman mosque in Baghdad. It sold off materials bought for the Mosque’s construction to fill its own pockets.
Many people believe that these corrupt and sectarian institutions were created by the US with the aim of keeping Iraq fragmented and weak.
Sabah Jawad is an officer of the Stop the War Coalition and Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation