WSJ Reporter on Iraq

I posted a bit of this email from a Wall Street Journal reporter in Baghdad in the Andrew Sullivan post below, but there's more worth reading in it.

It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April
when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when
Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began
spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a
foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come..

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods.

The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it-baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda-are cooperating and coordinating...

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly...

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a 'no go zone' out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

And tonight we'll listen to one candidate who continues to push the "freedom is on the march" line as his absurd way of blowing sunshine up our ass about it, and another candidate who has made so many different and contradictory statements about the situation that no one has a clue what he might do to fix it, least of all him. It's all quite depressing, isn't it?

More like this

From Andrew Sullivan, an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, who echoes much of what I've been saying here lately about the situation there:The reason I believe things are dire in Iraq is pretty simple. The evidence is accumulating that the insurgency - fostered by Baathist thugs, al Qaeda…
As you know if you've been reading these occasional updates, my friend Paul has been working as a reporter in Baghdad for the last year. He's based in Cairo, but has been spending six weeks at a stretch in Baghdad, with breaks of a week or two at home. His Iraq shift has come to an end, and he's…
Here's the latest of the intermittent updates (I actually skipped one, but I'll come back to it on a slow day one of these days) from my friend Paul, who's working as a journalist in Baghdad (and, thankfully, just about done with his tour there). This is one of the most opinionated of the…
It's an axiom of military life that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. It appears that our latest plans in Iraq couldn't survive contact with our allies: Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and…

It isn't at all hard to say when the "turning point" came in Iraq. It came the moment we crossed the border into Iraq.

Why would anyone think our experience would be any different than what the British experienced after World War I? We ravaged Iraq with trade sanctions for a decade and somehow we think we're going to be treated better than the British were? Madness.]

The British never controlled the country. They never closed the border. But they did "stay the course," as we are now being urged to do. How long did the Brits try? What was it -- 18 long years? And then they left.

We should skip to the end, leave now, and change our foreign policy. Instead, we're hearing all the things we heard about Vietnam. Close the Ho Chi Min Trail (close the borders), send more troops, show strength, protect our credibility. Bah! It all translates to losing more lives and recruiting more terrorists to bring the carnage here to America.

At least the Viet Cong didn't want to blow up our buildings. So this "history repeating" is even worse. We're repeating our own history and Britain's too.

By Perry Willis (not verified) on 30 Sep 2004 #permalink

I think the extent to which Kerry has made "different and contradictory statements" about Iraq is somewhat exaggerated; see and

Even if Kerry had flip-flopped, he'd have been right 50% more often than Bush has been. I'm baffled as to why US voters aren't baying for Bush's head. Bush was wrong on WMD. He was wrong on the Saddam/Al Qaida link. He has created a quagmire that is spiralling downwards into a situation that may soon have Iraqis (and us) looking with nostalgia upon Saddam's regime. The invasion and Abu Ghraib have probably created far more terrorists than the US has neutralized since 9/11. And, to achieve this, he's pissed away $200 billion dollars, 1000 US lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. Has there ever been a greater foreign policy disaster in US history?

And yet, US voters still seem to think Bush is better qualified to lead the war on terror. Better than what? A chimp?

By Jim Foley (not verified) on 30 Sep 2004 #permalink