[Mb-civic] ANOTHER......Letter from Baghdad
ean at sbcglobal.net
ean at sbcglobal.net
Tue Sep 28 21:01:24 PDT 2004
The following email is, as you will see, winding through the internet to me and
to you. I left in all the introductory emails since they set the context and
source and, I think, authenticity. Judge for yourself...
Sent: 9/27/2004 8:39:31 PM
Subject: Special edition: The Tyranny & War Report
What follows is an e-mail message from the wife of Andrew Rosenthal, who
is the foreign editor of the NYTimes, who received the main message below
from a Wall Street Journal reporter based in Baghdad.
Th conditions describedshould not be news to readers of TTWR, but, at last,
we have a WSJ reporter and a NYTimes editor speaking the truth and
providing intelligent assessments. Will the editors above them allow them to
print unvarnished reports? If so, will the TV networks and NPR follow
In the interest of getting this report out as broadly as possible, I have added
some names to the recipient list for TTWR. If you are one of these persons,
this is a one-time mailing to you. If you would like to continue receiving these
reports, send me a message at wroberts at sover.net with the words
"subscribe TTWR" in the subject line.
Please excuse any double postings from me or other persons broadcasting
Please pass this on to your concerned friends.
453 Washington Rd.
Williamstown, VT 05679
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:; <mailto:Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Sent: Friday, September 24, 2004 12:45 PM
Subject: Fw: From Baghdad
Everyone knows about my politics. So you can believe it or not, but I
didn't decide to pass this on b/c of my politics.
I don't read much coverage of the war. But it's Andy job to read it,
and he's read a LOT. He doesn't pass on or discuss much of it with
me, because as he notes, it upsets me. (The e-mail below is actually
the first thing he's ever sent me about the war.)
Most of you probably know that Andy's views on the reasons to go
war in Iraq were much more nuanced and balanced than mine; he
"supporter" but he acknowledged at the time and later that there
valid reasons to take the action the Administration did. You probably
also know that Andy had a well-developed sense of integrity and
he remains one of the increasingly rare journalists who takes
seriously the responsibility to review information as objectively as
he honestly can. In the context of his profession, he does not use
words like "incredibly powerful," "terrifying" and "depressing" to
describe information or events lightly. But he used them to describe
the following e-mail.
Which is why I'm passing it on to you. Do with it what you will.
Take care. Mary Beth
----- Original Message -----
From: Andrew Rosenthal <mailto:andyr at nytimes.com
To: Mary Beth Rosenthal <mailto:mbrosenthal at comcast.net
Sent: Friday, September 24, 2004 11:19 AM
Subject: FW: From Baghdad
Sweetie, I don't want to depress you, so advance warning that this is
an incredibly powerful email from a Wall Street Journal reporter in
Baghdad. it's not gross or anything, just terrifying and profoundly
depressing. It's worth reading. Feel free to pass it on to anyone
From: "Farnaz Fassihi" <ff14 at hotmail.com
<mailto:ff14 at hotmail.com
Subject: From Baghdad
Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being
under virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me
this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new
people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that
could make a difference.
Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those
reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason
and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and
walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat
in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look
for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go
to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't
speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an
American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what
people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't..
There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so
our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing
concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive
and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a
security personnel first, a reporter second.
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
when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military?
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
most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq
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
Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are
thing?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad."
What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't
control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each
day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent
the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by
of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers,
there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The
basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war.
In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad
alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health-
was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the
numbers-- has now stopped disclosing them.
Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.
A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said
young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into
ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive,
cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to
signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads
of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His
car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls
sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American
convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was
supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.
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
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
out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back
The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming
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
our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping
once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes:
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
missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still
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.
As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to
operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years,
of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only
about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been
reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are
Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of
sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel.
Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer
because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in
Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for
insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom
day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.
I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were
allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote.
This is truly sad.
Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about
elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the
importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq
into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East.
about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we
salvage Iraq before all is lost."
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
country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back
The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three
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.
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
vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents
and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To
democracy? Are you joking?"
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Action is the antidote to despair. ----Joan Baez
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