[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 
suit?We'll see.

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 
this message.

Please pass this on to your concerned friends.

Wally Roberts
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 
wasn't a 
 "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 
 you'd like.
 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? 
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 
 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 
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 
 out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back 
 the neighborhoods.

 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 
 going here.

 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 
have to 
 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 
onto this 
 country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back 
 a bottle.

 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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