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The Genie of Chaos Has Taken Control of Iraq
Published on Tuesday, November 2, 2004 by The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
The Genie of Chaos Has Taken Control of Iraq
by Alan Ramsey
Farnaz Fassihi is an American journalist born in Iran who writes from Baghdad for The Wall Street Journal. Four weeks ago she returned to the United States on leave. Before she left she sent a 2000-word email to friends. Within days it was a chain letter on the internet. A number of US newspapers have published details, including The Oregonian in Portland where Fassihi went to high school. Her own newspaper has not.

Andrew Rosenthal, an editor with The New York Times, has been quoted as calling the letter "extremely powerful". It's the least you could say.

What, I wonder, would our Prime Minister say, as well as our dolt of a Foreign Minister? The usual political pap, no doubt. Last Friday, when Robert Hill, our Defence Minister, was asked about a report in The Washington Post that day that "at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians may have died because of the US invasion", he mumbled the Government's stock travesty about "every effort taken to minimise casualties".

What Hill really meant was every effort to minimise US and Australian casualties. More than 1100 US soldiers have died in George Bush's appalling Iraq folly, plus 8000 wounded or injured. Australia's only casualties in 19 months have been three minor wounded last week. By contrast 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians must be delighted to have their "freedom".

You think that despicable? Read an edited extract of what Farnaz Fassihi thinks has been systematically done to Iraq since the White House launched Operation Iraqi Freedom in March last year:

"Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest. I avoid people's homes. I never 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 anything but a full armoured 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 doing, saying, feeling. And can't, and can't.

"There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so close it blew out all the windows. Now my most pressing concern every day is to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive.

"It's hard to pinpoint the 'turning point'. Was it April when Falluja fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Or when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on US personnel? Or when Sadr City, home to 10 per cent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield? Or 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, a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the US for decades.

"Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation'.

"Asked, 'How are things?' they reply, 'The situation is very bad.' What they mean is the Iraq government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs each day around the country, killing and injuring. The country's roads are littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill US soldiers. There are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings.

" The 'situation' means a raging, barbaric civil war. In four days, 300 people died and 300 were injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking the ministry of health stopped disclosing them. Insurgents now attack Americans an average 87 times a day.

"If anything the insurgency is growing stronger and more sophisticated. Baathists, criminals, nationalists and al-Qaeda are co-operating and co-ordinating. I went to an emergency meeting with the military and embassy to discuss kidnappings. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you to Baathists in Falluja, who in turn sell you to al-Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way.

"America's last hope for a quick exit?

"The Iraqi police and national guard units are spending billions to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozen every day - over 700 to date - and insurgents are infiltrating. Almost all reconstruction projects have come to a halt. One could argue Iraq already is lost beyond salvation. For those of us here it's hard to imagine what could salvage its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed by American mistakes and can't be put back in the bottle.

"I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week about the [proposed] elections. He said, 'President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy as an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about a regional model. We have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."'

This country must feel very proud.

© 2004 The Sydney Morning Herald


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