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
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
"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
"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
"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