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September 29, 2004 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Foreign correspondence that the readers haven't seen... The New York Observer writes today about a memo, purportedly written by a Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent (although that's in dispute.) The vivid writing is part travelogue, part horror story -- and wholly different than any foreign story I've read since the war started. (And I work for a newspaper.) But this has reportedly seen the halls of the Journal and the New York Times.
posted by krewson (24 comments total)

 
Tx obv. to Romenesko, who updates: That correspondent did write the e-mail, who says "I'm stunned at how this became a global chain mail... I wrote it as a private email to my friends."
posted by krewson at 1:00 PM on September 29, 2004


Interesting stuff, nothing I didn't already know, but it's interesting to hear things from someone on the ground.

On the flipside, an Iranian guy I know is making tons of money by shipping cars to Iran and then selling them in Iraq. The country maybe a no-go area in many parts, but according to him, certain areas are prospering as never before now that there is no command economy or sanctions. Unfortunately, it seems like the elements of hope and progress are tiny islands in a sea of chaos.
posted by cell divide at 1:28 PM on September 29, 2004


Mr. Rosenthal added that the word that things are bad in Iraq has not exactly been suppressed by The Times. To anyone who’s read the editorial page, he said, the missive is "hardly the cri de coeur of some captive of the journalistic establishment."

If anything in there is news to you then you haven't been paying attention.
posted by euphorb at 1:39 PM on September 29, 2004


My point was this: What the editors hear and what they publish are two different things. So what runs in the newspaper is often, for stylistic and balance reasons, less vivid. I submit to the group that this missive, while not containing earth-shattering new information, does have what most day-to-day newspaper reports do not: Context.

(I pay plenty of attention, thanks sort of how my mortgage gets paid.)
posted by krewson at 2:01 PM on September 29, 2004


That correspondent did write the e-mail, who says "I'm stunned at how this became a global chain mail... I wrote it as a private email to my friends."

Guess she didn't follow our Laurie Garrett thread. ("I cannot imagine that any of the close personal friends to whom I sent a letter from Davos would visciously pas it on in such a manner.")
posted by beagle at 2:50 PM on September 29, 2004


So what he actually said was, "I'm afraid to leave my apartment, but this is what I've heard others say."

For the record, there are eight (8) cities and the slum of Sadr City where there is still serious resistance going on. Other problems, like car bombs, are believed to be imported from these eight.

In a country the size of France. With 25 million people.

If he is afraid of being kidnapped, then he shouldn't go to Columbia, either, where kidnapping is about as bad. But fear has different effects on different people.

A recent Gallup poll of Iraqis had an interesting result. By far their biggest issue is "crime", by a whopping majority. But on the same poll, "the insurgency" rated around 5% concern. Combined with the fact that insurgents are now *arrested* on *criminal* charges, tried in Iraqi courts, and sentenced to *prison*, seems to have convinced the great majority of Iraqis that the war is over.
posted by kablam at 6:26 PM on September 29, 2004


Presumably, kablam, in those four days he mentions, those 110 people died of the sheer ecstasy of liberation. Or perhaps they died of boredom due to the lack of chaos and bloodshed surrounding them. Maybe they died of concern about "crime."

And a further 300 were injured by exploding property values. Or possibly flying shards of justice from those courts.
posted by rusty at 7:11 PM on September 29, 2004


Combined with the fact that insurgents are now *arrested* on *criminal* charges, tried in Iraqi courts, and sentenced to *prison*, seems to have convinced the great majority of Iraqis that the war is over.

Heady U.S. Goals for Iraq Fall by Wayside

Bush administration hopes for the Iraqi oil industry have also foundered. Initially, there were predictions that Iraq could step up production to 6 million barrels a day in a matter of years. Now, however, U.S. officials in Iraq concede they may not even be able to meet the goal of pumping 2.8 million barrels of oil a day by the end of this year. Constant insurgent attacks on oil infrastructure have produced losses of up to $1 billion this year, slashing the funds available for reconstruction...

So far, only $1.2 billion has been disbursed, and so much of that has been eaten up in project overhead and payments to foreign firms that less than half of it has reached Iraqis, according to nongovernmental experts.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage told a House subcommittee Friday that only 77,000 Iraqis were employed on rebuilding projects. "That's woefully inadequate," he said.


Growing Pessimism on Iraq

A growing number of career professionals within national security agencies believe that the situation in Iraq is much worse, and the path to success much more tenuous, than is being expressed in public by top Bush administration officials, according to former and current government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense. While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say...

"Things are definitely not improving," said one U.S. government official who reads the intelligence analyses on Iraq. "It is getting worse," agreed an Army staff officer who served in Iraq and stays in touch with comrades in Baghdad through e-mail. "It just seems there is a lot of pessimism flowing out of theater now. There are things going on that are unbelievable to me. They have infiltrators conducting attacks in the Green Zone. That was not the case a year ago."


Baghdad's Green Zone 'island' prepares for rough seas

"They should be worried," says one American technology contractor here who has refused - despite the recent kidnapping and beheading of two US contractors who lived in an upscale Baghdad neighborhood - to relocate to the Green Zone. "I still feel safer where I am than living in there," the contractor says. requesting anonymity. "The place never has been what I'd call secure, but it's gotten worse. If they think the mortars and rockets going in there now are something, they aren't going to know what hit them."

The contractor says military specialists have repeatedly warned of the zone's security shortfalls. Indeed, officials report that a desire to head off any unhappy surprises is prompting "what-if" sessions, where scenarios involving various security breaches are thrown out and responses are weighed - with the idea of taking action so that nothing ever happens. "What if they were able to take 200 Americans hostage, and announced they would kill one a day until they got what they wanted," one official queries. "What would our response be?"


Oil Sabotage Threatens Iraq Economy, Rebuilding

The sharp rise in attacks on Iraq's oil pipelines in recent weeks has substantially impaired the country's production, dealing a blow to the economy and threatening the struggling reconstruction effort, U.S. and Iraqi officials say. Insurgents are bombing pipelines and other parts of Iraq's oil infrastructure almost daily, another sign that the country's security situation is deteriorating beyond the control of U.S. military and Iraqi security forces. U.S. and Iraqi officials said the strikes had reduced average daily oil production by nearly 100,000 barrels, resulting in losses of as much as $1 billion this year.

New Iraq attacks are more sophisticated

"The set of attacks that occurred over the weekend were definitely more simultaneous than in the past," said Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, spokesman for coalition forces in Baghdad. Analysts say the plethora of armed groups behind the insurgency are increasingly working together.

"As time goes on, various gangs get together and it does become more coordinated," said Judith Kipper, a Middle East expert at the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations. "Groups start small, get know-how and become more lethal over time."


Iraqi civilian casualties mounting

Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.


According to the ministry, the interim Iraqi government recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country's 18 provinces from April 5 - when the ministry began compiling the data - until Sept. 19. Of those, 328 were women and children. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured, the ministry said. While most of the dead are believed to be civilians, the data include an unknown number of police and Iraqi national guardsmen. Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number of Iraqis killed in fighting could be significantly higher. During the same period, 432 American soldiers were killed.

Iraqi officials said the statistics proved that U.S. airstrikes intended for insurgents also were killing large numbers of innocent civilians. Some say these casualties are undermining popular acceptance of the American-backed interim government.

Nearly a third of the Iraqi dead - 1,122 - were killed in August, according to the statistics. May was the second deadliest month, with 749 Iraqis killed, and 319 were killed in June, the least violent month. Most of those killed lived in Baghdad; the ministry found that 1,068 had died in the capital...

Iraqi officials said about two-thirds of the Iraqi deaths were caused by multinational forces and police; the remaining third died from insurgent attacks. The ministry began separating attacks by multinational and police forces and insurgents June 10. From that date until Sept. 10, 1,295 Iraqis were killed in clashes with multinational forces and police versus 516 killed in terrorist operations, the ministry said. The ministry defined terrorist operations as explosive devices in residential areas, car bombs or assassinations.


Hepatitis Outbreak Laid to Water and Sewage Failures

A virulent form of hepatitis that is especially lethal for pregnant women has broken out in two of Iraq's most troubled districts, Iraqi Health Ministry officials said in interviews here this week, and they warned that a collapse of water and sewage systems in the continuing violence in the country is probably at the root of the outbreak. The disease, called hepatitis E, is caused by a virus that is often spread by sewage-contaminated drinking water. The officials said they had equipment to test only a limited number of people showing symptoms, suggesting that only a fraction of the actual cases have been firmly diagnosed. In Sadr City, a Baghdad slum that for months has been convulsed by gun battles between a local militia and American troops, the officials said as many as 155 cases had turned up.

The second outbreak is in Mahmudiya, a town 35 miles south of Baghdad that is known for its kidnappings and shootings as well as for its poverty, where there are an estimated 60 cases. At least nine pregnant women are believed to have been infected, and one has died. Five deaths have been reported over all. ...viral hepatitis comes in many forms, and another ominous set of statistics suggests that the quality of water supplies around the country has deteriorated since the American-led war began last year, Dr. Salmani said. In 2003, 70 percent more cases of hepatitis of all types were reported across Iraq than in the year before, he said. During the first six months of 2004, as many cases were reported as in all of 2002.

In yet another indication of the deteriorating safety of water and food in Iraq, the number of reported cases of typhoid fever is up sharply this year, said Dr. Nima S. Abid, the ministry's director general of public health and primary health. Hospitals across the country are also full of children with severe forms of diarrhea, Dr. Abid said.

Those reports come as the Bush administration has proposed shifting $3.46 billion in reconstruction money for Iraq to programs that would train and equip tens of thousands of additional police officers, border guards and national guardsmen in hopes of regaining control of the security situation. The shift, which needs approval by Congress, would gut what had been an ambitious program to rebuild Iraq's crumbling water and sewage systems, forcing the cancellation or delay of most of the projects. Last fall, Congress approved $18.4 billion for Iraq's reconstruction; so far, only about $1 billion has been spent.

"The problem is the whole infrastructure," Dr. Abid said of the mounting health problems, adding that many of the difficulties stemmed from neglect that began long before the invasion. But he said, "Definitely no major intervention has been done in this last one and a half years to repair the problem."

posted by y2karl at 7:25 PM on September 29, 2004


Oh, yeah, there's this, too:

Iraq Study Sees Rebels' Attacks as Widespread

Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.

The sweeping geographical reach of the attacks, from Nineveh and Salahuddin Provinces in the northwest to Babylon and Diyala in the center and Basra in the south, suggests a more widespread resistance than the isolated pockets described by Iraqi government officials.


The type of attacks ran the gamut: car bombs, time bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, small-arms fire, mortar attacks and land mines.

"If you look at incident data and you put incident data on the map, it's not a few provinces, " said Adam Collins, a security expert and the chief intelligence official in Iraq for Special Operations Consulting-Security Management Group Inc., a private security company based in Las Vegas that compiles and analyzes the data as a regular part of its operations in Iraq.

Statistics collected by private security firms, which include attacks on Iraqi civilians and private security contractors, tend to be more comprehensive than those collected by the military, which focuses on attacks against foreign troops. The period covered by Special Operations Consulting's data represents a typical month, with its average of 79 attacks a day falling between the valleys during quiet periods and the peaks during the outbreak of insurgency in April or the battle with Moktada al-Sadr's militia in August for control of Najaf.

During the past 30 days those attacks totaled 283 in Nineveh, 325 in Salahuddin in the northwest and 332 in the desert badlands of Anbar Province in the west. In the center of Iraq, attacks numbered 123 in Diyala Province, 76 in Babylon and 13 in Wasit. There was not a single province without an attack in the 30-day period.

posted by y2karl at 7:33 PM on September 29, 2004


Keep up the good work, Y2karl. I, for one, appreciate it mightily.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:09 PM on September 29, 2004


30 Days, 2,368 Attacks is the accompanying graphic from the New York Times. It will be permanently available through this Iraq Study Sees Rebels' Attacks as Widespread printer unfriendly page.

Upon review: why, thank you for your kind words, bashos_frog.
posted by y2karl at 9:20 PM on September 29, 2004


I scanned the thread quickly and plowed into what I knew must be a morass of y2kartilage, and thought, oh jesus, he's really gone over the top this time. Then I went back and read the thread and happened on kablam's "war is over" comment and laughed out loud (I know, it's not funny, but that sentence is). I mean, what else could you do at that point? So, yeah, y2karl!

And rusty! Your own version of what-else-could-ya-do was pitch perfect - nice 'n' mordant! And short.
posted by soyjoy at 9:57 PM on September 29, 2004


Rusty's comment should be immortalized somehow. It's that good.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:26 PM on September 29, 2004


"Keep up the good work, Y2karl. I, for one, appreciate it mightily." - I heartily concur.
posted by troutfishing at 11:32 PM on September 29, 2004


[ No snark intended. ]
posted by troutfishing at 11:33 PM on September 29, 2004


kablam: Seriously, what the fuck do you need to read about Iraq to convince you that the situation there has passed crisis point? Things are not getting better for the Americans - they are getting worse. And they will continue to get worse until the Americans are forced to leave with their tails between their legs.
posted by salmacis at 2:19 AM on September 30, 2004


If anything in there is news to you then you haven't been paying attention.
posted by euphorb


exactly. either you haven't been paying attention, or you've been watching Fox.

there's nothing new in the email. Iraq = disaster

and, thanks karl.
posted by matteo at 2:41 AM on September 30, 2004


Kablam needs to go to Iraq and set himself up in business.

I hear its great there so hurry up, time's a wasting!

And say hello to all the guys from the 101st Fighting Keyboarders and the Chicken Hawk brigade for me, would you?

Reality check in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
posted by nofundy at 5:29 AM on September 30, 2004


The problem is that this Iraq Mess-o-potamia is completely the fault of the Bush administration's foreign policy failures. At some point the world will demand that someone take responsibility for the mess and it's highly likely that Bush and his cronies will slip free of the blame finger.

Why should all of America suffer the world's wrath and hatred for the mistakes of a bad president?
posted by camworld at 6:23 AM on September 30, 2004


Why should all of America suffer the world's wrath and hatred for the mistakes of a bad president?

Because we voted for him. Or for someone besides Al Gore. Or because we failed to vote entirely. Because we allowed Washington to become a cess-pit of partisan infighting throughout the 1990's, and allowed Al Gore - winner of the popular vote in 2000 - to quietly concede the election with honor and dignity in the hope of unifying our increasingly fragmented nation. And because we allowed the media to manipulate us more and more deftly every year, handing this Administration thousands of 24-hour puppet strings on which they make us dance.

We are none of us innocent. We are fools telling lies to ourselves in the dark. We have the government we deserve.
posted by junkbox at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2004


And what will convince the assembled that Iraq isn't a disaster, a morass, a quagmire, chaos, or whatever else some opinion piece written in the US says it is?

Seriously, what *would* convince you? How emotionally invested are you in believing, as in "true belief", that Iraq is, it *must* be, a failure? What would it mean to you, as a person, if what you were led to believe, what you wanted to believe, is wrong?

Y2karl goes a long way in an almost hysterical response, clogging thread after thread with extraneous data, not links, in a desperate effort to *prove* by sheer mass, that up is down and peace is war. He *can't* just shrug off something he disagrees with with a link or two. He *has* to pound down, to utterly swamp, to cover up, what he just can't admit to be a possibility. He is invested up to his eyebrows, with his fingers in his ears, and trying to shout down anything he disagrees with. What does this say?

Were many of you aware that the NYT has just been caught out with its "CIA Intelligence Report" as intentionally deceiving its readers? The report was written with information that is six months to a year old. And yet the NYT carefully edited out any dateable evidence to make it *appear* that it is recent. Now why would they do that?

All I am asking is to consider the evidence. Look at Iraq as what it is, a large country with 25 million people, not a car bomb, and not a building on fire. It is a big place, full of people who *aren't* caught up in war, but in living their lives, making their lives better, and trying very hard to have a better future for themselves, despite what a small, vicious band of criminals want. It takes a LOT of violence to tear down a country that large.
posted by kablam at 8:32 AM on September 30, 2004


Were many of you aware that the NYT has just been caught out with its "CIA Intelligence Report" as intentionally deceiving its readers? The report was written with information that is six months to a year old. And yet the NYT carefully edited out any dateable evidence to make it *appear* that it is recent. Now why would they do that?

U.S. Intelligence Shows Pessimism on Iraq's Future

First sentence of said article:

A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday...

First sentence of same article linked by Brad Delong on September 16, 2004, the day after the date of publication:

A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday.
posted by y2karl at 10:15 AM on September 30, 2004


That's a powerful reality-distortion field you're caught up in, kablam.

Let's reverse the question, seeing as you're the one who has this uncanny ability to disregard every bit of evidence that contradicts you:

What does it take to convince you, kablam, that the Iraqi occupation is a disaster?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:34 AM on September 30, 2004


All I am asking is to consider the evidence. Look at Iraq as what it is, a large country with 25 million people, not a car bomb, and not a building on fire. It is a big place, full of people who *aren't* caught up in war, but in living their lives, making their lives better, and trying very hard to have a better future for themselves, despite what a small, vicious band of criminals want. It takes a LOT of violence to tear down a country that large.

Sadr City neighborhood is attacked for a second day. Interim president of Iraq likens the tactics to Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip.

U.S. forces launched airstrikes Tuesday on the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City for the second consecutive day, and two British soldiers were killed in an ambush in the southern city of Basra...

In recent weeks, U.S. forces have also launched regular airstrikes on the town of Fallouja, west of Baghdad, which is controlled by Sunni Muslim insurgents. Although U.S. military operations supposedly are coordinated with Iraqi leaders, the Americans' increasing reliance on air attacks drew criticism Tuesday from the U.S.-backed interim Iraqi president.

Drawing a parallel between U.S. tactics in Iraq and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, President Ghazi Ajil Yawer said the U.S. strikes were viewed by the Iraqi people as "collective punishment" against towns and neighborhoods.


10% of the population of Iraq live in Sadr City.

Also, what part of Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants...

During the past 30 days those attacks totaled 283 in Nineveh, 325 in Salahuddin in the northwest and 332 in the desert badlands of Anbar Province in the west. In the center of Iraq, attacks numbered 123 in Diyala Province, 76 in Babylon and 13 in Wasit. There was not a single province without an attack in the 30-day period
is an opinion piece written in the US ?

By the way, 30 Days, 2,368 Attacks maps it out.

There is wishful thinking, there is self-delusion and there are outright lies. You have all these bases covered.

posted by y2karl at 10:38 AM on September 30, 2004


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