Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Things are worse in Iraq than we can see

This article on how bad things are in Iraq was so compelling that I had to copy the whole thing.

The link is here. Chilling.

'NYT' War Reporter: 'Anarchy' Curtails Reporting in Iraq
The New York Times
Dexter Filkins
By David S. Hirschman
Published: September 15, 2006/ Editor & Publisher
NEW YORK Journalists are in danger everywhere in Iraq these days, making it
nearly impossible to report, and it only seems to be getting worse, said New
York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, speaking Thursday at the offices of the
Committee to Protect Journalists in Manhattan. Filkins, who will begin a
Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University this month and start work on a book,
said that 98% of Iraq, and even most of Baghdad, has now become "off-limits"
for Western journalists.
Filkins, one of the longest-lasting and most-honored reporters in Iraq, said
that many situations lately have become even too dangerous for Iraqi
reporters to report on. He described the current climate as "anarchy," and,
when asked if the country was already involved in a civil war, he said,
"Yeah, sure."
Asked what advice he had for a reporter from a small paper going to Iraq now
without the kinds of money and backup that the Times was able to afford him
(or previous reporting experience in Iraq), Filkins replied: "Don't go."
The most that Times reporters can do these days, said Filkins, is "very
carefully set up an appointment with someone" using back channels and meet
with them under tight security. "We can't go to car bombings anymore," he
said, describing how even getting out of a vehicle to report would expose a
Western journalist to mob attacks and kidnapping.
As a result, the paper increasingly relies on its 70 Iraqi staffers to go
out into the streets and do the actual reporting. These Iraqi journalists,
both Sunni and Shiite, do "everything" according to Filkins, and are paid
handsomely (by local standards) for their efforts. But they live in constant
fear of their association with the newspaper being exposed, which could cost
them their lives.
"Most of the Iraqis who work for us don't even tell their families that they
work for us," said Filkins. "It's terribly terribly dangerous for them."
He estimated that there are probably 50 murders and 20 to 30 kidnappings in
Baghdad every day, and said that it had gotten to the point where it was no
longer just Sunni-Shiite clashes or insurgent mayhem. "Nobody trusts anybody
anymore," he said. "There's no law, and the worst people with guns are in
According to Filkins, the New York Times is burning through money "like jet
fuel" simply to securely maintain its operations in the country. In addition
to the 70 local reporters and translators, the Times employs 45 full-time
Kalashnikov-toting security guards to patrol its two blast-wall-enclosed
houses -- and oversee belt-fed machine-guns on the roofs of the buildings.
The paper also has three armored cars, and pays a hefty premium each month
to insure the five Times reporters working there.
American journalists, he said, spend their days piecing together scraps of
information from the Iraqi reporters to construct a picture, albeit
incomplete, of what life is like these days in the war-torn country. But he
says that the work is slow and difficult, and it is hard in such an
atmosphere for reporters to nail down specifics. "Five people doing a
run-of-the-mill story takes forever," he said.
Most troubling was Filkins' assessment that the U.S. military may not know
much more than the Times does about what life is like on the ground in Iraq.
Soldiers barely leave their bases and they don't interact very much with
average Iraqis, he said, so it is hard to say who, if anyone, has an
accurate picture of the current situation.
"Everyone is kind of groping around in the dark," he said.


leatherankh said...

This comes as no surprise to me. Back in August there was an amazing article in Time by Apirisim Ghosh about the state of Iraq that said basically the same thing: Iraq isn't on the verge of civil war, the civil war has already started. Check out that article. I also commented on it in my humble little political MySpace blog. Feel free to visit if you care to.

Keep the faith


Bill Baar said...

It's a civil war within Islam between a moderate Islam and reaction.

Let's not let down the moderates fighting for a demcoratic society.

Here's Talbani today in WaPo.

So, while many here in the U.S. believe the war is a mess, you believe the opposite.

Iraq is not in chaos. There are many provinces that are calm -- where people live in prosperity. . . . I want to assure the American people that Iraqis are now enjoying democracy and human rights and are struggling to secure the country.

We shouldn't let Iraqis down.

Bill Baar said...

CENTCOM posted a recently captured analysis of Iraq by Al Qaeda... They don't view their postion there as optimistically as your post does DJW. They don't sound like they think they're winning.