Posts about iraq

Intellectual honesty

I don’t remember where I heard it first but one replacement for the discredited value of journalistic objectivity is intellectual honesty: reporting that which contradicts one’s own beliefs or hypotheses. That is the way to support one’s credibility.

Example from today’s NY Times: Dexter Filkins reports on his return to Iraq. Even as he promotes his book, The Forever War, he wonders whether the war could be over. There are plenty of caveats, as well their should be. But he also writes:

When I left Baghdad two years ago, the nation’s social fabric seemed too shredded to ever come together again. The very worst had lost its power to shock. To return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope. The questions are jarring, too. Is it really different now? Is this something like peace or victory? And, if so, for whom: the Americans or the Iraqis?

Steve Forbes’ Iraqi solution

At Always On, Steve Forbes is on the platform with Roger McNamee and he’s asked what he’d do in Iraq if he were president. One of his recommendations is they should install the Alaskan system of paying all citizens a cut of oil revenue and then everyone would have an address and would look dimly at those who are trying to disrupt oil production.

Davos07: Iraq

I am at a Davos session on the future of Iraq. Live-blogging….

Richard Haass, ex of the State Department, asks whether there is something in the Iraqi culture that made the violence inevitable or whether it was the result of mistakes.

Ali Abd Al-Mahdi, vice-president of Iraq says that the Iraqi government and American government made mistakes. “Some people say that we are in a civil war. I don’t agree with that. We are in a war against civilians, a war that really targets the whole society and it started as such. Terrorism took place in Iraq and then the insurgency took place…. And then later on… sectarian violence took place….”

Well, what’s worse: civil war or three wars?

Haass asks Adnan Pachachi, former president of Iraq, whether Iraqis see themselves as Iraqi. He replies: “We have inherited from the previous regime a really terrible legacy: the culture of violence, the culture of corruption, and also the culture of dependence on the government…. When I went back to Baghdad in 2003 everyone is telling me we want a government that will tell us what to do.” He says the years of sanctions destroyed the middle class and the social fabric of the country. He says that most Iraqis have an allegiance to Iraq.

“If because of domestic pressures in the United States and they cannot continue taking on this burden,” Pachaci says, then they should consider internationalizing the effort with the U.N.

Haass asked Abd Al-Mahdi whether the U.S. troop surge is welcomed by the Iraqi government. He says they believe they need more Iraqi forces in Baghdad. “So it’s up to the international forces to decide whether we need more troops or not. This is, to me, a technical question.” Well, not to those troops.

He says they are “reasonably optimistic” about their latest security plan for Baghdad because “it has some new features.” Later, asked why the latest addition to troops should have any different results from prior additions, he talks about how access to Baghdad will be restricted, how there is a commander for this effort, how neighborhoods will be cleared of insurgents and then patrolled. “I don’t think we will end violence but I think we can change some of the course of events, we can have a more peaceful capital, which is our goal.”

Haass says to the vice-president that people have lost confidence in the Iraqi government and that it is more sectarian than truly national. Words saying nothing follow: “Anyone can say what’s right or what’s wrong and what we need in Iraq…. About the government being sectarian, he says, that the prior regime was imbalanced and so “deprived people” now come to the fore to get involved and to others this may look imbalanced.

It’s striking what a politician he is, saying nothing at all.

Haass asks Pachachi about the execution of Saddam. He replies that he is against the death penalty: “This is a barbarous relic of dark ages.” He adds that the trial was flawed. But he says the event will be forgotten.

On democracy, he says it is about more than governing the nation but is about protecting the rights of minorities. He says that there are some ministries that are restricted to one ethnic group. “There is no democracy without adequate protection of the political minorities.”

All Iraq, all the time

Eason Jordan, former president of CNN, has opened the curtains on his new venture, IraqSlogger. His description:

What’s the goal of IraqSlogger?
To be the world’s premier Iraq-focused information source. To provide original, exclusive reporting and analysis as well as links to, and critiques of, third party reporting and commentary. To be engaging, distinctive, candid. To provide stories and perspectives you cannot find elsewhere. On rare occasion, we’ll even provide humor. . . .

Who produces IraqSlogger?
The founding team includes Eason Jordan, Robert Young Pelton, Nir Rosen, Zeyad, Amer Mohsen, Anna Shen, and Christina Davidson. Our contributors include 50 Iraq-based correspondents, experts, and tipsters; and reporters and Iraq analysts in the U.S. and elsewhere.

It’s already an impressive resource. One might wonder how many people want more news about Iraq but right now, we need it.

Worse than a civil war

Nick Douglas at Huffington Post’s Eat the Press does a nice job summing up the wisdom of the media crowd on the use of “civil war” to describe the wars in Iraq.

I think it’s worse than that. “Civil war” implies some order: two sides, usually, fighting each other with a clear goal of taking over the nation. But in Iraq, there are countless sides and motivations — religious, political, economic, historical, familial — all shooting at each other, many without a clear goal except disruption at best, murder at worst. At the Online News Association, Zeyad described neighborhoods at war with neighborhoods. Read the message-board notices he translates: urgent dispatches from war front in neighborhoods in Baghdad. At ONA, Zeyad called it civil war but also pointed out that the government is not in charge of anything, even the Green Zone. There is no order to the disorder.

I would call this something worse and more frightening: anarchy.