Monday, December 11, 2006

Tomgram: Jamail, Emails from the Front Lines of Iraqi Daily Life

[Note to Readers: For those of you who want a provocative and fascinating background overview of the ever-roiling crisis in the Middle East at this perilous moment, here's a recommendation. Don't miss the just published book-length conversation between Noam Chomsky and Lebanese scholar Gilbert Ashcar, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy.]

Right now, we have on the table a "possible exit strategy" from Iraq -- James A. Baker's Iraq Study Group report -- that, once you do the figures, doesn't get the U.S. even close to halfway out the door by sometime in 2008; and that report is already being rejected by the Republican and neocon hard right; by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who continues to plug for some form of "victory" ("The enemy must be defeated...") on his last lap in Iraq, while still flaying the media for only reporting the "bad news"; by a President who is still on the IED-pitted road to success ("Not only do I know how important it is to prevail, I believe we will prevail..."), has called for three other reviews of Iraq policy (by the Pentagon, National Security Council, and White House) in an attempt to flood Washington with competing recommendations, and is probably on the verge of "surging" 15,000-20,000 more U.S. troops into Baghdad.

All sides in this strange struggle in Washington would add up to so much political low comedy if the consequences in Iraq and the Middle East, the oil heartlands of our increasingly energy-hungry planet, weren't so horrific. As Andrew Bacevich, historian, former military man, and author of The New American Militarism, wrote recently in the Boston Globe, Iraq's many contradictions "render laughably inadequate the proposals currently on offer to save Iraq and salvage American honor. Dispatch a few thousand additional US troops into Baghdad? Take another stab at creating a viable Iraqi army? Lean on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make ‘hard decisions?' One might as well spit on a bonfire."

Consider the strangeness of it all from the Washington perspective. The Iraq Study Group essentially wants to infiltrate the already largely sectarian army the Bush administration has set up in Iraq, an army incapable of handling its own logistics or, in many cases, planning its own missions, with 10,000-20,000 American advisors to do what the U.S. military has been unable to accomplish these last years. That largely Shiite (and Kurdish force) is already a motor for further violence. Adding vast numbers of (still largely untrained, surely resented, and undoubtedly resentful) advisors to it will only ensure that the "Iraqi Army" remains functionally a thoroughly recalcitrant American one into the distant future. This is the functional definition of a failed strategy from the get-go, but given the geostrategic la-la land that George Bush and Dick Cheney inhabit, it now passes for "realism" in our national capital.

For a touch of actual realism, it seemed reasonable to turn to those who have been living out the results of Washington's mad plans these last years -- actual Iraqis. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail, who has written regularly for Tomdispatch on our occupation of Iraq and, from 2003 to 2005, covered it in person, offers us at least a glimpse of the nightmare world that George Bush's "cakewalk" into Iraq inflicted on those in its path. Here are some of the people "stuff" happened to. Tom

"Today Is Better than Tomorrow"

Iraq as a Living Hell
By Dahr Jamail

The situation in Iraq has reached such a point of degradation and danger that I've been unable to return to report -- as I did from 2003 to 2005 -- from the front lines of daily life. Instead, in these last months, I have found myself in a supportive role, facilitating the work of some of my former sources, who remain in their own war-torn land, to tell their hair-raising tales of the new Iraq. While relying on my Iraqi colleagues to report the news, which we then publish at Inter Press Service and my website, I continue to receive emails from others in Iraq, civilian and soldier alike.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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