Notice of highway closings

Notice of road closings from the Green Zone

Notices from the Green Zone:

(As of April 18, 2004 /0900)

Effective immediately, various sections of highway will be closed to civilian travel until Iraqi engineers and Coalition forces can repair them. 
For your safety, watch for closure signs and do not drive on sections of the closed highway.
Route One will be closed starting from just south of Balad all the way to northern Baghdad.  From northern Baghdad, Expressway One traveling west through Abu Ghurayb is also closed.  Likewise Expressway One traveling southeast from Abu Ghurayb is closed all the way to Khayqan ash Sharqi.
Civilians that attempt to drive on these roads may be considered anti-Coalition forces and risk being subject to attack. If civilians drive on the closed section of the highways they may be engaged with deadly force.
These highways will be closed for an indefinite period of time for public use.  Safety and security of public travel is the primary reason for closing these sections of highways. 
Analysis of safety and security of the highways will be determined by the Iraqi police and Coalition forces.  As the situation changes, more information will follow.

[Emphasis added — Christopher]
Good thing I’m flying from Amman to Baghdad.

Trouble in Najaf

The U.S. military is poised on the outskirts of Najaf. Israel kills the new Hamas leader. The occupations are both going badly. This is the makings of a perfect storm.

Last night I was chatting with an Iraqi friend from Baghdad, and he told me the Americans would be ill-advised to enter the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, but that they would anyway, causing a massive disaster.
“I don’t think so,” I said cautiously as we sat on my stoop. “I don’t think the Americans would be _that_ foolish.”
Well, maybe I was wrong. At least one coalition soldier was killed in a skirmish either just inside or on the outskirts of the city. Some outlets say the fighting is more widespread than the _Times_ reports. Negotiations with rebel Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have apparently broken down.
Juan Cole notes that Muqtada, in his Friday sermon, said, “We shall never permit these forces to enter this city of Najaf or the holy sites, for they are forbidden to them.” Kevin Drum notes that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is supporting al-Sadr and Ahmed Chalabi is supporting Sistani.

[T]he powerful spiritual leader of all Iraq’s Shiites, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has told them that he has “drawn a red line” around Najaf.
It’s a classic Iraqi power-play. Al-Sistani has brought Sheikh Sadr to heel so now he will protect him against an American threat to capture or kill the imam who is wanted on murder charges.

But Najaf may not be the biggest problem. The Israelis assassinated the new Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi in a missile strike today. The reactions from the Palestinians? “It was Bush.”
With the death of al-Rantissi churning the Arab world (thanks, Ariel! You just keep making Americans’ jobs harder in Iraq and in the wider Arab world) and Americans massing on the outskirts of the Shi’ism’s two holiest cities — Karbala and Najaf — the United States is looking at the makings of a perfect storm.
Security in Iraq is mostly a a fiction. The United States is fighting for control of major supply lines into Baghdad. Sixty percent of Iraq’s Muslims are becoming increasingly restive and more likely to work with Sunni fighters. Whether the charges are true or not, stories of brutalities against the residents of Fallujah by U.S. Marines are distressing the Arab world and fueling anti-Western sentiment. In short, the twin occupations of the Middle East — the Palestinian territories and Iraq — are becoming part of the same war in the minds of Muslims everywhere.
Is that the war American and Israel wants?


I didn’t watch Bush last night. And here’s why…

I didn’t watch Bush last night. I was teaching and forgot to set the ReplayTV. (Better than Tivo!) I don’t know that it would do any good for me to watch it anyway. My opinions are pretty set on this guy and I wouldn’t do anything more than throw some red meat to the people who already feel strongly about the president.
President Bush said on Tuesday night that he still intended to turn over control to a government in Iraq by June 30. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
Which is part of the problem for Americans and their media, politics and discourses. We’ve become way too polarized as to how we view the world, with barely an attempt to see what’s really happening. I’m guilty of it, and, truth be told, since I got back from Iraq in April last year, I’ve also promoted this polarization. Right-wing, pro-war folks by and large have their universe of friends and media in which to swim. The flip-side is true for the left as well — although we’re not nearly as well-funded.
So I’m trying to get back to just reporting. Like I said, I’m trying to pitch an interview I did with a senior aide to Sayyid Sistani and when that happens, I’ll post the transcript. And when I go back to Iraq, I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum. Things are bad there, but maybe they’re not as bad as most people on the left seem to think. Right-wing bloggers and their fellow travelers certainly seem to think so.
Or maybe it’s worse than we even imagine. The point is that I don’t know, and the reason I’m going is because I want to find out. And I want to tell you about it. A reporter should be able to hold an opinion — that Bush in an idiot and his policies are disastrous — and yet be able to acknowledge successes and report the events of the day. I did it during the war and I’ll do it again. The corollary to this is that the readers need to understand that as well: that reporters are human, we have our ideas, and most of us are trying our best to find out the truth.
But I don’t think I can watch a Bush press conference and give an objective take. So, I’m sorry, everyone, but the speech has been widely dissected on the blogosphere.

Update on plans

Here’s an update on the B2I 3.0 plans.

I’m back! And the donation fund is less than $1000 from the magic $10,000 mark for the third expedition to Iraq. And by the time of departure on May 12, that fund should be around $15,000. “Donations”: are, of course, always welcome.
As for the timing, I’ll be flying to Oslo on May 12, and then on to Amman, Jordan on May 16. I’ll be in Oslo speaking at a journalism convention, and the sponsoring group has graciously agreed to pick up the tab for the air fare. This is all confirmed, thankfully.
As for what I’ll be doing once I hit Jordan, that will be a little more improvisational. The current security situation in Iraq makes getting in to Baghdad almost impossible on a ground route, and staying there might be untenable. I can promise nothing at this point other than that I will assess the situation as best as I can. Several friends of mine have turned back rather than go in. I hope to avoid that.
And as a bit of a teaser, this weekend I interviewed Muhammad Baqr al-Najafi, the West Coast/American representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. He was very candid regarding the ayatollah’s thoughts about the current situation, the interim law, Muqtada al-Sadr and the occupation. I’m working on pitching articles based on this interview and hope to have the transcript up in a few days. I think you’ll like it.

Traveling this weekend

Traveling man this weekend

Hello everyone. I’m going to have to take a short break as I’m traveling this weekend. We will return next week. In the meantime, I urge you to check out “Juan Cole”:, “Billmon”:, “Josh Marshall”: and “Atrios”:
Also check out “the Agonist”:, “Intel Dump”: and “Kevin Drum.”: