More on the CBS crew

Not a single journalist in Baghdad believes that they’re telling the story of “a determined people … fighting for freedom and liberty.” Everyone I know thinks the places is disintegrating and heading for a hell on earth.

BEIRUT — In the _Times’_ story about yesterday’s attack, which killed two CBS crewmen, a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter, as well as gravely wounded the correspondent and six other soldiers, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was quoted as saying:

“These brave journalists risked their lives to tell the world the story of a courageous people and a proud nation,” he said. “The terrorists who committed this evil crime have shown themselves for who they are. They do not want the world to see the truth of what is happening in Iraq, where a determined people are fighting for freedom and liberty.”
“That story must and will be told,” he said.

Please. Dozier, Brolan and Douglas were doing a Memorial Day story on the troops, which probably came down from their editor as one of those perennial stories journalists have to do whenever the holiday rolls around. (Pity the poor editor who assigned that story. Every editor has to live with the knowledge that their story assignments could be placing people they know and care about in danger. Speaking from experience, I would much rather be the reporter on the ground than the assignment editor. The guilt if something goes wrong is almost unbearable.)
But back to Zal. I know the embassy has to stay on message, but not a single journalist in Baghdad believes that they’re telling the story of “a determined people … fighting for freedom and liberty.” Everyone I know thinks the place is disintegrating and heading for a hell on earth. Nir Rosen’s “Republic of Fear” op-ed is spot on. “Read it.”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/26/AR2006052601578.html I’ve run across almost every thing he says in his article, and most other journalists have as well. Our local staff have to live this day in and day out, so we get to hear just how awful it is. Relatives disappearing, multiple ID cards, massacres one street over.
Yeah, sounds like a determined people fighting for liberty to me. Not. More like a frightened people just trying to keep their heads down and stay alive while saving up enough money “to flee the country.”:http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FA0815FE385A0C7A8DDDAC0894DE404482 (Times’ firewall, sorry.)

Update on Iranian trip

BEIRUT — Things are moving along, albeit slowly, for “my Iranian trip”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2006/04/iran_reporting_trip.php. I’ve discovered that I can’t just get a tourist visa and then write, although some people do that. Instead, I need to get a journalistic visa because if I go the tourist route, and I publish articles, the Iranians will likely not let me back in the country. This is unacceptable to me, as I don’t think you can do very good journalism with a one-off, parachute trip. You have to get to know the place, return many times, etc.
So, going the official route, with my hands raised and showing the Iranian information ministry that I mean no harm is the best route for me.
Many of you have already been exceedingly generous, and the fund is up to almost $1,600 now. I reckon about $4,000 is needed for a good two-week excursion to the Islamic Republic, as I’ll have to hire fixers, cars, hotels, etc. So if you want to contribute, please feel free to “hit the tip jar, donation fund, whatever you want to call it”:https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_xclick&business=chris%40back%2dto%2diraq%2ecom&item_name=Back%2dto%2dIraq%2ecom&no_shipping=1&return=http%3a%2f%2fwww%2eback%2dto%2diraq%2ecom&no_note=1&tax=0&currency_code=USD&bn=PP%2dDonationsBF&charset=UTF%2d8.
Things here in Beirut, however, have entered a weird stasis. The National Reconciliation Council, which has been billed as the first time all the leaders of the various political factions have sat down together, seems intent on institutionalizing itself into a feckless club house in which “Michel Aoun”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Aoun, the former Army general stamps his feet to become president and Hizbollah’s General-Secretary backs him up on the conditions that they don’t have to disarm. This is, needless to say, unacceptable to the March 14 coalition that includes “Walid Jumblatt”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walid_Jumblatt, the Druze leader, and “Saad Hariri”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saad_Hariri, the son of the slain “former prime minister”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafik_Hariri whose assassination Feb. 14, 2005 started this whole thing.
People in Beirut are pretty fed up, but at least the security forces aren’t shutting down all of downtown every time the Council meets now, pissing off all the merchants there. There’s a real sense of disappointment among the young people I talk to that the so-called Cedar Revolution, which looked great on television and succeeded in getting the Syrian Army out of Lebanon (mostly), has run out of steam and has been hijacked by the same old families that have run this place (some would say into the ground) for decades.
One of my friends, the scion of a powerful Shi’ite political family opposed to Syrian influence, has pretty much thrown in the towel. The Syrian Army has left, but the influence is still there, he says, and “Émile Lahoud”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emile_Lahoud, Lebanon’s president and Syrian protégé, will serve out his term and the same old politics of old will prevail. Syrian President Basher Assad will wait out the Bush administration and things will return to the bad old days of the 1990s. He does allow that it won’t be quite as bad, but the days of total Lebanese sovereignty seem far away still.

Wow, donations for journalism?

Hey, a bold, new experiment in journalism … not.

It is with no small amount of mixed feelings that I notice that Michael Totten has embarked on a daring new experiment in reader-funded journalism.
Oh, wait. It’s not new at all. (See: Iraq.com, Back-to-)
On the one hand, I’m glad that more people are working to do their own thing and bringing nuanced, insightful journalism to the reading public without the baggage that mainstream media often attach. On the other hand, Totten usually has a somewhat conservative rah-Amurricah tone that sets my teeth a-grate. That said, he does get out there and do some reporting. While he’s not my cup of tea — I find his Middle East reporting naive and American-centric — give him a read. I’ll let you decide if it’s worth donating. I’m going to pop him $5 on principle.

Neither a Good War, nor a Badr Peace

On Bayan Jabr’s watch, sectarian militias have swelled the ranks of the police units, and Sunnis charge, used their positions to carry out revenge killings against Sunnis.  While allowing an Iranian-trained militia to take over the ministry, critics say, Jabr has authorized the targeted assassination of Sunni men and stymied investigations into Interior-run death squads.

_NOTE: Here is “the story”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1175055,00.html I filed for TIME.com over the weekend and which has been occupying much of my time here in Iraq these last few weeks. It will be my final Iraq story for a while, as I’m leaving in a matter of days. After two months, it’s time to take a break._

The bodies began to show up early last week. On Monday, 34 corpses were found. In the darkness of Tuesday morning, 15 more men, between the ages of 22 and 40 were found in the back of a pickup truck in the al-Khadra district of western Baghdad. They had been hanged. By daybreak, 40 more bodies were found around the city, most bearing signs of torture before the men were killed execution-style. The most gruesome discovery was an 18-by-24-foot mass grave in the Shi’ite slum of Kamaliyah in east Baghdad containing the bodies of 29 men, clad only in their underwear with their hands bound and their mouths covered with tape. Local residents only found it because the ground was oozing blood. In all, 87 bodies were found over two days in Baghdad.
The grisly discovery was horrible enough, the latest and perhaps most chilling sign that Iraq is descending further into butchery — and quite possibly civil war. But almost as disturbing is the growing evidence that the massacres and others like it are being tolerated and even abetted by Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated police forces, overseen by Iraq’s Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr. On his watch, sectarian militias have swelled the ranks of the police units and, Sunnis charge, used their positions to carry out revenge killings against Sunnis. While allowing an Iranian-trained militia to take over the ministry, critics say, Jabr has authorized the targeted assassination of Sunni men and stymied investigations into Interior-run death squads. Despite numerous attempts to contact them, neither Jabr nor Interior Ministry spokesmen responded to requests for comment on this article.
Jabr’s and his forces’ growing reputation for brutality comes at a particularly inopportune moment for the Bush Administration, which would like to hand over security responsibilities to those same police units as quickly as possible. That has raised the distinct and disturbing possibility that the U.S. is in fact training and arming one side in a conflict seeming to grow worse by the day. “Militias are the infrastructure of civil war,” U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told TIME recently. Khalilzad has been publicly critical of Jabr and warned that the new security ministries under the next, permanent Iraqi government should be run by competent people who have no ties to militias and who are “non-sectarian.” Further U.S. support for training the police and army, he said, depends on it.
But ever since Jabr was appointed Interior Minister after the January 2005 election brought a religious Sh’ite coalition to power, Sunnis allege, he began remaking the paramilitary National Police into Shi’ite shock troops. A member of the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Jabr fled to Iran in the 1970s to avoid Saddam’s crackdown. Jerry Burke, a former civilian senior police advisor to the Interior Ministry, said Jabr’s experience with Saddam’s government has left him bitter and distrustful of anyone he suspects has ties to the previous regime. That would most certainly include the former members of Saddam Hussein’s Special Forces and Republican Guards which initially made up the bulk of the National Police when Jabr took charge.
To help facilitate his transformation of the police forces, Jabr made sure to enlist the help of SCIRI’s armed wing, the Badr Organization. Members of the militia have been a growing presence in the National Police, which now consists of nine brigades, with about 17,500 members divided between the Special Police Commandos, the Public Order brigades and a mechanized brigade, which will soon be transferred to the Ministry of Defense. “Leadership in the commando positions has been turned over to Badr,” said Matt Sherman, a former CPA advisor to the Interior Ministry. “And new recruits are mostly Badr.”
Indeed, outside the ministry headquarters, banners proclaiming solidarity with Imam Hussein, one of Shi’ites’ holiest figures, snap in the spring breeze alongside — and sometimes instead of — Iraqi flags. Most of the guards’ beards are invariably cut in the close-cropped Iranian style, making them stand out in Baghdad, where beards are less common.
Like so many things in Iraq right now, it wasn’t supposed to be this way. As far back as December 2003, David Gompert, the former National Security Advisor for the Coalition Provisional Authority, realized the dangers sectarian militias posed to Iraq’s stability. And in the waning days of the Coalition Provisional Authority, American viceroy L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer issued Order 91, which was intended to demobilize or integrate nine militias totaling about 100,000 men into the Iraqi security forces. But the Kurdish pesh merga and the armed wing of SCIRI, the Badr Organization, still exist today because the order was never completely or competently carried out.
For that, Gompert puts the blame squarely on the Iraqi government, then under Iyad Allawi, as well as the American embassy. With the U.S. military engaged in several major operations in 2004 and the government transitioning from the CPA to a more traditional diplomatic presence with the arrival of U.S. ambassador John Negroponte at the end of June, Gompert says, neither Allawi nor the U.S made the reintegration program a priority. Job training programs run by Allawi’s Labor Ministry were cancelled over personal feuds and pension programs and other aspects of the program of DDR — “demilitarization, demobilization and reintegration” — were bounced around from one command to another.
Making matters worse has been the fact that the police — unlike the Iraqi Army, which is still under U.S. command and supervision — were practically ignored almost from the beginning of the occupation, says Burke. And what supervision the National Police did get came from U.S. military intelligence officers, not civilian police advisors.
This grave oversight, which stemmed from the military’s unfamiliarity with civilian police methods and its unwillingness to learn, has led to numerous abuses and little accountability. The U.S. State Department, “in a report released two weeks ago”:http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61689.htm, documented numerous incidents in 2005, dating back to early May when Jabr was first appointed Interior Minister, where Sunni men were killed execution-style by Interior Ministry police or Shi’ite militias. In each case, Jabr ordered an investigation, and in each case the investigation had yet to report any findings.
Thanks in part to the Interior Minister’s “nonfeasance,” said Burke, the former Interior Ministry adviser, Jabr was at least indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of military-age Sunni men whose bodies have turned up at the sewage plant in southeast Baghdad since late December. Men in police uniforms and vehicles routinely travel through the city in daylight hours with bodies in the back of trucks for disposal at the sewage plant, he said. Prisoners often disappear, Burke said, because they’re picked up at night and no one has an accurate account of who is arrested and where they are taken. “The Special Police Commandos,” he said, using their old name, “are most definitely out of control.”
So black is the reputation of the National Police, that after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, many Sunnis said the perpetrators were Interior Ministry troops who were looking for a pretext to start a civil war. Their fears were further fueled in the bloody two days after the attack, when Iraq became a sectarian slaughterhouse. Instead of protecting citizens from each other, National Police units stood by as Shi’ite rioters — and rival militiamen from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army — stormed Sunni mosques and swarmed over Sunni neighborhoods, according to numerous reports, including some confirmed by U.S. Gen. George Casey, commander of American forces in Iraq.
The American efforts to try and help stem the deadly sectarianism will likely do little good — and in some respects may well exacerbate the problem. Instead of increasing the number of civilian advisors to Iraq’s local police forces, a spokeswoman for the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) said more U.S. military police and military personnel will be assigned to train them. The Special Police Transition Teams (SPTTs) are the model that will be followed. “The SPTTs have been very successful in their efforts,” the spokeswoman said. No change is planned for the oversight program on the National Police.
Gompert notes, “I remember saying, ‘If there is going to be a civil war, it’s going to be fought between Sunni insurgents and Shi’ite militias.” And as long as Jabr is running the Interior Ministry and its police forces, there is little doubt which of the two in such a conflict will have the law — and American training — on its side.

The Big Lie

I’m not talking about WMDs or anything like that. More in my quixotic feud with noted fiction writer Ralph Peters, who came here for a little while and declared All is Well, and “the media” are aiming to undermine the heroic mission here in Iraq with all that bad news. Why, he himself saw Iraqis cheering his patrol as he rumbled through Baghdad atop an up-armored humvee.

BAGHDAD — And no, I’m not talking about WMDs or anything like that. More in my quixotic feud with noted fiction writer Ralph Peters, who came here for a little while and declared All is Well, and “the media” are aiming to undermine the heroic mission here in Iraq with all that bad news. Why, he himself saw Iraqis cheering his patrol as he rumbled through Baghdad atop an up-armored humvee.
Let’s conduct a little thought experiment. “The media” here are fiercely competitive. Everyone of us is looking for any angle — any! — that will break news, make our stories stand out or otherwise distinguish ourselves. That’s what journalists do, and the corps here comes from the entire ideological spectrum, from the conservative to the socialist. But weirdly, this herd of cats — which is what we could be best be compared to — have all come to the same conclusion: Iraq is a mess.
I would argue that this prevailing view is the aggregate of a lot of professional reporting, mine but a small bit. If it gravitates toward a single viewpoint, well, that’s the way it is. Sorry, truth hurts. But a guy who writes exclusively for publications that supported the war before it went down comes here and says things are fine, and somehow I’m supposed to suddenly doubt my own observations and experience? Pardon me if I believe my lyin’ eyes instead of him.
But more unforgivably, Peters also “continues his libel”:http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2006/03/myths_of_iraq.html against Iraqi stringers/journalists by saying the “The Iraqi leg-men earn blood money for unbalanced, often-hysterical claims.” (emphasis added.)
Mr. Peters, you should be ashamed of yourself. Three Iraqi journalists have been killed this week alone trying to report the news, and the stringer who work for us are no less the journalists than the guys at the Iraqi networks. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Muhsin Khudhair, editor of the news magazine Alef Ba, was killed by unidentified gunmen near his home in Baghdad Monday night, becoming the third journalist killed in Iraq in the last week, Reuters and Agence France-Presse reported. The shooting took place just hours after Khudair attended a meeting of the Iraqi Journalists Union, which discussed the targeting of local journalists in Iraq, Reuters said.
The killing punctuated a deadly week for the press. Amjad Hameed, head of programming for Iraq’s national television channel Al-Iraqiya, and driver Anwar Turki were killed on Saturday by gunmen apparently affiliated with al-Qaeda. Munsuf Abdallah al-Khaldi, a presenter for Baghdad TV, was killed by unidentified gunmen last Tuesday as he was driving from Baghdad to the northern city of Mosul.
At least 67 journalists and 24 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the media in recent history. The killings continue two trends in Iraq: the vast majority of victims have been Iraqi citizens; and most cases have been targeted assassinations rather than crossfire. CPJ research shows that Iraqis constitute nearly 80 percent of journalists and support staffers killed for their work in Iraq. Overall, sixty percent of journalist deaths were murders.

Maybe Mr. Peters would like a nice chat with “Salih” from the _Washington Post_, who reported a story about the looting of Saddam’s palaces in Tikrit after the U.S. military turned it over to the Iraqi security forces. His reward? A $50,000 bounty put on his head by the head of security in Tikrit, Jassam Jabara.
Perhaps he’d like to talk to the family of Allan Enwiyah, the translator for the _Christian Science Monitor_’s Jill Carroll. He was killed when Jill was kidnapped Jan. 7, unprotected by American firepower. She is still captive, by the way.
Or perhaps he’d like to discuss “blood money” with the widow of Yasser Salihee, a careful and conscientious reporter for Knight-Ridder who was killed by American soldiers at a checkpoint when the car in front of him blocked his view of the troops, who opened fire and killed him. Did I know him? Yes, but not well. I found out about his death when Hannah Allam, then bureau chief for Knight-Ridder called me in hysterics.
You want to know what the Iraqis — who frankly do a better job that we do — feel and think? “Read this”:http://cjr.org/issues/2006/2/McLeary.asp. Highlight:

“To get a story you have to risk your life,” [said Salima] matter-of-factly. “Sometimes I wonder if the people in the U.S. really understand how much we go through in order to write the story.” To underscore that, she told of being pushed from behind by an Iraqi man while covering a story with a Western reporter, of being caught in a firefight in Sadr City, Baghdad’s sprawling and violent slum, and of being threatened by a group of insurgents while out reporting. Yet in a country with few opportunities, journalism is a way to make a living, and to stay involved. “We never know when something could happen to us,” she said. “But then at the same time, I cannot stop living.”

How dare you, Ralph. How dare you question these men and women’s intentions and honesty. I’ve worked with our staff in the TIME house for two years and I’ve never seen a more dedicated, careful group of journalists. They’re not in this for the money. We pay them well, yes, but they could make more money doing other work. Lord knows they’d be safer, and their families would be, too. But they come in to work every day and do their level best to get us every scrap of information and to get it right. Anyone of them is a better journalist than Ralph Peters, who feels his view from the back of humvee is the only valid one. It’s _a_ viewpoint, yes, but hardly the whole story. You come talk with _me_, Ralph, we’ll go walk the streets of Karradah, drive without armor, feel the copper in your mouth when the fear and adrenaline comes to you in wave after wave and you realize the L-T from the 320th hasn’t got your six for you, man. You come talk to me then.
Finally, I’ll let a former Army guy have the last word. This from a buddy of mine who was a Public Affairs Officer just a few short months ago:

Oh my god, dude. [Peters] is completely full of sh*t. That’s all I can say. Apparently that f**k hasn’t spent enough time down in the trenches here to understad the little bastards will run out and wave at any patrol for one reason — begging for choclate or soccer balls. They don’t care the Grunts are valiently coming to save the day. … He’s not aware of how f**king dangerous it is for gringos to roam the streets here.

Ralph Peters: Sucker or Liar?

BAGHDAD — I’m sorry for not posting more. Still some latent server troubles. But I have to address an issue: Ralph Peters, who is currently traipsing around Baghdad with the 506th Infantry Regiment 1st Platoon of Bravo Battery, 4-320 Field Artillery, is, to be blunt, full of shit.
He’s currently a “favorite”:http://www.google.com/search?q=ralph%20peters of the pro-war set, who say we reporters have “agendas” to undermine the troops and get our civil war on, ’cause, you know, that makes Bush look bad… or something.
(A quick note on the above link: it’s all conservative publications. Why is it I, a professional journalist, get tarred with a “liberal” brush when I have never, ever written for Mother Jones, the Nation or Granta, etc. But polemicists who spend the all their energies cranking out pieces for the National Review, Front Page and the New York Post somehow don’t get called “conservatives” but instead are “truth tellers”? Such a mystery.)
Among the claims in his slanderous column: “The Iraqi Army has confounded its Western critics, performing extremely well last week. And the people trust their new army to an encouraging degree.”
The Iraqi Army — and police, for that matter — stood by while Shi’ite militias ran rampant through Sunni neighborhoods. They only took up the security positions when the Shi’ite clerics, including Moqtada al-Sadr, had already calmed down the worst of the violence. That’s not “performing extremely well,” unless by “extremely well,” you mean not confronting the enemies and keeping your head down until it’s safe to come out. That’s usually called “hiding.”
He also says we western reporters don’t get out on the streets, which is patently untrue. I don’t get out as often as I’d like, but I do get out. My colleagues at TIME, who look much less western than I do, get out much more. And, unlike Peters, we don’t travel with a big-ass armed convoy under the protection of the U.S. military.
He then further slanders Ellen Knickmeyer, of the _Washington Post_, when he says, “Did any Western reporter go to that morgue and count the bodies — a rough count would have done it — before telling the world the news? I doubt it.”
Well, actually, Ralph, I know Ellen. And yes, she did go down to the morgue. While there are many issues with her story, what is undeniable is that she risked a hell of a lot more than you did when she put her life in jeopardy to go down there.
Then he says, “If reporters really care, it’s easy to get out on the streets of Baghdad. The 506th Infantry Regiment — and other great military units — will take journalists on their patrols virtually anywhere.” Well, no, they won’t. Some reporters I know are having trouble getting embeds because they’re not the “right” reporters. They don’t write the “right” kind of stories — meaning they don’t follow the military’s playbook.
It’s more than a little churlish to say, “We’ll take you anywhere, as long as you’re not too liberal/French/whatever” and then turn around and criticize those you refuse to take with you as cowards. If they situation is so rosy, Mr. Peters, why on earth do I need to embed in the first place? Believe me, I’d much rather travel around without a military entourage. You tend to get more truthful answers from Iraqis when they’re not surrounded by soldiers with big guns, after all.
Then, this guy with a “background as an intelligence officer” goes on to say there’s no civil war because, by gosh, _he_ sure didn’t see any thing like that. And the Iraqis _cheered_ the Americans!
Let me try to paint the picture a little more clearly, Mr. Peters: When Sunnis cheer the Americans, it’s not because things are rosy, it’s because they’re more scared of the Shi’ites than they are of you. Sunnis in Baghdad I’ve spoken with have told me they would rather be arrested by the Americans than by the government forces, because at least now the Americans won’t torture you _as badly._ They have no love for Americans, they just know who is best able to protect them from their neighbors.
Yesterday, the general in charge of the Iraqi Army division in Baghdad was killed by a sniper while he was on patrol. An investigation has been opened because there are suspicions he was killed for being Sunni by one of his Shi’ite troops.
To be blunt: We are as close to full-scale civil war as we’ve ever been. We are one more bombing, massacre or atrocity from a national bloodletting. But even if that happens, there will be ebbs and flows. Just because people aren’t curled up in the fetal position under their beds all the time doesn’t mean there’s not a war on of some kind. In Lebanon, for 15 years, people went to the beach, cafés, bars and, in general, tried to live a normal life. For long stretches, a neighborhood would be calm. And then the shells would come, or a running street battle would break out and civilians would go running inside to hide. The violence would eventually pass, like a breaking wave, and they would come out into the light. That’s the way war works, and that’s what’s happening in Baghdad right now.
Finally, two things: Mr. Peters says he has a background in intelligence. And he says he’s been hitching rides with this unit, rather than being assigned to it. He also makes what may be an unintentionally ironic comment when he criticized Iraqi stringers: “The Iraqi stringers have cracked the code: The Americans don’t pay for good news. So they exaggerate the bad.”
First of all, the Americans _do_ pay for good news. They have in the past, when _American officers_ wrote stories and paid local papers to run them. These happy tales invariably painted a rosier picture than was warranted.
Secondly, Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. troops here, told reporters in a news conference three days ago that the pay-for-play program was on-going. “We were operating within our authorities and responsibilities,” he said, and added that he had not received an order to stop the program. “And, right now, based on the results of the investigation, I do not intend to in the near term.”
Thirdly, just what is Mr. Peters doing here? A former intelligence officer, riding around Baghdad, painting a rosy picture? I may just be assuming stuff here — hell, if Ralph can do it, so can I — but is Mr. Peters one of those story-planting Americans? Was he out getting material and pictures? And has he taken his skills at writing happy stories to the American public?
Peters’ little yarns sure sounds nice, but he sounds either desperately clueless or willfully blind. Officials in the American embassy, at least, are very worried that civil war is upon us, and it’s surely no coincidence that Casey has a reputation for not wanting to hear bad news. And so Peters continues to think because he rolls around in an armored convoy and no one takes a shot at him, there’s no civil war. As someone I’m sure he admires once said, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
Rant over. For now.
*CORRECTION:* Slight correction regarding my post on Ralph Peters. He is with the 1st Platoon of Bravo Battery, 4-320 Field Artillery rather than the 506th Infantry Regiment, which he mentions farther down in his piece. My apologies.

Radio appearance

I will be appearing on WBUR, the NPR affiliate in Boston for the show, “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook at 10 a.m. EST today if anyone wants to listen in. The topic will be Iraq, civil war, etc. It will be syndicated in New York and in many other markets.

BAGHDAD — I will be appearing on WBUR, the NPR affiliate in Boston for the show, “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook at 10 a.m. EST today if anyone wants to listen in. The topic will be Iraq, civil war, etc. It will be syndicated in New York and in many other markets.
In an hour, the daytime curfew will be over, and already I can hear the chants from Shi’ite mosque down the streets. The faint rat-a-tat of automatic weapon fire is clearly audible. This could be a bad night. Let’s hope not.
UPDATE 4:24 p.m. +0300 GMT: There’s a report, unconfirmed, that a crowd of 100-700 Iraqis have gathered and are marching toward the Ministry of Interior. Approximately 50 of the crowd are armed, but so far the march has been peaceful.
UPDATE 6:10 p.m. +0300 GMT: Well, damn. Cancelled radio spot.