Now She Tells Us

Condi Rice admits to being having no head for long-term planning, the guys in the Baghdad are all ideologues and my best friend has been mobilized. Yeah, no good news today.

Well, this kind of explains a lot, no? In an upcoming interview with _Reader’s Digest_, National Security Advisor “Condoleezza Rice”:http://www.warstories.cc/person/?personId=17 admits that, “There’s nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. I have never run my life that way. I believe that _serendipity or fate or divine intervention_ has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I’ve been open to those twists and turns because I didn’t have a long-term plan.” (Emphasis added.)
Oy. And this woman is in charge of the United States’ Iraq policy? Granted, the question was about her running for office some day, but as we’ve seen, traits in one’s personal life often have a way of manifesting themselves in one’s professional life.
Oh, and don’t miss a great _Washington Monthly_ piece by “Joshua Micah Marshall”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com, Laura Rozen, and Colin Soloway on the “ideologues in Baghdad”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0312.whoswho.html running the Coalition Provisional Authority. To wit:

When the history of the occupation of Iraq is written, there will be many factors to point to when explaining the post-conquest descent into chaos and disorder, from the melting away of Saddam’s army to the Pentagon’s failure to make adequate plans for the occupation. But historians will also consider the lack of experience and abundant political connections of the hundreds of American bureaucrats sent to Baghdad to run Iraq through the Coalition Provisional Authority.

In their place, the architects of the war chose card-carrying Republicans — operatives, flacks, policy-wonks and lobbyists — for almost every key assignment in the country. Some marquee examples include U.S. civil administrator Paul Bremer’s senior advisor and liaison to Capitol Hill, Tom Korologos, one of the most powerful GOP lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Then there’s the man in charge of privatizing Iraq’s 200-odd state owned companies, Tom Foley, a venture capitalist and high-flying GOP fundraiser. Foley was one of the Bob Dole’s top-ten career donors, Connecticut finance chair for Bush 2000 and a classmate of the president’s from Harvard Business School.

CPA officials say that the older GOP functionaries do a reasonable job keeping their partisanship publicly under wraps. But the younger Republicans in Iraq spend much of their time plotting against the Democrats. “Everything is seen in the context of the election, and how they will screw the Democrats,” said one CPA official. “It was really pretty shocking to hear them talk.”
“They are all on the campaign trail,” said another official. “They see this as a stepping stone to a better job in the next Bush administration.”

And on a personal note, I found out today that my best friend, a lieutenant in the Army Reserve, has been mobilized. He has a wife and two small children to leave behind. When he signed up a few years ago, he said he wanted to serve his country. I have tried to convince him that there’s no dishonor in disobeying orders and fleeing an unjust war waged by an unelected commander-in-chief. To his credit, while he has been as critical of this war as I have, he still says he has to serve out his commitment. (He’s a lifelong Democrat, by the way.) I wish he would reconsider, consider a flight to a neutral country, but I know he won’t. He has a sense of honor and duty that should shame his “commander in chief”:http://www.warstories.cc/person/?personId=1, who went AWOL in Vietnam after he got airlifted by his father’s influence into a cushy Texas Air National Guard spot.
I admire my friend a lot for his sense of patriotism and duty, even though he knows he will be missing 18 months of his daughters’ lives, even though he believes Iraq is a colossal screw-up and a mistake of mammoth proportions. He would never say a disrespectful thing about George Bush while mobilized, but I can: To hell with Bush and to hell with this war.
Anyway, this has made it all the more imperative that I go back and, as I joke with him, make sure nothing happens to him.

Pentagon avoids ‘news filter’

Live from Baghdad, it’s Bush TV!

The Pentagon will begin broadcasting “C-SPAN Baghdad”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A42547-2003Nov14&notFound=true soon — a satellite feed from Iraq that will circumvent the “filter” of the national networks and send images chosen by the Defense Department right into America’s living rooms by way of local news affiliates. Why do this? Because:

Administration officials assert that U.S. news organizations have emphasized violence and setbacks in occupied Iraq while playing down progress. The officials say the satellite capability is designed to help local stations interview U.S. authorities in Iraq and offer live coverage of military ceremonies and briefings relevant to their geographic areas.

Avoiding questions from big-time reporters from the major networks is part of of larger strategy begun last month by the Bush Administration which saw Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and others gave interviews to, for example, the local ABC affiliate in Kalamzoo.

Continue reading “Pentagon avoids ‘news filter’”

Donations

Wow. After a day and a half, “donations shot up to more than $700!”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000490.php#000490 That’s fantastic. I just wanted to drop a quick note to express my appreciation and to let you know I’m working on an entry with some more reporting in it, so it’s taking a little bit more time. But please stay tuned, I hope to have something up presently.

It’s time to get moving

It’s time to go back. Back to Iraq.

First of all, notice the name of this blog in the upper left. Time for a few changes around here. Secondly, I received this email the other day from one of my contributors:

Mr. Allbritton:
As a contributor to your trip to Iraq earlier this year, I wish you would return to Iraq and provide an outlet for the collective voice of the Iraqi people.
I have always been against the invasion of Iraq. I continue to oppose our administration’s policies. I feel that we are imposing our will rather than respecting the wishes of our fellow human beings.
Would you consider returning to Iraq with the purpose of finding out just what the Iraqis want from us at this point?
With both sides of the political fence failing to find answers, it just seems to make the most sense to turn straight to the source for answers.
If you cannot or choose not to return, can you please create a post that summarizes popular opinions of the various Iraqi factions towards the state of the country and the continued U.S. presence? Or can you create a post that points to the best WWW outlets for this kind of information?
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Andrew Brenner
Whiting, Indiana USA

Andrew graciously allowed me to republish his note and use it as a starting to point to talk about some things.
Since the end of April, I’ve been back in New York, worked up a book proposal — which is currently circulating; my agent reports that editors are making interested-sounded noises — taught a class at “NYU”:http://journalism.nyu.edu on Digital Journalism and stewed and steamed while two countries that I love, the United States and Iraq, march further down the road to a major league cock-up.
I’m not doing anyone any good here in New York. The action is over there, and while there are more reporters doing the journalism of every day life, something — I’m not sure what it is, exactly — is missing from the coverage.
So it’s time to get a move on and go back. But not as a reporter who goes there for a month and comes home. This time I would stay, perhaps permanently. My goal is to work up a return to the region, basing myself in Baghdad and freelance for major organizations and continue running Back-to-Iraq.com. In short, I would be your man in Baghdad, bringing my voice and experience that I gained during the war back to you.
This is not some gung-ho charge into the lion’s den in search of The Truth. I’ve stopped believing there’s any such beast; there are only stories to tell. But as during the early part of the war, in which donors directed coverage by emailing me suggested assignments, I would do that again. This time, however, it would be on a long-term basis with an eye toward longish pieces that were both appealing to you and marketable as freelance pieces (a guy’s got to earn a living, even there.)
No embedding, no hiding behind the skirts of the U.S. military. The Iraqi people would be front and center, and the big media corps can cover what they do. B2I would cover what _we_ want. I’d likely start with an emphasis on the Kurdish/Arabic/Turkoman powderkeg known as Kirkuk, but only because it’s a good starting point. I’m most familiar with the issue there. However, the Arabs got short shrift on this blog during the first part of the war. I’d like to remedy that.
My goal is to have enough money, $10,000 or so, in time to be on the ground and running by March 26, 2004 early- to mid-May. Why that date? Because that’s exactly a year since I landed in Istanbul and started work as the Web’s first fully reader-funded journalist-blogger I have teaching commitments at NYU that end May 3. This time, the money would go for setting myself up and having a small padding to make it through the time before freelance cash begins to come my way.
I’m working out plans now for what to do with my apartment, where to move to in the meantime to save money, since that’s impossible on New York professor/freelance wages. I’ll probably be out on my brother’s couch in California for a few months before heading over.
And so we come to the crux of this note. You all were so generous last time, and I hate to ask, but I ask you all to feel invested again and donate to this endeavor. Same deal as before. Donors get on a special listserv that gets dispatches before the Web site does. They will get extra dispatches and photos. They also get a pipeline to me to act as assignment editors.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, you all should know that this endeavor can’t be the not-for-profit jaunt the last trip was. Then, I specifically rejected freelance assignments from magazines so I could concentrate on pure blogging. I can’t do that this time, as the money raised from this fund-raising call, as well as my own savings, will go for the initial costs of establishing a presence in Baghdad. After that, I’ll have to support myself with stringing and freelancing. But I promise you that B2I will remain a non-commercial blog with you, the readers, and the Iraqi people front and center. No one will edit this blog but me, and I won’t let other freelancing interfere with it.
So what do you say? Shall we suit up again for New New Journalism? I hope so.

No happily ever after for married soldiers

Love does not conquer all, it seems.

In an update to “this story”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000452.php#000452, the two soldiers who wed Iraqi brides while on patrol are having a bit of a tough time of it.

Sgt. Sean Blackwell, 27, is being punished for divulging the time and location of the patrol to his bride and the Iraqi judge who married them, his attorney said. The Florida National Guardsman avoided a possible court-martial for dereliction of duty and disobeying orders.
Blackwell received a written reprimand in advance of the discharge, attorney Richard Alvoid said.
“The more they punish him, the more negative publicity the military likely will receive,” he said. “He is guilty of falling in love.”

Blackwell hasn’t seen his wife since their wedding Aug. 17. (They’ve since been allowed phone contact.) As his mother says, “He’s a little ticked off at the government right now,” she said. “I’d hate for him to get a dishonorable discharge because he fell in love.”
His buddy, Cpl. Brett Dagen, who also married an Iraqi woman in a double ceremony with Blackwell when they took a break from their foot patrol — and thus invited disciplinary action — and his wife are getting divorced under pressure from the woman’s family. And Blackwell’s wife, Ehdaa, has apparently received threats (she is still in Iraq) and may flee to Western Europe where the couple can reunite.
I suppose there was no way to avoid the disciplinary action, but I do hope that Blackwell and his wife can see each other again soon. At least this doesn’t seem to be ending up like _Romeo and Juliet_ did. In fact, no matter what happens, there seems to be an all-American ending in store: Blackwell’s lawyer, Alvoid, said he’s working on a book deal for Blackwell and his wife, and that a movie will soon follow.