The other news from Iraq

I had dinner here in Mexico City with a reporter who was about to return to Iraq, where he has already been twice in 2003.  The impression that I’d gotten from following the news in the U.S. is that the situation in Iraq is improving very gradually.  The progress is hard to see like the rising of an exponential function near 0 but eventually it might take off sort of like the diode equation around 0.6 volts even though actually the curve is the same.

The reporter, who’d spent a couple of months on the ground in Baghdad already, was much more pessimistic:  “Iraq isn’t a country; it is three countries:  a Kurdish north, a Sunni center, and a Shiite south.  These people all hate each other and would like nothing more than a civil war so that they can all kill each other.  The only thing that is stopping them right now is the fact that 95% hate Americans, maybe 10% enough to try to kill Americans personally.”

He was not looking forward to returning.  “I’m afraid, to tell you the truth.  I’ve worked in Kabul and been in the middle of skirmishing warlords in Afghanistan but Iraq is a lot scarier.”

11 thoughts on “The other news from Iraq

  1. It doesn’t help that the coalition has structured the governing council on explicitly sectarian lines. This emphasizes those divisions and increases the likelihood of the country dissolving into warring sections, not something we want in the most volatile region of the world. Ideally, you would emphasize other dimensions such as middle-class vs. poor or secular vs. religious.

  2. Kevin Sites also keeps up to date with some interesting perspectives. He tells the non-news stuff on his blog at

    He is a solo journalist currently sponsored by MSNBC — he’s on TV pretty often depending on the day and what else is happening in the world.

  3. I can picture Rumsfeld pilfering your diode analogy.

    But then he’d have to explain to W what a diode is.

  4. “. . . [T]he coalition has structured the governing council on explicitly sectarian lines . . .” because unless it was explicit in its inclusiveness, some folks would feel excluded. In an ideal world, this would be more-or-less a matter of course and not given half a thought, and we would go on worrying about the corrosive impact of money in politics. A fractured governing body is ideal, because its conflicting interests will prevent it from over-governing.

  5. Amen to that Adolph. I am from a country where we enjoy a coalition goverment, because of which no one party’s (or worse, party leader’s!) ideals and goals gain a majority by default, like it does in the UK or US. That sometimes makes for slow or lack of decision making, but it seems to always keep the goverment from making galicticaly stupid spur-of-the-moment decisions.

  6. Interesting, the impression I get from the media is that American casulties are increasing steadily, international organisations are leaving like rats from a sinking ship, and the administration is drifting rudderless and planless under the command of the presidential moron.

    Given that I am in Canada and get as much of CNN, PBS, NBC, ABC, and CBS, as I do CBC and CTV, it is strange to see that much difference.

  7. Hate, what exactly does that mean? Here in the US we see reports that Democrats hate George W. Bush, many groups like african americans, catholics, jews, muslims, latinos, rich, poor,.. hate or are hated – in this country. If this is the kind of “hate” that you’re talking about between kurds, sunnis and shiites, it shouldn’t be a showstopper for democracy.

    What I would guess 100% of Iraqis hate is being occupied by a foreign power, and probably your reporter friend is right – 10% might hate it enough to personally consider going out and kill Americans.

    There can’t be a military solution to this – like some codenamed brutal bombing of random buildings with associated collateral damage.

    Dominique De Villepin:
    “the best way to deal with the deteriorating security situation in Iraq was to lay more emphasis on speeding up the political process to end the occupation, instead of the current dominance of a military response.”

  8. I just stumbled onto this thread via a Google search, since I’m looking for information on a recent (March 2004) public opinion poll conducted in Iraq. Interestingly enough, this poll indicates that 70% think they are doing well, and 56% believe life is better than before the war. That’s rather incredible, considering how bad the law-and-order situation appears to be. Almost half (49%) believe the invasion was justified. 15% want coalition forces to leave immediately, and 53% want them to stay until Iraq has a functioning government.
    As for the views of your reporter friend, it sounds like a vast oversimplification informed by a bit of truth. Without question there are Iraqis who hate both the U.S. and other Iraqis. In most cases, those feelings are not the only ones beating in their breasts, and probably not even the uppermost. I suspect that being an Iraqi now means being trememdously conflicted about many things, and that people are nowhere near through with the process of weighing patterns ingrained by Saddam’s tyranny, age-old hatreds, and possibilities for the future utterly undreamt of a couple of years ago.

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