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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

It's Worse Than You Think...

Chris Allbrighton writes about how bad things are right now in Iraq on his site Back to Iraq
TIME weighs in on the FUBAR situation in Iraq, and it ain’t pretty.

Important parts of the country, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers said, are controlled by rebels. Principal cities and major roads west and north of the capital are ruled by Sunni insurgents. Al-Sadr’s men launch uprisings at will across the wide Shi’ite belt, and even parts of Baghdad are no-go zones for U.S. troops and the frail forces of the interim Iraqi government. All this has helped make the peace much bloodier than the war: last month anti-U.S. attacks climbed to 87 a day, more than double the rate in 2003 and the first half of 2004. The U.S. death toll since sovereignty was returned to Iraq on June 28 has eclipsed the number killed in the invasion, and the total tally just passed 1,000. The wounded number more than 7,000. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld estimates that coalition forces killed up to 2,500 suspected insurgents in August, but the will of the rebels shows few signs of cracking. Attacks on U.S. troops increasingly come in the form of direct fire from small arms and suicide bombs, the tactics of a more sophisticated and in-your-face foe.

I don’t know if I can really put into words just how bad it is here some days. Yesterday was horrible — just horrible. While most reports show Fallujah, Ramadi and Samarra as “no-go” areas, practically the entire Western part of the country is controlled by insurgents, with pockets of U.S. power formed by the garrisons outside the towns. Insurgents move freely throughout the country and the violence continues to grow.

I wish I could point to a solution, but I don’t see one. People continue to email me, telling me to report the “truth” of all the good things that are going on in Iraq. I’m not seeing a one. A buddy of mine is stationed here and they’re fixing up a park on a major street. Gen. Chiarelli was very proud of this accomplishment, and he stressed this to me when I interviewed him for the TIME story. But Baghdadis couldn’t care less. They don’t want city beautification projects; they want electricity, clean water and, most of all, an end to the violence.

And in the midst of all this violence, most of the Iraqi Interim Government is out of town. Security Advisors, heads of important ministries and the chief of the new Mukhabarat are all mysteriously absent. The Iraqi security forces are a joke, with the much talked about Fallujah Brigade disbanded for being feckless and — worse — riddled with insurgents who were being paid and trained by the U.S. Marines.

Thousands of Iraqis are desperate to get a new passport and flee the country. These are often the most educated Iraqis — the have the money to get new passports and travel — so the brain-drain will accelerate.

I can only imagine being caught up in circumstances and not being able to get out. It is one of my worst fears, trying with all one's might but constantly falling behind. Chris goes on to tell about a email he got from a soldier.

From my perspective as a grunt who was on the ground, we wanted to do all sorts of things to help, but we couldn’t. No matter what we wanted to do, my squad was not going to restore electricity to Iraq. Every day for several months we had to drive past a blown up power tower with lines dangling about 20 feet off the ground. (You may be able to spot this one: it’s new now, on the western side of Tampa around bridge 18 or so). It was disgusting to see it sit there on its side for so long.

So, all we got to do were hand out crayons and soccer balls to school kids. What else could we do? We wanted to help, but we were in the middle of a war and stuck in a behemoth of a bureaucracy. Our little efforts were indeed puny on a national scale, but it’s what we could do.

My heart goes out to all those who are living through this.