Conditions In Iraq Deteriorating Quickly

Posted on June 19, 2006

The Washington Post reports on the shocking conditions in Iraq which were revealed by an intercepted a cable marked "Sensitive" from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad just days before President Bush's trip to Iraq to try to put a positive spin on the debacle that is the Iraq War. The memo reveals how terrifying life has become in Iraq for ordinary Iraqis: personal protection is purchased from the local militia, funerals are an everyday occurence, workers for the Americans must hide the nature of their employment or face kidnapping or death, and ethnic cleansing is in full swing.

The memo (available in pdf format at The Washington Post website) reveals:
  • "Personal safety depends on good relations with the 'neighborhood' governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or coopted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors."

  • One embassy employee had a brother-in-law kidnapped. Another received a death threat, and then fled the country with her family.

  • Iraqi staff at the embassy, beginning in March and picking up in May, report "pervasive" harassment from Islamist and/or militia groups. Cuts in power and rising fuel prices "have diminished the quality of life." Conditions vary but even upscale neighborhoods "have visibly deteriorated" and one of them is now described as a "ghost town."

  • Two of the three female Iraqis in the public affairs office reported stepped-up harassment since mid-May...."some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative." One of the women is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats.

  • It has also become "dangerous" for men to wear shorts in public and "they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts." People who wear jeans in public have also come under attack.

  • Embassy employees are held in such low esteem their work must remain a secret and they live with constant fear that their cover will be blown. Of nine staffers, only four have told their families where they work. They all plan for their possible abductions. No one takes home their cell phones as this gives them away. One employee said criticism of the U.S. had grown so severe that most of her family believes the U.S. "is punishing populations as Saddam did."

  • Since April, the "demeanor" of guards in the Green Zone has changed, becoming more "militia-like," and some are now "taunting" embassy personnel or holding up their credentials and saying loudly that they work in the embassy: "Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people." For this reason, some have asked for press instead of embassy credentials.

  • "For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events....We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their 'cover.'"
  • This is not what I'd call a stable democracy. This is the report from our own Embassy, which basically says that the country is disintegrating into anarchy. Clearly, we have no control outside of the small area in Baghdad known as the "Green Zone." Meanwhile, Karl Rove -- recently freed from the threat of any actual consequences from his role in Plamegate -- has been doing the rounds of the talk shows saying how great everything is in Iraq. It's a sick joke, one that is being played on our armed forces who have to fight this losing war.