Weblog Archives

  Sunday  October 15  2006    12: 44 PM


Calling Bob in Baghdad

I am very, very lucky. I am alive in a war zone. Most of the time I have running water and when I turn on the lights, a series of generators ensures that they come on. I don't have to worry about saying goodbye to my family here in the morning and not knowing whether I'll see them in the evening. I know I'm lucky because almost everyone I know in Baghdad has to worry constantly about those things.

Some readers and viewers think we journalists are exaggerating about the situation in Iraq. I can almost understand that because who would want to believe that things are this bad? Particularly when so many people here started out with such good intentions.

I'm more puzzled by comments that the violence isn't any worse than any American city. Really? In which American city do 60 bullet-riddled bodies turn up on a given day? In which city do the headless bodies of ordinary citizens turn up every single day? In which city would it not be news if neighborhood school children were blown up? In which neighborhood would you look the other way if gunmen came into restaurants and shot dead the customers?


  thanks to Eschaton

Study Claims Iraq's 'Excess' Death Toll Has Reached 655,000

A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.

The estimate, produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government.

It is more than 20 times the estimate of 30,000 civilian deaths that President Bush gave in a speech in December. It is more than 10 times the estimate of roughly 50,000 civilian deaths made by the British-based Iraq Body Count research group.

The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war.


  thanks to The Agonist

Interview with Rajiv Chandrasekaran
by Juan Cole

RC: When I observed how some Americans lived and behaved in the Green Zone, I was struck by the imperialist overtones: the Gurkhas guarding the palace, the CPA staffers bemoaning the slothful work habits of the natives, and there were the pork products in the dining hall, the alcohol-sodden nightspots. I'm not arguing that the United States has sought to be imperialist in Iraq -- although others may have that view -- but what I am saying is that some of the Americans who went to Baghdad for the CPA wound up acting, unintentionally or intentionally, in an imperialist way. And it wasn't just how they were living. How to explain CPA health care adviser James Haveman's decision to devote resources to reworking Iraq's prescription formulary? (I detail this in Chapter 11.) Haveman's had saved millions of dollars by forcing Medicaid providers in Michigan to buy prescription drugs off an approved list, known as a formulary. He figured the same thing could work in Iraq. It wasn't about listening to what Iraqis wanted; in many cases, it was all about what the Americans, cloistered in the palace, thought the Iraqis needed.

In some cases, Iraqi experts disagreed with the CPA's policies, but they were powerless to stop it. Let me quote from the end of Chapter 11: Once Haveman left, the Health Ministry reported that 40 percent of the 900 drugs it deemed essential were out of stock in hospitals. Of the 32 medicines used in public clinics for the management of chronic diseases, twenty-six were unavailable. The new health minister, Aladin Alwan, beseeched the United Nations for help, and he asked neighboring nations to share what they could. He sought to increase production at a state-run manufacturing plant in the city of Samarra. And he put the new formulary on hold. To him, it was a fool's errand. "We didn't need a new formulary. We needed drugs," he said. "But the Americans did not understand that."


Four more years?
As civilian casualties climb, the U.S. makes plans to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq until 2010. Will the public in either country permit it?

The situation in Iraq is far, far bloodier than we knew, according to a new study published in the Lancet. The situation in Iraq is not getting any better, according to U.S. generals. But the Department of Defense has to allow for the real possibility that some 140,000 American soldiers will be stuck in the country for four more years, according to the Army chief of staff. Can the U.S. troop presence in Iraq really be sustained at these levels as the country devolves into sectarian civil war? Is the United States making the situation worse rather than better?


The crossroads
by Steve Gilliard

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the army, dropped a political bombshell last night by saying that Britain must withdraw from Iraq "soon" or risk serious consequences for Iraqi and British society.


From the Department of Desperate Measures

The madness of contemplating a coup, though, is that the same Shiite religious hierarchy which swept Allawi out of power through general elections in January 2005 has feared such a coup as their nightmare scenario all along, and so would almost instantly call for a popular uprising that would put the U.S. in helicopters-on-rooftops departure mode. But that's not all. Here's what I had to say two months ago on the subject:

But can they really be fantasizing about an anti-Shiite coup? Aside from the fact that it would multiply the U.S. occupation's enemies well past the ability of our military to handle them, what would be the point?

Since nearly all of the relevant power in the country is essentially outside of government control already, or at best only paying lip service to it, staging a coup in Iraq would be like trying to steal a car that's already been stripped for parts and is sitting on wooden blocks. Or maybe like trying to hijack a flight-simulator game in an arcade.