While we all appreciate the efforts of our soldiers in applying fresh paint to Iraqi schools, that program really can’t substitute for an improvement in the realities of daily life in Iraq, where many days it isn’t safe to send children to these “makeover” buildings. Bushco complains mightily about the news, and labors to achieve prospective censorship.
From Foreign Policy:
Rod Nordland, Newsweek correspondent 2003-2005:
It’s a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news.
FP: The Bush administration often complains that the reporting out of Iraq is too negative, yet you say they are managing the news. What’s the real story?
RN: You can only manage the news to a certain degree. It is certainly hard to hide the fact that in the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day. Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that’s not true.
FP: How often do you travel outside of the Green Zone?
RN: The restrictions on [journalists’] movements are very severe. It is extremely dangerous to move around anywhere in Iraq, but we do. We all have Iraqi staff who get around, and we go on trips arranged by the U.S. State Department as frequently as we can.
But the military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements. Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story—they use the word slant—what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don’t like what you have done before, they refuse to take you.
FP: The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad recently sent a cable to Washington detailing the dangerous situation under which its Iraqi employees work. Is the situation in the Green Zone as bad as the cable made it out to be?
RN: Yes, it is that bad.
RN: There was a stage in the war when we could talk to insurgents and people representing insurgents. Now, it’s just too dangerous. There is no way to safely contact them.
(see also Bushco’s attack on the Freedom of Information Act, below)
Whatever happened to the James Baker-led ad hoc committee tasked with figuring out how to extricate the US from Iraq, or at least get little Bush to get us on the right road?