Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iraq I: Kalilizad Tells It Like It Is

There are two strikingly different Iraqs today. There is President Bush's Iraq where things are always getting better. And there is the mainstream media's Iraq, where despite the occasional positive development there are big problems aplenty.

Bridging these two Iraqs is U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, whose penchant for candor has repeatedly undermined the man in the Oval Office.

Khalilzad recently sent a long cable to the State Department stating that:
* Women are being increasingly harrassed, including being made to wear a veil, told not to use cell phones or drive a car. Men who wear shorts or jeans have come under attack from "what staff members describe as Wahabis and Sadrists."

* Different neighborhoods are controlled by different militias, and staff members have to be careful to dress and speak differently in each one. "People no longer trust most neighbors." Even the upscale Mansur district is now an "unrecognizable ghost town." A newspaper editor reports that ethnic cleansing is taking place in virtually every Iraqi province.

* Electricity is available for only a few hours a day and fuel lines can require waits as long as 12 hours. An exception is buildings where government employees live, which sometimes get electricity around the clock.

* Being known as an embassy employee "is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people."

* "Objectivity, civility, and logic" from embassy staff members are becoming harder to come by as pressure outside the Green Zone increases. The embassy can't get good information if people become too scared to speak honestly.

You can download Khalilzad's memo here.

(Hat tips to Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly and the Washington Post.)

1 comment:

OutOfContext said...

I found this document to be stunning, mostly because of the fact that it was leaked so quickly. I'll be curious to see how the administration deals with that aspect. The meat of the document is not surprising at all if you read the in-country Iraqi blogs--it is the same picture from a different angle. I really like Khalizad--from my obscured view--he seems pretty straightforward. As a point of fact, though, I have read that it is standard practice to sign embassy documents Khalizad and so it does not necessarily mean the memo came directly from him.