Nir Rosen and Ahmed Hashim told what they knew.
“I think there is absolutely no hope that things will get better in Iraq,” said Rosen, who was last in Baghdad three weeks ago. “The civil war will get worse.” What’s more, he added, “the government of Iraq, if it has a role, it’s a negative one.” He was referring to the various ministries with their respective militias. Meantime, “if you’re young and poor and Shia, you’re Mahdi Army.”
Hashim agreed. “Iraq is in the midst of civil war, insurgency, organized crime and massive state failure,” he said. “The U.S. military isn’t shaping events. It’s reacting to them.” U.S. forces are “just one more militia” among many. He added, “We have a civil war right now. A low level civil war. Anybody who says different” has no idea of the reality in Iraq.
They were speaking Tuesday evening at the Council on Foreign Relations. The event was dubbed “Insurgents, Martyrs, and Militias: The Ongoing Violence in Iraq.”
Rosen, who grew up in New York, spent 14 months in Baghdad as bureau chief for Asia Times. He is the author of “In the Belly of the Green Bird,” and his reports have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine and The New Republic.
Hashim, an officer in the U.S. Army, served in Iraq in 2005 and specializes in security policies of the Middle East. He teaches at the U.S. Naval War College (where he’s an Associate Professor of Strategic Studies) and at Harvard’s Kennedy School (where he’s an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy). Hashim said he was speaking as a private citizen and was not representing the Army in his opinions.
So I open the paper on Wednesday, and what do I see? A front-page story by Sabrina Tavernise, “Alarmed by Raids, Neighbors Stand Guard in Iraq,” about civilian watch groups forming in Baghdad to protect their neighborhoods from the nighttime “secret killings” being carried out by the roving death squads of the various militias. Later that day CNN.com had a report, “Morgue’s toll for April in Baghdad: 1,091 victims,” noting “the upsurge in sectarian violence” (which Tavernise’s describes in far greater detail; go read her).
Now comes this morning’s front-pager, “Iraq Set to Unify Security Forces to Battle Chaos,” as if in repy to Rosen and Hashim.
Dexter Filkins reports:
The centerpiece of the plan calls for consolidating the multitude of security agencies under a single command, with one easily identifiable uniform. Iraqi officials say that would give them greater flexibility to combat the insurgency and identify rogue elements within their ranks.
Uh-huh. Sounds more like wishful thinking than a plan.
Not least, the Bullshitter-in-Chief‘s confidante Karen Hughes showed up Wednesday at the furrin council and put on a star performance in her official capacity as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Fizzier than a bottle of Perrier, she expressed confidence that “over the long run, as we begin to see Iraq building its democracy,” history will bear out the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. [Italics added to cfr.org’s accurate staff report.]
Given what Rosen and Hashim had said the night before, methinks Karen’s confidence is misplaced. “Well, clearly they don’t have Karen’s grasp of historical perspective,” one furrin council official joked.
Mind you, neither Rosen nor Hashim were expressing radical views.
Incidental intelligence: George Packer and Frances FitzGerald were among the notable journalists and Iraq experts who showed up to hear them.