Monday, June 19, 2006

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

It took me long enough to find it. Why? Because the Washington Post had buried it in B Section. And in less than a day even the search engines didn't turn it up:
"Hours before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees. This cable, marked "sensitive" and obtained by The Washington Post, outlines in spare prose the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government."
The cable itself goes on to describe a daily situation for embassy staff so horrifying that one wonders how the U.S. has even been able to retain anyone to work for it there:
  • Women staffers who have been threatened into covering themselves and not using cell phones;
  • Electricity service down to as little as 4 hours a day despite temperatures of 115 degrees (Riverbend told us as much over a year ago);
  • Ethnic cleansing by political parties and their militias in every province of Iraq, including the ejection of Kurds from Baghdad;
  • 12 hour waits on line to buy gasoline;
  • Kidnappings of staff family members;
  • Threats against staff for simply working at the embassy;
  • Sectarian divisiveness within families and even in the office itself;
  • And a patchwork of rigorously enforced social mores throughout Iraq that require Iraqis traveling outside their neighborhoods to take on the "clothing, language and traits of (each) area", because to do otherwise may endanger their lives.
The memo reports a near complete breakdown of law and order, except for that which is dependent on "local providers" of power and security. Neighborhoods are run by their own governments, complete with their own little armies/police forces, and "the central not relevant...People no longer trust most neighbors." This memo, with Ambassador Khalilzad's name at the bottom, was sent on June 6, more than a week before Bush made his little fantasy flight to photo op and catapult the propaganda with Maliki. That means someone close to him (not him, of course...we know his interest in foreign affairs stops at the Rio Grande) was aware of this miserable situation well before Bush showed up there with the kidnapped press corps. But this administration has never let the truth get in the way of a good opportunity for Newsspeak, or a chance to work those polls he so adamantly denies caring about.

But the most chilling part of the memo has to be this almost fatalistic assessment in the last paragraph:
"Although our staff retain a professional demeaner, strains are apparent. We see that their personal fears are reinforcing divise and sectarian channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials. Employees are aprehensive enough that we fear they may exaggerate developments or steer us towards news that comports with their worldview. Objectivity, civility, and logic that make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside the Green Zone don't abate."(Emphasis mine.)
Imagine! Steering toward news that comports with one's worldview! Even if it's the truth, and even if it happens to be the quotidian reality of one's life, it could prove fatally inconvenient for the string-pullers, so let's get a lid on it, stat.

gomer1The trifling, lying, and cynical corpse-bandying of this administration is not the surprise here--Christ knows we should have come to expect little else by now. What is unforgiveable is how this story just seems to have fallen down a rathole somewhere. I first found it at Raw Story and Editor and Publisher, but only through a search could I link to the memo itself, via War and Piece. When I tried to locate a link to the Al Kamen article (which DOES have a link to the memo), a search of WaPo's own site yielded nothing at all, and the NYTimes still appears clueless. Way to go, liberal media.

Here's the memo.

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