Iraq: The News You Haven’t Read


The most devastating appraisal yet of the war of terror in Iraq passed unnoticed last week in the U.S. press.

The dedicated journalists of the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) — some of whom have been killed or imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals for simply doing their jobs in hots spots around the globe — published “Special Report: Security in Iraq,” an explosive cluster of stories.

You might want to read it if you can get past the big news here that Tommy Thompson has dropped out of the presidential race. A headline from the introduction to IWPR’s August 7 package sums drives home the point that Iraq is in even worse shape than we thought:

A series of reports by IWPR journalists in six key regions show the rule of law ranges from being woefully inadequate to effectively non-existent.

That would be bloody funny if it weren’t so bloody true.

London-based IWPR is a serious operation, despite the fact that Sean Penn is apparently flashing an IWPR business card as he traipses through Venezuela with Hugo Chávez.

More relevant is the devastating summary of mad Iraq by IWPR’s real reporters Christoph Reuter and Susanne Fischer. Because you haven’t seen it, I’ll quote it at length:

Despite the recent substantial reinforcement of British and American forces in Basra and central Iraq respectively, security in the country only temporarily improved, and the gruesome daily litany of suicide bombings, mortar attacks, targeted killings and ethnic cleansing continues.

In July, at least 1,759 Iraqis were reported killed, a more than seven per cent increase over the 1,640 who are said to have died in June, according to estimates by the Associated Press.

Among the dead were civilians, government officials and members of the Iraqi security forces. The figures are considered only a minimum, and the actual number is thought to be higher with many killings going unreported.

Coalition forces are barely able to prevent the emergence of autonomous zones openly controlled by militias. The ongoing sectarian violence has created an extremely threatening climate. People feel they may be kidnapped or killed at any moment.

The security disaster is having a devastating effect on civilians, reconstruction efforts and economic activity. One out of three Iraqis is in need of emergency aid, according to a recent report by Oxfam.

A full-scale civil war looms. For the time being, United States forces are too strong to let this happen, yet they are too weak to prevent the daily killings. Or as a former member of the US administration in Baghdad put it, “We can only slow down the escalation. But we cannot prevent it, nor can we bring peace.”

The Iraqi security forces, seen by the US government and many external observers as the key to pacifying the country and guaranteeing order, are seen by large parts of the population as part of the problem. A number of army units appear to be controlled by Shia parties and are believed to be deeply involved in the sectarian violence.

The details are even worse. See the stories in the package:

Mosul Christian Community Dwindles

Battling for Power in Basra

Unholy War in Karbala

Iraqi Kurdistan Faces Trouble on Two Fronts

Checkpoints: Baghdad’s Russian Roulette

Did I say this package passed unnoticed in the U.S. press? Actually, a segment of the introduction ran on the website of one American paper: the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, New York.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 16, 2007

Archive Highlights