Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Thursday, September 06, 2007

NY Times columnist describes visit to Iraq

The following are excerpts from an op-ed by columnist Thomas L. Friedman describing his visit to Iraq that appeared in Wednesday’s New York Times.

“Ameriya is a Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad that had been home to doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Today it is a ghost town. It is chilling to see how much this city has been fragmented into little pieces. What were clearly upper-middle-class homes are almost all abandoned, and the streets are full of litter and rubble. This neighborhood first came under assault from Shiite militias, then from pro-Al Qaeda Iraqi Sunnis, who moved in on the pretext of protecting the Sunnis from the Shiites and then imposed a reign of Islamist terror on them…”

“…At one point we took a walk around the neighborhood, trudging through the powdery dust in 126 degree heat. When I looked up, I saw a surreal scene – former Baathists insurgents, guns pointed in all directions, providing a security cordon around a senior U.S. officer. That is the good news and bad news from Iraq. Good news: the surge is tamping down violence. Bad news: the relative calm stems largely from a Sunni-Sunni war that has pushed mainstream Iraqi Sunnis into our camp to fight the jihadist Sunnis – rather than from any real Sunni-Shiite rapprochement…”

“…Scene 2: On my way into Iraq, I had a private chat with an Arab Gulf leader. He said something that still rings in my ear: ‘Thomas, everyone is keeping you busy in Iraq. The Russians are keeping you busy. The Chinese are keeping you busy. The Iranians are keeping you busy. The Saudis are keeping you busy. Egypt is keeping you busy. The Syrians are keeping you busy...’”

“He’s right. Everyone loves seeing us tied down here. One need only observe how Vladimir Putin is throwing his weight around Europe, how China is growing more influential by the day, how Iran has been emboldened and how all the Arab dictators are relieved that America is mired in Iraq so we can’t push any democracy on them to understand that there’s a huge ‘opportunity cost’ for our staying here without either success or an exit strategy.”

“Scene 3: I’m visiting the new American field hospital in Balad, in central Iraq. The full madness that is Iraq is on display here: U.S. soldiers with blast wounds, insurgents with gunshots to the stomach and a 2-month-old baby with shrapnel wounds from an insurgent-planted I.E.D. scattered over her face. The hospital commander, Brig. Gen. Burt Field, looks at her and says to me: ‘There isn’t a 2-month-old on the planet who knows how to hate anybody. It’s all taught.’”

For the full article, by subscription only, click here.


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