Thursday, September 16, 2004

Mess O Potamia

Iraq has degenerated to a point where it's become nearly hopeless. American intelligence has issued a starkly pessimistic assessment of the country's prospects. And insurgents are gaining strength by the day. Civil war is now a high probability, while hopes for a functioning democracy have been completely snuffed out.

There's a fascinating interview on Fresh Air yesterday with Christopher Dickey, the Middle East bureau chief for Newsweek, who's been on the ground in Iraq. Dickey appeared eminently fair and deeply knowledgeable, and his assessment of Iraq's future is just as dire. Iraq is the most dangerous place he's has ever worked from, and other war correspondents he has spoken to agree. And the depressing thing is the increasing lack of interest in Iraq from the American public, who understandably want to turn away from the daily carnage unfolding in our occupied territory to more diverting news.

But one can't. It's the biggest operation the U.S. has engaged in since Vietnam -- easily the single most important decision made by an administration in my lifetime -- and as citizens, we have a duty to keep informed and hold politicians accountable for their actions. Imagine all the folks in the world who want to vote Bush and his cronies out of office but can't. This election, more than any other, the vote is power that other people only dream of.

Besides the usual sources, there are two blogs that really give you a sense of what's happening in Iraq. Juan Cole, professor at U of Michigan (one of my old stomping grounds), blogs about the Middle East almost exclusively. It's the single best source of Iraq information I know. Nearly as valuable is Iraq'd, a TNR blog written by Spencer Ackerman, covering the politics and policies shaping the place. He's got new info that over 3,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since April of this year. And he's got the best line I've seen recently in describing the Bushies (in comparing Bush to Wolfowitz): "In fact, three years after September 11, they are exactly alike in both program and intellectual style: dogmatic yet adrift, and relentlessly deceitful."

If you want to check out a blog kept by an Iraqi in Baghdad, there's (the now infrequently updated) Baghdad is Burning.