Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Letter from Baghdad

Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi wrote an email about current conditions in Iraq to 40 of her friends and without her permission, it's been circulated on the Internet. You can read the original letter -- which I highly recommend for its simple eloquence and human quality -- here.

There's been some controversy over the content of the letter, what it means to Fassihi as a reporter and you can read about more here, here, and here. Another reporter backs Fassihi's account here.

This email -- originally intended as private correspondence between friends -- paints a very different picture of what Iraq looks like, what it's actually like there now. It was no paradise under Saddam Hussein, that much is clear, but Fassihi writes I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad. Later, she goes on to say, I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

So there you have it. The Iraqis prefer Saddam over the Americans; Saddam might be the boogey man, but at least he's their boogey man. It's not exactly the desert oasis the Bush administration would have us believe in. Somehow, we're supposed to be believe 35 UN observers can successfully pull off an election in a country increasingly overrun by insurgents. They'd like us to believe the Middle East and the United States are safer places because of the removal of Saddam Hussein. The facts tell a different story.

George W. Bush started this war, and by all rights we have to stay the course and finish the job; there is simply no other choice now. However, staying the course does not perclude a change in leadership. You do not keep a CEO who has effectively squandered his relationships with the global community, who has impacted the bottom line in not only a financially costly way, but also in one that has cost human capital and has run the country into debt -- both in a financially measurably way but also in the loss of that intangible and most valuable asset, goodwill.

Clinton may have lied about a cigar and twisted definitions around, but his loss of goodwill -- intangible asset that it is -- did not affect the way this country was run and perceived overseas. You cannot say the same about this administration. You don't give a second chance to someone who cannot take responsibility for their own actions, who say even with the intelligence we know now they would make the same decisions; we don't need that kind of rigidity and blindness in the White House. For that reason, if for nothing else, it's time for Bush to return to Crawford, for Cheney to go back to making his millions as CEO at Halliburton.

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