How America Lost Iraq
How America Lost Iraq is a compelling book written by Aaron Glantz, a reporter covering the war for KPFA, a lefty radio station in San Francisco.
Glantz, one of the few reporters who wasn't in bed with the US military or in the Green Zone, visited Iraq three times during the occupation: for a month immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein; from February to May 2004; and during the elections in January of 2005.
What makes this book so compelling is Glantz's personal journey. An anti-war reporter, he found himself questioning his views. In interviews with average Iraqis (he had amazing access to the voices we rarely hear), he found wide support for the invasion. His bosses were not happy to hear he had a difficult time finding people who were anti-Bush and anti-invasion. Here are excerpts from an open letter he wrote to his Pacifica colleagues:
I know that Pacifica is a radio station where the people come first. But looking back on the last year of news coverage at Pacifica, I have to ask myself -- did Pacifica adequately cover the needs, hopes, and dreams of the Iraq people?Glantz's letter did not have the desired effect. "Instead of starting a debate within the progressive media, it was largely dismissed (with a few scattered voices saying I had been bought off by the CIA)," he writes.
Looking back, I believe Pacifica did not show solidarity with the Iraqi people in its broadcasting but instead showed solidarity with the Ba'athist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. It did so by downplaying the gross human-rights violations of the regime in an effort to build support for the antiwar movement.
By the same token, George Bush has made a war that promises democracy and human rights to the Iraqi people. I believe Pacifica should report on whether these promises are delivered or whether an American puppet dictator is installed. The humanitarian situation in Iraq is a mess and needs to be reported, as do the United States and UN efforts (or lack of effort) to improve the situation.
In the future, I hope that as Pacifica strives to promote peace and social justice, it also shows solidarity with the people of North Korea and Syria, for example, offering peaceful alternatives to war that promote human rights in those countries rather than propping up dictatorial regimes.
A few months go by and public opinion begins to drastically change. The US and its contractors fail to restore basic necessities. The streets are unsafe. Regular Iraqis are imprisoned at Abu Ghraib. Fallujah is flattened, killing hundreds of innocent civilians and increasing support for an armed resistance. "This chain of events served to transform the Americans, in Iraqi eyes, from liberators to brutal occupiers -- a point of view that persists today and is likely to color American-Iraqi relations in the future," Glantz writes.
Samir Khader, who worked on the documentary Control Room, told Glantz: "In the beginning, most people supported the Americans as liberators. Now, we have reached a point of no return. The majority of Iraqis want to get rid of the Americans. You know there are red lines in this part of the world. When you attack mosques, when you attack women and children. This is a red line."
Similar opinions are consistent throughout the second half of the book. Towards the end, people begin to lose hope altogether.
The Appendix takes a look at all of the players involved, including past American presidents.
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th president of the United States, support Saddam Hussein during his long war with Iran in the 1980s. He criticized Iran's desire to topple what he called "the legitimate government of Iraq." In 1983, he removed Iraq from the US government's list of "nations that support international terrorism" and sent Donald Rumsfeld as a personal envoy to Iraq, where Rumsfeld met with Saddam Hussein and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. According to a State Department memo made available by the non-profit National Security Archives in Washington, Rumsfeld told Aziz that "the United States and Iraq share many common interests," adding that the Reagan Administration had a "willingness to do more" to "help Iraq." Military and economic assistance followed.
George H.W. Bush (1924-), 41st president of the United States, invaded Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. After pushing Saddam out of Kuwait, he called on Iraqis to rise up and promised support for their revolution. When Iraqis rose up and seized most of the country, his administration sat by silently as Saddam massacred tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of people. After that, his administration pushed a tough sanctions program on the country through the United Nations, claiming that Saddam needed to be disarmed of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.Glantz failed to note that Clinton backed the post-war economic sanctions, which in 12 years killed one million Iraqis, half of them children, and wiped out the middle class.
How quickly TV and radio hosts and so-called experts forget events that occurred just 20 years ago.
Check out the book. It's a good read.