Leading ‘Wash Post’ Reporters Offer Assessments on Iraq

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By: E&P Staff

Three leading Washington Post writers — one writing from Baghdad, two others from Washington — offered grim assessments about the current state of the conflict in Iraq in prominent stories in their paper on Sunday.

Anthony Shadid, the Pulitzer Prize winner and longtime Middle East correspondent, produced an opinion piece for the front page of the B section.

“It had been almost a year since I was in the Iraqi capital, where I worked as a reporter in the days of Saddam Hussein, the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and the occupation, guerrilla war and religious resurgence that followed,” he writes. “On my return, it was difficult to grasp how atomized and violent the 1,250-year-old city has become.

“Even on the worst days, I had always found Baghdad’s most redeeming quality to be its resilience, a tenacious refusal among people I met over three years to surrender to the chaos unleashed when the Americans arrived. That resilience is gone, overwhelmed by civil war, anarchy or whatever term could possibly fit.

“Baghdad now is convulsed by hatred, paralyzed by suspicion; fear has forced many to leave. Carnage its rhythm and despair its mantra, the capital, it seems, no longer embraces life. ‘A city of ghosts,’ a friend told me, her tone almost funereal.

“The commotion in the streets — goods spilling across sidewalks, traffic snarled under a searing sun — once prompted the uninitiated to conclude that Baghdad was reviving. Of course, they were seeing the city through a windshield, the often angry voices on the streets inaudible. Today, with traffic dwindling, stores shuttered and streets empty by nightfall, that conceit no longer holds.”

Many more paragraphs follow.

Meanwhile, Thomas Ricks, author of “Fiasco,” and Peter Baker, the paper’s White House reporter, contribute a strong page story suggesting that this month may one day be looked about as the “tipping point” in the war. Their piece begins:

“As the fighting in Iraq swerved toward civil war in February, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) expressed ‘a high degree of confidence’ that a new government would take charge and that by the end of the year the conflict “won’t be the same.”

“As October opened, Warner returned from Iraq with a far grimmer assessment. ‘The situation,’ he said, ‘is simply drifting sidewise.’

“His judgment gave voice to Republican doubt that had been suppressed in a campaign season. Lawmakers who had vowed to ‘stay the course’ called for change. One GOP senator declared Iraq “on the verge of chaos.” By last week, President Bush was saying he too is ‘not satisfied’ and is looking for a fresh approach.

“October 2006 may be remembered as the month that the U.S. experience in Iraq hit a tipping point, when the violence flared and shook both the military command in Iraq and the political establishment back in Washington.

“Plans to stabilize Baghdad collided with a surge in violence during the holy month of Ramadan. Sectarian revenge killings spread, consuming a town 50 miles from the capital. U.S. officials spoke of setting benchmarks for the Iraqi government to take on more responsibility, only to have the Iraqi prime minister call that suggestion election-year grandstanding. Bush compared the situation to the 1968 Tet Offensive — often seen as a turning point in the Vietnam War — and urged Americans not to become disillusioned.”

The two articles can be found at www.washingtonpost.com.




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