"When I first came to Iraq," I told one of the reporters in the press room today, "my thinking was very cut and dried -- that we needed to withdraw American troops from here immediately, like, next week. But now that I've been here for a while, I've come to realize that the situation here is a lot more complex." It is VERY complex. It's time for me to sit down and really think about this. Should U.S. troops stay in Iraq? Or should they leave? At this point, it seems pretty much like a coin toss to me.
One U.S. soldier I talked to said, "I think that the situation here in Iraq is very similar to back when the mob ruled Chicago in the 1930s and the Untouchables had to go in and clean up the town. We can't leave here until we've cleaned the place up."
And another soldier I talked with agreed. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe in this mission. We just can't leave right now. There'd be a bloodbath."
So I got to thinking that maybe it IS a good thing for American troops to stay here. But then I got a wake-up-call from my friend Angela. "Jane, did any of the soldiers you talked to ever ask you about what is going on in the rest of the world and why everyone -- besides Bush and the neo-cons -- wants the Americans out of Iraq? And what about torture and all? Was anyone willing to comment on that? What about the more than one million dead Iraqis -- any comment there? And what about the two million who have left the country and fled?" Good grief! I forgot about that. Am I being brainwashed over here? Am I being lured into accepting the Bush version of the occupation by all that fabulous food served at the DFac?
"Just about zero. Unless you are willing to tie yourself to a stake in the Red Zone and wait to get kidnapped...." Hummm. Exactly how far am I willing to go for a story?
"What about if I go out interview an insurgent out at Abu Ghraib?"
When I got back from joy-riding, I talked with a journalist who had been kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalist extremists about a year ago and he said, "Basically those guys are psychopaths and will kill anyone who gets in their way -- Muslim or non-Muslim."
"What makes them like that?" I wondered.
"Many of them, like Saddam Hussein himself, grew up in the streets, practically feral. These guys don't want to TALK to anyone. They don't want to negotiate. Basically, they really just don't care." And we want to leave and abandon Iraq to these guys? I think not.
Then I went to a press conference held by the Ministry of Energy and during the Q&A, an Iraqi reporter stated that the people of Baghdad needed more electricity than just six hours worth a day. The Ministry's rep replied that so far, "40 of our workers have been killed, 300 have been kidnapped and 300 have been injured. Work has been abandoned because of the threats. In Baghdad it is very difficult. We are trying to establish power but our towers are being destroyed. We are working under very difficult conditions." Apparently the insurgents are targeting power stations and power lines in an effort to discredit the Multi-National Forces who are guarding them.
This information seems to indicate that the best rationale for keeping U.S. troops here is to aid in trying to bring stability to the country -- but I can't guarantee that statement to be true because I haven't been able to hear the insurgents' side of the story. So far I've attended five press conferences given by the Multi-National Forces. But have I attended any press conferences given by "Insurgents"? Nope. None. Zero, zip, nada. Humph. Why aren't THEY here in the press room giving conferences too? "We report. You decide." And boy do I have questions for them! Guys, you are missing a real opportunity here by not granting an interview to moi.
What kind of questions would I ask the "insurgents" aka "terrorists" aka "Al Qaeda" if I had the chance? First of all I'd ask, "Hey, guys, why aren't YOU trying to upgrade YOUR image? If you are serious about winning this 'war', you need to get a hot new name and maybe take out a few commercials on 'Deal or No Deal' or 'Jeopardy'. And stop blowing up all those markets and school children. It's bad for PR."
"Secondly," I'd ask the insurgents, "if the US troops do leave, will you actually be able to form an efficient and safe and organized government? Or are you guys the type who only understands violence, can only 'swift-boat' people and are at a complete loss when it comes to actually creating and building new stuff?" Well, if the insurgents ARE like that, then they need to give up their fixation with Iraq and come over to Washington DC where that kind of stuff is very popular. They'd fit right in.
Then my friend Ilene e-mailed me an article that said, "Disillusioned with their 'liberators,' many Iraqis believe that the withdrawal of the foreign troops the only solution to their trauma. 'The Americans must leave, they are responsible for the situation today,' said Mohamed Ali, an employee of the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad. 'If they go, the situation will become stable in one or two months.'"