11 December 2007

Explosion, Confusion, and Disillusion in Baghdad

Al Jazeera English and everyone else got the facts wrong this morning

Just thought I'd give you a glimpse on the chaotic media situation in Iraq. This morning I heard the "Baghdad alarm clock" go off which shook me out of bed in my hooch. Nothing unusual here. The sounds of war were much more frequent in June when I was new, but there is still too many. I could tell the explosions were from outside the IZ, but something about them sounded funny. I came into work and low and behold there was a huge plume of smoke over Baghdad to the south of the IZ. It turned out the Dora Refinery was on fire due to a rocket attack according to Al-Jazeera English and various other outlets. In my mind, I figured those explosions were from the refinery and that the insurgency had targeted it (as they have in the past) to damage Iraqi infrastructure. Then, it turns out the explosions were from the Ministry of Interior, which tragically killed 5 detainees, and the Dora refinery was actually a big industrial accident. The Iraqi officials must've released bad information to the press, which happens from time to time. MNF-I issued this press release in the afternoon confirming that it was indeed an industrial accident and clearing up all the confusion. Also, there appears to have been a bunch of other explosions in the morning hours in Baghdad as well according to NY Times. Most people would be shocked by this in the rest of the world, but sadly it is just another day in this city. I thought I might've been incredibly insensitive and callous in thinking that, since I'm one of the lucky few residing in the comfort of the green zone with T-walls, security, and checkpoints up the yingyang. But then I came across this Christian Science Monitor article today and it sounds like the Baghdad citizens think there's too much security.

Abu Nawas - once witness to frequent suicide car bombs and mortar attacks - now hums with activity of a different sort. The newly fortified area is patrolled by Humvees and guarded by US-funded private security companies that search every entering vehicle and scrupulously monitor shopkeepers and residents - and occasional intrepid visitors. For Hassan Abdullah, a cabinetmaker, that spells bad business. "It's worse than the Green Zone," he exclaims. No customers come in. He can't even deliver orders, he says.

There's been a lot of pressure from the Baghdad citizens to start taking down T-walls to ease traffic congestion and increase business. But even though the security situation has improved in Baghdad, I'm guessing it still ranks up there as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. I just don't understand why the Iraqis would want to put the kaibash on security measures that have been proven effective at reducing the violence. I feel like Baghdad is going to be a lot like my 4.5 years in Los Angeles: I came to both with an open-mind, and I'll have left both more bewildered than when I came. This place is making me weird, I need to go on R&R. Can any Iraqis out there explain this to me this feeling or did the Christian Science Monitor stringer just find the local crazy hanging out at the street corner? CSM usually has pretty accurate and investigative insight, and if this is true, do we need to focus on strategy that decreases the restraint of martial law under Operation Fardh al-Qanoon in favor of promoting business and commerce? Let me know, I'm really curious about this one.
Palm Trees n' T-walls: Sign of the Times


themorethingschange... said...

thanks for the clarification LT...seems the old rules still apply...first reports from the battlefield almost aways wrong...

LT Nixon said...


Good point! Yes, it certainly seems that way. Chaotic wars can produce some chaotic reporting on the 24/7 news cycle.