"To practice democracy? Are you kidding?" -- eye witness Baghdad

An unsettling picture of the situation on the ground in Iraq, the most telling I've
read recently, comes in an email from Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi.
Most of the U.S. press, including Fassihi's own paper, refuses to describe the
situation in this level of detail, preferring administration propaganda about the
puppet regime and coming elections.

"Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual
house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to
see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their
ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons.
I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled
interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't
go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation
with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored
car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't
speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't
linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling.
And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb
so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing
concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure
our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a
reporter second.
. . . . . .
"Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under
Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed
to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States
for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they
reply: 'the situation is very bad."

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most
Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country
killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming
impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed
to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings.
The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days,
110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are
so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of
public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.
. . . . . .
"I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi
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?'"