Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fresh Eyes on Baghdad

"By 2006 and 2007, I admit I had stopped reading: So many dead dumped in ditches, countless American fuckups, too many tragedies to fathom. In the ensuing years, the endless grinding of Iraqi parliamentary democracy—failed coalitions, muddy alliances—faded into the hum of a world gone wrong. Much of what had happened was our fault, but what could be done? The once-inescapable Iraq—subject of so many urgent conversations—had at last, again, become a ghost."

--Nathan Deuel in Slate

A quick note to highlight this exceptional article by Nathan Deuel about a recent 5 day trip to Baghdad. It's an intensely personal account, and reflects some of the horror, urgency, and bewilderment that spilled out of reporters in the earlier churning periods of the war. The past 7 years have established a baseline which tends to seep into political reporting on Iraq. Today's analysis inevitably drifts into comparison, and in a comparative sense, Iraq is doing awfully well. But "the presence of pain is more keenly felt than the absence of agony."* And Iraq today, compared against any humane baseline, is brimming with pain, despair, and misery.

There's no shortage of reporting on progress in Iraq, and that's a hugely important part of the story. But it's not the whole story. Deuel's fresh eyes on Baghdad serve as a useful reminder of the devastation Iraq continues to suffer, and the anticipation of horror with which many Iraqis live. A reminder of what's at stake.

*Borrowed from Hendrik Hertzberg writing on quite a different subject.

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