The pencil came of age in the Civil War, the telegraph in World War I, and the transistor radio made tense early days of the Cold War bearable. War in Iraq will be known for popularizing the blogosphere.
Internet weblog chronicles have morphed under the police-blotter approach taken by traditional media in Iraq coverage. Instead of endlessly leading with what bleeds in Iraq, good bloggers are carrying raw footage from the front lines, letting servicemen and Iraqis chronicle the war unfiltered.
Joe Katzman (windsofchange.net) has twice-weekly reports on Iraq that include stories from Middle East newspapers and straight goods from coalition fighters. Chief Wiggles (chiefwiggles.blog-city.com) is a foamy journal by a U.S. debriefer among the coalition forces. Under pseudonym he is shamelessly campaigning for the release of 17 Iraqi generals, prisoners-of-war he says will do the Americans more good than harm. The blog also provides a way for him to collect and distribute toys for Iraqi children.
Some blogs only take you around the block and back again, with stops along the way at mind-numbing links. Some bloggers think readers are interested in what their kids had for breakfast.
But then Paul Miller, a blogger and journalist from Ohio, posed in a Sept. 26 entry to his Along the Tracks weblog "20 Questions the Media Will Not Ask Concerning Iraq." That's a challenge no journalist should allow to go unanswered. Mr. Miller's questions were not only thoughtful but also indicative of the frustration newshounds everywhere feel over the lack of genuine war coverage. So WORLD took his 20 questions and turned them into 20 answers.
Where is all the money from the UN's Oil for Food Program?
Mr. Miller is right to make this Question No. 1. The disappearance of Oil for Food money is just one reason the Bush administration must press Congress for more spending money in Iraq. And it's a big reason Iraqis don't trust the West when it shows up to "help."
From the time the UN began to receive oil revenues under Iraq's Oil for Food program (December 1996) until the start of the war, the body raised $64 billion in oil revenue from Iraq. Humanitarian imports designated on paper total less than $45 billion, and only $25 billion was actually delivered. No one has accounted for the difference. The UN placed Iraq funds "with five different creditworthy banks" but won't disclose which ones or how much money is on account. In nearly seven years of operation, the program has never been audited.
None of that kept UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from signing off on Saddam's requests for new programs under Oil for Food as recently as June 2002, when Mr. Annan approved 10 new "sectors," including a "Board of Youth and Sports." Under it Iraq imported boats from France. Remember Saddam's Tikrit palaces, complete with artificial lake and pleasure boats.
How many people have now lived at least six months longer than they would have under Saddam?
Trick question. How many Americans have now lived longer than they would have if Saddam were still in power?
But for the record, statistics from UNICEF suggest that Iraqis live longer under U.S. protection than they did under Saddam. Annual surveys by the UN children's organization showed the number of infant and child deaths growing every year that Saddam was in power. In one five-year period, 1994-99, the number of deaths per 1,000 young children grew from 92 to 131. During that same time period in northern Iraq, child mortality rates improved-from 90 to 72 deaths per 1,000.
The reason? Not UN sanctions. Shortages due to sanctions were heavier in the north than in Saddam's central power base. But in the north, Kurds operated Saddam-free local governments, thanks to a U.S.-patrolled no-fly zone.
How many civilians were really killed in the major combat portion of the war?
Iraq Body Count Project (IBC) is a plainly biased but highly credentialed team of researchers. They say 7,203 civilians died during March-April fighting.
Human Rights Watch, which started counting noncombatant bodies in Iraq two decades ago during the Iran-Iraq War, has some strong words against U.S. military intervention in Iraq. But its first-hand research documents that most civilian casualties have been the work of the regime, not coalition forces.
In the weeks before war began, Saddam Hussein parked missile launchers in neighborhoods, loaded mosques with landmines, and parked tanks and armored troop carriers in schoolyards.
On April 13, Human Rights Watch researchers found a classroom at al-Bayda Secondary School for Girls in Kirkuk stacked with dozens of boxes of ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades, 82mm and 100mm mortar shells, and 12.7mm machine-gun bullets.
Doctors in Mosul told Human Rights Watch that during coalition bombing raids, they were treating dozens of civilian burns and other wounds, but nearly all were the result of ammunition left behind by the Iraqi army. "The [Iraqi] army placed ammunition and weapons in between houses and among civilians in preparation for the war," said an emergency room doctor. "But the Americans did not attack these civilian areas. When the army withdrew, they left behind bombs, bullets, and machine guns. People, mostly children, picked these up and they exploded."
How many civilians have been killed since the end of major combat?
From April to August, IBC researchers say 2,846 violent deaths were recorded by the Baghdad city morgue. When corrected for pre-war death rates, IBC says the city experienced "at least 1,519 excess violent deaths"-or about 10 a day-since the fall of Baghdad.
How unreliable is the Iraqi electric distribution system in comparison to, say, the Washington, D.C., area system?
Hurricanes and blackouts aside, most Washingtonians would resent that comparison, and Baghdad residents would find it pointless. Power returned to the capital two weeks after coalition airstrikes began last spring. But it was sporadic and has been ever since.
Although combat damage was relatively light, looters ripped copper wiring and piping from more than 180 miles of transmission lines across the country, according to updated coalition estimates.
In prewar days Baghdad residents could count on 16 hours of power per day, sometimes more (most northern residents had and continue to have power 24/7). Despite ample hydro- and petroleum-driven energy sources, the electrical grid in southern and central Iraq had not been properly maintained for two decades. Baghdad residents are on a "three hours on/three hours off" schedule in many parts of the city. Estimates are that it will take two years to turn the lights on for good.
By another comparison, four years after fighting between Albanians and Serbs-together with NATO-led airstrikes-left Kosovo residents in the dark, power plants there are struggling to maintain a "three hours on/three hours off" schedule. The UN Mission in Kosovo announced recently that it will take over $1 million a week to revive Kosovo's electrical grid.
How many people (estimates allowed) are crossing into Iraq from its neighbors each month?
The Coalition Provisional Authority did not respond to WORLD's inquiry, but given that Iranians are turning up in street violence and in U.S. combat hospitals, it's obvious border control hasn't happened yet.
How many people entering Iraq are Iraqis returning after escaping Saddam in the past?
Hiram Ruiz, spokesman for the U.S. Committee for Refugees, told WORLD three convoys of refugees have returned to Iraq after 12 years in Rafha refugee camp in Saudi Arabia-240 in late July, 250 in August, and 296 on Sept. 28.
The camp was built after the Gulf War in 1991 to house 33,000 refugees who fled southern Iraq after Saddam's army quashed a Shiite uprising. By year's end, camp officials hope 3,600 of the remaining 5,200 Rafha refugees will have returned to Iraq. But lack of security in some Shiite areas is slowing the returns.
More than 25,000 southern Iraqis were resettled in the United States after the Gulf War. Many of them are making temporary visits or long-term return pilgrimages. At least half a million Iraqis remain in neighboring countries: 300,000 in Jordan; 200,000 in Iran; and 70,000 in Syria.
How many Iraqis are suffering for lack of health care, lack of food, lack of potable water, etc.? (Not individual hard-luck cases-good figures.)
All Iraqis receive food "baskets"-wheat flour, oil, and other staples-under the Oil for Food program. These have continued but will likely become a cash-based system once the program falls under U.S. control this month. In addition, Iraqi farmers produced more than a million metric tons of wheat and barley this year. No one should be starving. But, added USAID's Portia Palmer, "There would not be any data available countrywide postconflict."
How many Iraqis are directly involved in the "guerrilla war" campaign against coalition forces?
Hard to say. A minority.
Eric Knapp of the New York Post is the rare remaining embedded reporter, with the 7th Marines in Najaf. He says the Marines have worked to repair power plants, train local law enforcement, and reopen schools-non-headliners. But Najaf jumped to the headlines when a bomb exploded Aug. 29, killing over 100 Muslims gathered for Friday prayers, including Shiite leader Mohammed Baqir Hakim. Brigades of radical Islamists from Iraq and Iran quickly filled Najaf's streets, but found little traction. When the Marines surveyed local sentiment, they found 61 percent felt the coalition was doing a good job and 75 percent believed it was doing all it could to make things better.
How many non-Iraqis are directly involved in the "guerrilla war" campaign against coalition forces?
U.S. forces have arrested 248 non-Iraqi fighters. They believe 19 are members of al-Qaeda. Half of the fighters came from Syria, the rest from Iran and Yemen.Militant Iranians are involved in street violence, even needing treatment in U.S. combat hospitals for shrapnel and shell wounds. Last week Asian sources reported that Osama bin Laden had taken sanctuary in Iraq.
What precisely has Bremer's administration been spending billions of dollars on? (Show us the buildings, bridges, factories, power plants, oil fields, etc., assuming they exist.)
The Coalition Provisional Authority, or CPA, under L. Paul Bremer has spent $3.2 billion on rebuilding and other civilian projects this year.
The Bush administration counted on oil revenues to finance Iraq's reconstruction. But that won't be the case. Postwar sabotage of pipelines and other oil facilities, combined with lagging maintenance (even though spare parts for oil equipment were allowed under UN sanctions), leaves oil production at a virtual standstill.
The latest report from USAID indicates that CPA has completed a mile-long, four-lane bypass for the damaged Al-Mat bridge. Repairs have begun on Khazir and Tikrit bridges. Bechtel will soon begin railway-system repairs. Coalition workers say they are nearly ready to begin commercial flights out of Basrah airport. At Baghdad airport's terminal C they installed 1,500 fluorescent tubes.
What was the average Iraqi's income prior to the war, and what is it now?
Per-capita income in 1999 was $2,700. The World Bank and other sources have no available data for postwar income, but some officials say unemployment is running at 50 percent.
What did Saddam do with his weapons of mass destruction and the component programs? (Don't ask what "people" think; go find out!)
The hunt continues.
How many American and British service men and women in Iraq believe the cause of Iraqi democracy is hopeless?
None that we've heard of.
The soldiers WORLD has contact with believe Iraqis want multiethnic democracy and help to get there. They worry that radical groups, like the Supreme Council of Islamic Republic of Iraq, will force their way into the Saddam vacuum. "I hope our boys didn't die to create a second Iran here. Please tell me that isn't the regime change we fought for," one e-mailed. He said, "A job half-done is a job undone.... "We need to give these folks some time to acclimate" to democratic freedoms.
Was the "looting" of the National Museum and Library an inside job?
Seems so, and curator Donny George does not improve his credibility with the passage of time. In lectures last month before the Royal Ontario Museum, he said reporters "misunderstood" when he first claimed that 170,000 artifacts were missing. About 20,000 were actually stolen, and nearly 6,000 have been recovered since the war (about 700 were seized en route to the United States by U.S. customs agents). Mr. George now admits it's possible that museum staff were involved, but he says it was probably "a packer or cleaner" who tipped off professional robbers. This summer workers at the museum held a press conference to charge Mr. George and senior staff-all Baath Party members-with the heist.
How would international troops change the minds of the "guerrilla" fighters?
If you believe Islamic expert Daniel Pipes (see profile, p. 32), then 10-15 percent of Iraq's 21 million Muslims are radical Islamists and potential killers. But that also leaves over 90 percent of Iraqis (with Christians and other minorities at 3 percent of the population) who are potentially peace-loving and eager to get on with the business of life. It's hard to see how international troops can fail to prevail, unless they give up and go home.
How would additional American troops be useful in the 15 or so attacks and firefights now experienced by the 150,000 troops (10,000 per attack) in Iraq?
Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld says, "American military planners believe the current level of U.S. forces in Iraq is sufficient to accomplish the mission." Mr. Rumsfeld said additional troops could be needed to perform police functions and should be Iraqi recruits trained by the coalition.
Is Saddam Hussein actually dead, and the tapes and such are all a hoax?
Human-rights groups want him alive, to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Coalition commanders, including those who led the raid that killed Saddam's two sons, would be happy to find him dead. Guessing his state remains the war's most popular sport.
What is an average day in Iraq like for an America soldier? (Remember, the ratio of attacks to soldiers is 1:10,000, so a bloody firefight is clearly NOT average.)
For Brad, an Army medic at a combat hospital outside Baghdad, last Tuesday (Sept. 30) began at 5:45 a.m.-and he works the night shift. Brad said he was out of his cot and into a protective concrete barrier after the magic words "thunder, thunder, thunder" sounded over the PA system. "Thunder" is Army code for incoming mortar fire. This time it didn't do any damage.
A soldier's life now, as always, consists in hours of tedium punctuated by moments of terror. "The fear-inducing adrenaline-soaked moments are for most of us few and far between," he writes.
"If people don't have guard duty or other various routine garrison-type missions, they spend time reading, writing back home, washing clothing, or sorting it for laundry. The gym and weight room here are often quite crowded." Personal DVD players are the latest diversion for Operation Iraqi Freedom fighters, ending the camaraderie from wars past of the TV set or the campfire. Brad is bent on introducing some classics-like Jimmy Stewart's Shenandoah, Where Eagles Dare, and Sands of Iwo Jima-for the shared DVD player in the hospital rec room. He can order them from Amazon.
Ill-advised diversions will surface too. In the past two weeks doctors confirmed 14 pregnancies. "Fraternization among officers and enlisted personnel has become a problem noticed by the command," Brad writes.
What would Iraq be like if the coalition pulled out early and left things to the UN and Iraqi players? (Explore this with examples and a wide range of experts, please.)
See Kosovo experience, above.
Or for expert opinion, listen to an Iraqi. Minister of Electricity Ayham Sameraei met on Sept. 22 with President Bush in the Oval Office and said in broken English at a concluding press briefing:
"The last five months, Iraqis have the freedom to talk. We have almost right now 86 newspapers, while before the war we have only three or four newspapers, all controlled by the government. All the 86 newspapers are not controlled by anyone right now except the individuals who own them.
"We have actually the people right now talking freely in the market. They go and get, for example, dishes. We know that every single Iraqi right now can go and buy anything he wants. This is the freedom which we missed before, and we got it over the last five months.
"If the Iraqi people and the Americans help us for the next year-and-a-half, I almost guarantee-I guarantee it to the president but I almost guarantee it to the American people that we will have different Iraq. Iraq who is going to help United States."