Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dexter Filkins on Iraq

Here's an especially good report on a recent trip to Iraq by Dexter Filkins of the NYT Magazine. He was last there two years ago, and he found the differences striking. It's much more peaceful, parents take their children to parks without apparent fear, businesses have reopened. Things are definitely better. But it's an extrordinarily nuanced article, mostly straight reporting on things he saw and people he talked to. The improvements, as Gen. David Petraeus fully acknowledges, are potentially fragile, especially since the Shia-dominated government is proving reluctant to incorporate the fighters of the Sunni Anbar Awakening into the national security services. He observed a wedding procession of 25 cars in a Sunni neighborhood, for example, and the groom stopped the car and went over to talk to this American. The groom said how wonderful it was, but pointed to a band of plainclothes Iraqi gunmen gathered at the roadside and said, "It's all because of them."

Money quote: "For obvious reasons, almost no one in Baghdad seems willing to predict the future anymore. Ask anyone, and you are likely to get to the all-purpose Arabic expression, “Insha’Allah” — “God willing.” Everyone, it seems, is trying to enjoy the calm while it lasts.

"But if people here do not want to talk about the future, they still have to plan for it."

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