Covering the Iraqi Insurgency

By Palmer, Elizabeth | International Journal, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Covering the Iraqi Insurgency


Palmer, Elizabeth, International Journal


Journalists covering the war and fractured peace in Iraq have had to grope for facts in a fog of broken telephone networks, tribal politics, military jargon, and a seething rumour mill. The result has not been a cool, definitive analysis of the conflict (that will be a job for historians in the future), but a very current, patchy composite of fighting, peacemaking, small victories, and large policy reversals as well as blood, sweat, tears, and tragedy. This war has arguably been covered more completely, by more journalists, than any in modern history.

Over time, our reporting has yielded a big picture, like the slow reveal of a photographic print in a bath of developer. But as the details merged into a whole, a crucial blank spot appeared. There was, and is, very little information about what's become known as "the insurgency." The ruthlessness of both its leaders and its fighters have made close contact too dangerous for everyone-obviously the American military and Iraqi security forces, but also western and Arab reporters. Ultimately, it is this blank spot-the failure to see how strong the insurgency would become, or to come to grips with its makeup-that most seriously threatens America's victory in Iraq, and Iraq's own long-term stability.

Rereading my field notes, which date back to before the war, I am reminded how slowly we all woke up to the potential danger of sustained armed resistance. Consider this upbeat entry written in Baghdad not six months after the fall of the city. The first frenzy of looting (one of freedom's "untidy" features, according to US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld) had abated, and the deadly bombings had not yet begun in earnest.

9 September 2003: American authorities and those Iraqi civil servants who have trickled back to work are reopening schools and hospitals. We don't report often that they have done a good job-but in this case they have. By dint of massive currency imports, they've even set up regular paydays.

In Baghdad, Amarah and Kut grieving and complaining voices are still the loudest: people who have lost family members, jobs and their place in a stable world; those who are afraid thieves will attack their homes and those who are simply outraged by American soldiers patrolling their country.

But there's a descant to this chorus too, and it is just as important.

It comes from people who are delighted with their new regular, and relatively generous, wages. The Coalition Provisional Authority (the American administration in Iraq led by Paul Bremer) is giving a regular salary to every government employee-and there are hundreds of thousands of them, many of them women.

Female civil servants, nurses, and teachers have seen their pay (and buying power-in spite of inflation) rocket up. In some cases, they have had a hundred-fold increase, from three to three hundred dollars a month. In addition, the markets are full of goods that have been unattainable for years because of sanctions.

You should see the head-high piles of satellite dishes stacked on the sidewalk all along the main shopping street in Mansour... Satellite TV-the link with the world-was forbidden for so long. Now, it's the first thing families want to buy.

Then there are electrical appliances, medicine, and cosmetics too. People, especially women, are giddy with choice and opportunity.

This is buying patience for the American occupation. These people have no desire to see the Islamists or former Sadaamites-all basically totalitarians-get control.

I think the peace is far from won, of course, but the war on many fronts is over.

Bustling markets, satellite TV, and optimistic women seduced me, that September day, into believing the country might be settling down to rebuild its future. But in the background, Iraq's violent history was resurfacing. A mere month later I covered one of the very first riots in the area that is now notorious as "the Sunni triangle. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Covering the Iraqi Insurgency
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.