WSJ reporter confirms authenticity of private email about being in Iraq

WSJ reporter confirms authenticity of her letter to friends about horrific conditions in IraqFarnaz Fassihi, a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Iraq, confirmed that a widely-redistributed letter she emailed to friends about the nightmarish situation in Iraq was indeed written by her. Too bad the WSJ doesn’t allow this reporter to write these kinds of stories for the paper.

“Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity,” Fassihi wrote (among much else) in the letter. “Guess what? They say they’d take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.” And: “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….Making clear what can only, at best, appear between lines in her published dispatches, Fassihi concluded, “One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it’s hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can’t be put back into a bottle.”
Unlike the US Army in my previous post, the WSJ stood up for her.

Editor & Publisher
After she confirmed writing the letter on Wednesday, Paul Steiger, editor of the Wall Street Journal, stood up for her, telling the New York Post that her “private opinions have in no way distorted her coverage, which has been a model of intelligent and courageous reporting, and scrupulous accuracy and fairness.”
Continue reading to see a copy of the email.

Continue reading WSJ reporter confirms authenticity of private email about being in Iraq.
Farnaz Fassihi
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.

It’s hard to pinpoint when the turning point exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq’s population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? 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 things? 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.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods. The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it — baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda — are cooperating and coordinating.

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America’s last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every dayÜover 700 to date — and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it’s so unsafe for foreigners to operate that almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years, of the $18 billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage and oil prices have hit record high of $49 a barrel.

Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq?

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they’d take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, “President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost.”

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it’s hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral.

The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can’t be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months while half of the country remains a no go zone — out of the hands of the government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they’d boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections 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?”

Bikes Against Bush Orginizer Arrested

A post on an indymedia website says activist Joshua Kinberg — inventor of a wireless, bike-mounted, dot-matrix printer for spraying protest messages in the street — was arrested yesterday at the RNC in NYC. At the time, he was reportedly being interviewed by Ron Reagan, covering the convention for MNSBC.

Kinberg’s invention allows users to spray messages transmitted to the bike-printer by way of the ‘Net or SMS. They’re painted in a water-soluble chalk solution that washes away with water (not spray-paint, as misreported elsewhere). Link to indymedia post, Link to previous BB post about Bikes Against Bush, Link to August 02 Wired News story with background on Kinberg’s invention, Link to yesterday’s NYT piece on Bikes Against Bush, and link to a torrent identified as video coverage of the incident, via DV Guide. (Thanks, Patricia and el norm)

I think I saw this device at Ars Electronica a few years ago. I have a feeling that at the time it wasn’t mounted on a bike. I remember thinking, “What a cool idea. I wonder if it will ever be used for something useful.” I love it when political art projects/proposals get put into real world action. It’s too bad that they confiscated the bike before it was used “in the wild.” I wonder whether this bogus arrest will end up getting this project more press than if they hadn’t arrested him…

Why Yakuza Chop Fingers


Why Yakuza chop fingers

Filed under:

— Giacomo @ 10:55

[Joy Ito: Chopping pinkies and swords grips](
>The proper grip of a Japanese sword relies on a grip focused on the pinkie of the left hand. Today, I learned that the tradition of chopping the left pinkie as punishment for disgrace was based on this fact. Without a left pinkie, it’s quite difficult to grip a Japanese sword.

A Study In Emerald

Welcome back to the Lovecraft reread, in which two modern Mythos writers get girl cooties all over old Howard’s sandbox, from those who inspired him to those who were inspired in turn.

Today we’re looking at Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald,” first published in 2003 in Shadows Over Baker Street (edited by Michael Reeves and John Pelan). Spoilers ahead. We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy.

“She was called Victoria, because she had beaten us in battle, seven hundred years before, and she was called Gloriana, because she was glorious, and she was called the Queen, because the human mouth was not shaped to say her true name. She was huge, huger than I had imagined possible, and she squatted in the shadows staring down at us, without moving.”


Narrator, a retired army major, returns to Albion from Afghanistan, where gods and men are savages unwilling to be ruled by London, Berlin, or Moscow. The Afghan cave-folk tortured Major by offering him to a leech-mouthed thing in an underground lake; the encounter withered his shoulder and shredded his nerves. Once a fearless marksman, he now screams at night. Evicted from his London lodgings, he’s introduced to a possible roommate in the laboratories at St. Bart’s. This fellow, whom Major soon calls “my friend,” quickly deduces his background. He won’t mind screaming if Major won’t mind Friend’s irregular hours, his use of the sitting room for target practice and meeting clients, or the fact that he’s selfish, private, and easily bored.

The two take rooms in Baker Street. Major wonders at the miscellany of Friend’s clients and his uncanny deductive powers. One morning Inspector Lestrade visits. Major sits in on their meeting and learns that Friend is London’s only consulting detective, aiding more traditional investigators who find themselves baffled. He accompanies Friend to a murder scene. Friend has a feeling they’ve fought the good fight together in the past or future, and he trusts Major as he trusts himself.

The victim lies in a cheap bedsit, sliced open, his green blood sprayed everywhere like a gruesome study in emerald. Someone’s used this ichor to write on the wall: RACHE. Lestrade figures that’s a truncated RACHEL, so better look for a woman. Friend disagrees. He’s already noted, of course, that the victim’s of the blood royal—come on, the ichor, the number of limbs, the eyes? Lestrade admits the corpse was Prince Franz Drago of Bohemia, her Majesty Victoria’s nephew. Friend suggests RACHE might be “Revenge” in German, or it might have another meaning—look it up. Friend collects ash from beside the fireplace, and the two leave. Major’s shaken—he’s never seen a Royal before. Well, he’ll soon see a live one, for a Palace carriage awaits them, and some invitations can’t be rejected.

At the Palace, they meet Prince Albert (human), and then the Queen. Seven hundred years ago, she conquered Albion (hence Victoria—the human mouth can’t speak her real name.) Huge, many-limbed, squatting in shadow, she speaks telepathically to Friend. She tells Major he’s to be Friend’s worthy companion. She touches his wounded shoulder, causing first profound pain, then a sense of well-being. This crime must be solved, the Queen says.

At home, Major sees that his frog-white scar is turning pink, healing.

Friend assumes many disguises as he pursues the case. At last he invites Major to accompany him to the theater. The play impresses Major. In “The Great Old Ones Come,” people in a seaside village observe creatures rising from the water. A priest of the Roman God claims the distant shapes are demons and must be destroyed. The hero kills him and all welcome the Old Ones, shadows cast across the stage by magic lantern: Victoria, the Black One of Egypt, the Ancient Goat and Parent of a Thousand who’s emperor of China, the Czar Unanswerable of Russia, He Who Presides over the New World, the White Lady of the Antarctic Fastness, others.

Afterwards Friend goes backstage, impersonating theatrical promoter Henry Camberley. He meets the lead actor, Vernet, and offers him a New World tour. They smoke pipes on it, with Vernet supplying his own black shag as Camberley’s forgotten his tobacco. Vernet says he can’t name the play’s author, a professional man. Camberley asks that this author expand the play, telling how the dominion of the Old Ones has saved humanity from barbarism and darkness. Vernet agrees to sign contracts at Baker Street the next day.

Friend hushes Major’s questions until they’re alone in a cab. He believes Vernet’s the “Tall Man” whose footprints he observed at the murder site, and who left shag ash by its fireplace. The professional author must be “Limping Doctor,” Prince Franz’s executioner—limping as deduced from his footprints, doctor by the neatness of his technique.

After the cab lets them out at Baker Street, the cabby ignores another hailer. Odd, says Friend. The end of his shift, says Major.

Lestrade joins our heroes to await the putative murderers. Instead they receive a note. The writer won’t address Friend as Camberley—he knows Friend’s real name, having corresponded with him about his monograph on the Dynamics of an Asteroid. Friend’s too-new pipe and ignorance of theatrical customs betrayed that he was no shag-smoking promoter. And he shouldn’t have talked freely in that cab he took home.

Writer admits to killing Prince Franz, a half-blood creature. He lured him with promises of a kidnapped convent girl, who in her innocence would go immediately insane at the sight of the prince; Franz would then have the Old One-ish delight of sucking her madness like the ripe flesh from a peach. Writer and his doctor friend are Restorationists. They want to drive off man’s Old One rulers, the ultimate act of sedition! Sating monsters like Franz is too great a price to pay for peace and prosperity.

The murderers will now disappear; don’t bother looking for them. The note’s signed RACHE, an antique term for “hunting dog.”

Lestrade initiates a manhunt, but Friend opines the murderers will lay low, then resume their business. It’s what Friend would do in their place. He’s proven right—though police tentatively identify Doctor as John or James Watson, former military surgeon, the pair aren’t found.

Major consigns his story to a strongbox until all concerned are dead. That day may come soon, given recent events in Russia. He signs off as S____ M____ Major (Retired).

What’s Cyclopean: Nothing, every word in this story is perfect.

The Degenerate Dutch: Even seven hundred years after the Old Ones turn the moon blood-red, England exists in noticeable form. In British fantasy, England tends to be as essential a component of the universe as hydrogen.

Mythos Making: The returned Old Ones include Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Cthulhu, as well as several less immediately identifiable entities.

Libronomicon: Oddly for a Gaiman story, books don’t play any notable part in “Study.” There’s a theatrical script, though.

Madness Takes Its Toll: Those of the blood royal feed on madness for their pleasure. It is not the price we pay for peace and prosperity. It is too high for that.