“This trip is part of a campaign of manufacturing consents about success in Iraq and diverting attention from the obvious failures of the surge plan. Which is something that, especially Americans, have no idea because American mainstream media does not show what’s really happening on the ground in Iraq.”

Part one of a two-part interview, Senior Editor Paul Jay talks with Pepe Escobar.


Story Transcript

VOICE-OVER: Senior Editor Paul Jay discusses the reality of life on the ground in Iraq with Pepe Escobar, correspondent for the Real News and columnist for The Asia Times Online. Pepe is also the author of Globalistan and the soon to be published Red Zone Blues, a book based on his reportage covering Baghdad.

(CLIPS BEGIN)

VOICE OF CBS NEWS REPORTER: President Bush made a surprise visit today at a critical time. The president brought in what he called his ‘A’ team.

VOICE OF BBC NEWS REPORTER: He hinted at a possible reduction in US troop levels.

NEWS HOST: Today, President Bush made a dramatic attempt to set the terms of this debate with a surprise trip to the al-Asad airbase in western Iraq.

Anbar
September 3, 2007

GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: But I want to tell you this about my decision about troop levels. Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground, not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media. In other words, when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq, it will be from a position of strength and success.

(CLIPS END)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: On Monday, President Bush paid a surprise visit to Iraq. He went to Anbar province, which now, according to the Americans, is now al-Qaeda free or al-Qaeda light. Why did President Bush go to Iraq?

PEPE ESCOBAR, TRNN ANALYST: The timing was impeccable. Bush arrived at a fictitious place in Iraq, in Anbar province, a military base, which is not part of real Iraq, the same day as the British were pulling out of Basra. We can say this is one of the most ignominious failures of the British Army since the early 20th century. In the next few days, we’re going to be contemplated with a blitzkrieg of disinformation by the part of the Bush administration concerning the surge, the results of the surge, and the spin the White House is going to put on David Petraeus’ report about what’s really happening in Iraq. So this trip was part of a campaign of manufacturing consents about success about Iraq and diverting attention from all of the obvious failures of the surge plan, which is something that especially Americans have no idea, because American mainstream media doesn’t show what’s really happening on the ground in Iraq.

JAY: What is happening on the ground?

ESCOBAR: What is happening on the ground is a war of militias. Let’s start with Baghdad. Baghdad has been divided roughly into nine or ten different sectors, about 70 or 80 percent of them controlled by Shiites, and about 20 percent of them controlled by Sunnis. Let’s say a little bit of western Baghdad is controlled by Sunnis, and the rest of the city is basically now a Shiite city. So we can say that there has been a sort of ethnic cleansing in slow motion going on for the past six, eight months or so. Around Baghdad, the western part, it’s still Sunnis, because these are the people that Saddam put over there when he came to power. The whole western side of Baghdad was Sunni. And this is being slowly classed as well by militias. And when we say militias, we’re not talking about Mahdi Army; we’re talking especially about the Badr Organization, which is affiliated with the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, which happens to be one of the Bush administration’s main allies in the Iraqi government. So this is what’s happening on the ground: Baghdad nowadays is totally fragmented; order has collapsed; there’s no water, no electricity, practically no communication except if you have an Iraqi mobile phone, which everybody does; and you have neighborhoods at war against other neighborhoods, some of them walled, like Adhamiyah, which is a Sunni neighborhood. And the claim by the Bush administration that Anbar is now an al-Qaeda-free territory is also not true, because the al-Qaeda fighters who were based in Anbar, they relocated to Dora. Dora is a neighborhood in southern Baghdad, which is being shelled and practically invaded on an everyday basis by the Americans, and they still have not been able to dislodge al-Qaeda fighters in Dora. The situation in Anbar in fact turned around because of an alliance which is extremely, extremely dodgy between, I would say, around two hundred Sheiks around Ramadi and some near Fallujah, commanded by Sheik Abu Risha and the Americans to expel al-Qaeda from Anbar province. So what happened is al-Qaeda basically relocated to other parts of Iraq, to southern Baghdad in Dora, for instance, to Baqubah and to Diyala. But they’ll be back. It’s the same thing. Whenever the Americans push in one area of the country, they retreat, and they go back, and they attack in other areas.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


Story Transcript

VOICE-OVER: Senior Editor Paul Jay discusses the reality of life on the ground in Iraq with Pepe Escobar, correspondent for the Real News and columnist for The Asia Times Online. Pepe is also the author of Globalistan and the soon to be published Red Zone Blues, a book based on his reportage covering Baghdad. (CLIPS BEGIN) VOICE OF CBS NEWS REPORTER: President Bush made a surprise visit today at a critical time. The president brought in what he called his ‘A’ team. VOICE OF BBC NEWS REPORTER: He hinted at a possible reduction in US troop levels. NEWS HOST: Today, President Bush made a dramatic attempt to set the terms of this debate with a surprise trip to the al-Asad airbase in western Iraq. Anbar September 3, 2007 GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: But I want to tell you this about my decision about troop levels. Those decisions will be based on a calm assessment by our military commanders on the conditions on the ground, not a nervous reaction by Washington politicians to poll results in the media. In other words, when we begin to draw down troops from Iraq, it will be from a position of strength and success. (CLIPS END) PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: On Monday, President Bush paid a surprise visit to Iraq. He went to Anbar province, which now, according to the Americans, is now al-Qaeda free or al-Qaeda light. Why did President Bush go to Iraq? PEPE ESCOBAR, TRNN ANALYST: The timing was impeccable. Bush arrived at a fictitious place in Iraq, in Anbar province, a military base, which is not part of real Iraq, the same day as the British were pulling out of Basra. We can say this is one of the most ignominious failures of the British Army since the early 20th century. In the next few days, we’re going to be contemplated with a blitzkrieg of disinformation by the part of the Bush administration concerning the surge, the results of the surge, and the spin the White House is going to put on David Petraeus’ report about what’s really happening in Iraq. So this trip was part of a campaign of manufacturing consents about success about Iraq and diverting attention from all of the obvious failures of the surge plan, which is something that especially Americans have no idea, because American mainstream media doesn’t show what’s really happening on the ground in Iraq. JAY: What is happening on the ground? ESCOBAR: What is happening on the ground is a war of militias. Let’s start with Baghdad. Baghdad has been divided roughly into nine or ten different sectors, about 70 or 80 percent of them controlled by Shiites, and about 20 percent of them controlled by Sunnis. Let’s say a little bit of western Baghdad is controlled by Sunnis, and the rest of the city is basically now a Shiite city. So we can say that there has been a sort of ethnic cleansing in slow motion going on for the past six, eight months or so. Around Baghdad, the western part, it’s still Sunnis, because these are the people that Saddam put over there when he came to power. The whole western side of Baghdad was Sunni. And this is being slowly classed as well by militias. And when we say militias, we’re not talking about Mahdi Army; we’re talking especially about the Badr Organization, which is affiliated with the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq, which happens to be one of the Bush administration’s main allies in the Iraqi government. So this is what’s happening on the ground: Baghdad nowadays is totally fragmented; order has collapsed; there’s no water, no electricity, practically no communication except if you have an Iraqi mobile phone, which everybody does; and you have neighborhoods at war against other neighborhoods, some of them walled, like Adhamiyah, which is a Sunni neighborhood. And the claim by the Bush administration that Anbar is now an al-Qaeda-free territory is also not true, because the al-Qaeda fighters who were based in Anbar, they relocated to Dora. Dora is a neighborhood in southern Baghdad, which is being shelled and practically invaded on an everyday basis by the Americans, and they still have not been able to dislodge al-Qaeda fighters in Dora. The situation in Anbar in fact turned around because of an alliance which is extremely, extremely dodgy between, I would say, around two hundred Sheiks around Ramadi and some near Fallujah, commanded by Sheik Abu Risha and the Americans to expel al-Qaeda from Anbar province. So what happened is al-Qaeda basically relocated to other parts of Iraq, to southern Baghdad in Dora, for instance, to Baqubah and to Diyala. But they’ll be back. It’s the same thing. Whenever the Americans push in one area of the country, they retreat, and they go back, and they attack in other areas. DISCLAIMER: Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.