The Independent (London)
At a certain point, in 2003, I remember the exact moment the British had moved inside the Green Zone, and I remember going to see a senior diplomat who I actually knew quite well and who was actually quite intelligent. But because they were inside the Green Zone, they knew less and less about what was happening in Iraq, and what they did know was all second-hand. Now on this day, I was rather late to see this diplomat because there were enormous traffic jams all over Baghdad because there was a shortage of fuel, of gasoline.
So I was talking to him and I mentioned this to him and he said, “But I just looked at figures showing there’s plenty of gasoline.” Now everybody in the rest of Baghdad knew that there was a shortage of gasoline. The only people that didn’t were inside the Green Zone.
Jon Lee Anderson
The New Yorker
I returned before the end of June 2003 and stayed for the summer. Of course, this is when the insurgency really did pick up, when Paul Bremer, the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] administrator, was getting a grip on his job [the CPA served as a transitional government from April 2003 until June 2004]. And I wrote a long piece in The New Yorker, which appeared in August — I think the title was “Iraq’s Bloody Summer.” I did have an interview with Paul Bremer on my last night in the country, though I’d already filed my piece. And I came away pretty disheartened by what I saw as a very kind of imperious, closed-off Green Zone under the CPA.
I remember receiving e-mails that I think we all received, announcing civic action — little civic action jobs like “beanies for Baghdad,” handing out beanie toys — and all of this sort of bureaucracy that was setting up within the confines of Saddam’s old Republican Palace, and a real disconnect with what was going on outside the walls of the Green Zone, or what was then coming to be called the Green Zone. All the Iraqis I knew were going through various degrees of despair and some fled the country that summer; there were the first assassinations taking place, the influx of refugees coming back, the setting up of newspapers, political parties — it was a real Tower of Babel.
Los Angles Times
Well, I always personally found [U.S. government briefings] valuable. I know many other people didn’t because if you looked at them in terms of objective truth, they weren’t very useful. But in terms of how the U.S. government wanted us to see things, they were quite useful. And it’s important to know what the government’s narrative is. Because in any conflict there are competing narratives, and our job, from my point of view, is to sort through them and provide a reality check on all of them.
I went to some CPA briefings. I thought that they were very propagandistic. They were based in trying to prove and make a political point that the U.S. being in Iraq was and is fighting the war on terror. This meant continual emphasis on foreign groups, when there was in fact very little evidence for this. In fact, all the evidence was the other way. The insurgency was almost entirely Iraqi. And there might have been many insurgents who were formerly in the army but it was always presented as if this was somehow orchestrated by former senior officials around Saddam. Again there was no evidence for this. I found it interesting to know what was the official line being put out, but I thought it was the crudest propaganda and not useful in terms of actual objective information.