Jon Lee Anderson
The New Yorker
I remember going to a few of those briefings and seeing — especially in the Bremer period — the kind of almost shout-downs of journalists who dared to suggest that there was anything approaching an insurgency in Iraq. I still remember the date: it was August 7, 2003, and I suggested to [Bremer] that I wondered how he felt in terms of his access to — now, I said this very diplomatically; after all, he was the senior government official and I was a reporter — and I said in very diplomatic terms, “How do you feel in here, you have these big barriers” — they were erecting even more permanent barriers around the Green Zone — “How do you feel in here? I’m traveling outside and I see that you have to go out with armed escorts. How reliable do you feel your information is about the state of the country and the way people feel?” And he said, “Fine,” and I said, “Well, I’m hearing a lot of increasing anger by a lot of the Iraqis I know, and it has me worried,” and it did, and I said, “I wonder what you think about that.” And he got very angry with me. He became visibly testy and he said, “I don’t know who your sources are. I go all over this country and I don’t hear the things you’re hearing. I don’t know where you get your information.” And that was the end of that. I left the country in mid-August 2003, feeling really quite demoralized and upset and worried about what was going to happen in Iraq, because I thought there was a real divide between perception and reality. Speaking for myself, I found the CPA to be very much a kind of an American bureaucracy that almost immediately had isolated itself. And shrewdly, the insurgents, the early insurgents perceived that as well, and did everything they could to make the occupation of Iraq less a story of gradual reconstruction and pacification and one of counterinsurgency and one of occupation.
Los Angeles Times
I just remember having this feeling like — this is a very political exercise, and they’re a product for the media at this point. What would be really horrible is if [the CPA] actually believe this crap. And I remember thinking that from the very beginning: I hope they don’t believe this stuff, I hope they’re not consuming this stuff themselves. And pretty soon it started dawning on me — No, they’re not just BSing us because we’re the public, they actually believe this stuff. My God, are we in trouble!
The Washington Post
The military was far easier to deal with, and, in some ways, far more understanding of what we were doing than the CPA. Their press office was headed by Dan Senor, Bremer’s spokesman. Their press office was packed with Republican Party loyalists, people who were hired for their political views, not because they possessed a great degree of expertise in public relations or expertise in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. They were the ones who had put people on blacklists — they were just incredibly sensitive about anything that might not project the CPA in the most favorable light possible. Reporters were seen as either sympathetic and on their side or those who didn’t get it. And if you didn’t get it, either you were perhaps granted some interviews so that you would get it or you would be written off as a lost cause.
One really interesting thing was to sit down with people who were either in the insurgency or close to it and watch the [CPA] briefings on Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya. I did that a lot, and that was really interesting because what happened was Dan Senor or [Brigadier General Mark] Kimmitt [Bremer’s spokesmen] would basically insult the insurgency, either by calling them small criminals, or really demonize the Sunni minority.