The Washington Post has obtained a cable, marked "sensitive," that it says shows that just before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, "the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees."
This cable outlines, the Post reported Sunday, "the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government."
It's actually far worse than that, as the details published below indicate, which include references to abductions, threats to women's rights, and "ethnic cleansing."
-- One embassy employee had a brother-in-law kidnapped. Another received a death threat, and then fled the country with her family.
-- Iraqi staff at the embassy, beginning in March and picking up in May, report "pervasive" harassment from Islamist and/or militia groups. Cuts in power and rising fuel prices "have diminished the quality of life." Conditions vary but even upscale neighborhoods "have visibly deteriorated" and one of them is now described as a "ghost town."
-- Two of the three female Iraqis in the public affairs office reported stepped-up harassment since mid-May...."some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative." One of the women is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats.
-- The overall environment is one of "frayed social networks," with frequent actual or perceived insults. None of this is helped by lack of electricity. "One colleague told us he feels 'defeated' by circumstances, citing his example of being unable to help his two-year-old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in stifling heat," which is now reaching 115 degrees.
I cannot imagine trying to tolerate 115 degree heat without air conditioning. And to think that women are being forced to cover up in this heat. We have created utter chaos in a country that, despite having a dictator in charge, used to be a secular state where individual freedoms just to live normally were protected. How we can justify letting women be oppressed in Iraq is simply beyond my comprehension.