Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq

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Dahr Jamail–a rescue ranger in Alaska before the United States’ invasion of Iraq–was moved by the corporate media’s grossly inaccurate coverage of the Iraq War to give up the substantial privilege afforded to him as a citizen of the United States to go to Iraq shortly after the invasion to report on the United States’ occupation. Jamail spent a total of eight months in Iraq from 2003 to 2005. Over this time, Jamail pursued the stories that the corporate media ignored–the assaults on Fallujah, the repeated use of collective punishment as a tactic to fight the insurgency, the use of torture before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the failures of reconstruction, and frequent US violations of the Geneva Conventions. Jamail further reports on the several “major” events in occupied Iraq–the 2005 elections, the “handover of sovereignty,” and the capture of Saddam Hussein–and obtains the reactions of ordinary Iraqis.

Jamail’s reports–circulated on the Internet on his own website, on ElectronicIraq.net, and republished in a variety of sources–have long been one of the best sources for what is actually happening on the ground in Iraq. Jamail uses Beyond the Green Zone to present a detailed account of his time in Iraq and outlines the growing suffering of Iraqis under the United States’ occupation. From his arrival in 2003, conditions get increasingly worse as reconstruction projects fail to be completed, as the US military targets the Iraqi people, as sectarian divisions grow at the behest of the United States, and as the US occupying force makes it clear that its goal is to dominate Iraq–both militarily and economically–for years to come. Jamail’s interviews with ordinary Iraqis show the growth of resistance to the occupation and their frustration with the occupation and the failure of the United States to rebuild the country. Woven throughout the stories of suffering under the military occupation are stories of Iraqis who have to wait in line for days to obtain gas at astronomical prices, have little or no access to potable water, have no employment, and have infrequent access to electricity.

The United States’ two major assaults on Fallujah–in April and November of 2004–are major areas of focus in the book. Jamail was one of the few journalists in the city immediately after the April 2004 assault on the city. Jamail reports on the United States military’s targeting of hospitals, civilians, and civilian infrastructure largely in response to the killing of four private security contractors (mercenaries) working for Blackwater USA. The military was unable to take control of the city from the resistance–despite the brutality of the assault and widespread atrocities–and Fallujah became a symbol of resistance to the United States. The city was attacked again shortly after the November 2004 elections in the United States, with the US military launching another intense assault on Fallujah despite opposition from the United Nations. The military siege refused to let civilians out and kept aid trucks from entering the city while the military bombed the 50,000 residents remaining in the city. Jamail’s interviews with residents who managed to flee and doctors in the city reveal widespread attacks on civilians and a strategy designed to punish the entire civilian population.

Jamail’s Beyond the Green Zone is a gripping book and is one of the best available on the devastation wrought by the United States’ invasion and occupation of Iraq. Ideally, this book would become a best seller and motivate people to demand an immediate end to the occupation, but given the fact that most of Jamail’s work has received little attention in the corporate media, that is unlikely to happen. However, Beyond the Green Zone will offer inspiration to the antiwar movement and the growing numbers of US residents who have yet to join the movement yet feel that the Iraq War needs to end. As more and more people begin to demand an immediate end to the occupation of Iraq, Jamail’s Beyond the Green Zone will help assure that the effects on Iraqis are kept at the forefront.

Dahr Jamail, Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007).

Author: mediamouse

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