Friday, September 07, 2007

Shopping in Baghdad

“Visits to key U.S. bases and neighborhoods in and around Baghdad show that recent improvements are sometimes tenuous, temporary, even illusory,” Raghavan wrote. “In many areas, U.S. forces are now working at cross-purposes with Iraq’s elected Shiite-led government by financing onetime Sunni insurgents. … The loyalties of the Iraqi military and police – widely said to be infiltrated by Shiite militias – remain in doubt.”

Regarding the P.R. use of shopping scenes at Baghdad’s Dora market as proof of Bush’s progress, some American soldiers assigned to the project complained about how the showcasing concealed critical shortcomings.

Under pressure from field commander Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. forces got about 300 shops to reopen in time for VIP visits (compared with more than 850 shops before the U.S. invasion). But some storekeepers had few goods to sell, stayed open only a few hours and took part in the charade because they were paid $2,500.

“Although they sell dust, they are open for business,” said 1st Lt. Jose Molina, who was in charge of monitoring and disbursing the grant money. “They intend to sell goods or they may just have a handful of goods. But they are still counted.”

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