“Beyond the Green Zone”, an excerpt


Richard Moore

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FPIF Commentary
Beyond the Green Zone
Dahr Jamail | November 30, 2007
Editor: Erik Leaver

Foreign Policy In Focus

Editors Note: The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Beyond the 
Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket
Books, 2007).

In 2002, while winter began to settle across the United States, the drumbeat for
war became deafening. Living in Anchorage, Alaska, I spent much of my free time 
reading the news from abroad or getting it via alternative online outlets such 
as Media Lens, Democracy Now!, and Media Channel. The cheerleading for war 
feebly disguised as "journalism" that corporate media television stations and 
newspapers in the United States spewed was intolerable. The overwhelming 
evidence was already available. There were not and had not been "weapons of mass
destruction" in Iraq for years. The make-believe link between Saddam Hussein and
9/11 was a chimera. The excuse given later, that of "liberating" the people of 
Iraq, held even less truth.

Nevertheless, illusions were maintained by a media in the United States that had
sunk to being little more than state stenographers giddily scribbling and 
announcing the diktats of George W. Bush and his administration. Thousands of 
years of Iraq's rich history were cursorily omitted from the media and replaced 
by the graphic of a U.S.-installed dictator with a bull's-eye on his forehead.

The worldwide protests of February 15, 2003--the largest in human history--Bush 
brushed aside as a "focus group." Watching this occur enraged me, particularly 
since after 9/11 the one paper in Anchorage, Alaska, which I had been 
freelancing for, fired its editor because our content had become "too 
political." My mind was a pressure cooker. I wondered, what could be done to 
stop an illegal war of aggression against a country that had been suffering more
than twelve years of economic sanctions that had already killed over one million


The United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.Coverage by most of the mainstream 
media worsened. Rather than showing the true face of war, television coverage 
more closely resembled a weapons manufacturer's show, complete with brilliant 
graphics of fighter jets, missiles, attack helicopters, and interactive maps of 
Iraq that could have been taken straight from a video game.

The news I followed from the media of other countries, such as the Independent 
and the Guardian newspapers in the U.K., Le monde diplomatique in France, 
Al-Jazeera in Qatar, and outlets in Greece and Italy, portrayed a different 
reality. While shown for the propaganda stunt it was in many foreign media 
outlets, the stage-managed toppling of one of Saddam Hussein's statues in 
central Baghdad captivated uninformed Americans watching news, which by then 
closely resembled the state-controlled media of an authoritarian regime. The 
disparity in reportage between many foreign outlets and those in the United 
States was nothing less than news reporting on the one hand and flag-waving on 
the other. The occupation began and quickly lurched toward chaos, violence, and 

Rather than being explored and explained by most media in the United States, the
mayhem of war was portrayed as one dimensional, and described with slogans like 
"Operation Iraqi Freedom" and other rhetoric so familiar to the peoples of the 
Third World. Formerly repressed currents of Iraqi religious, political, and 
social strata emerged and began to breathe life back into the complex patterns 
of the social fabric of Iraq after the dictator was removed. The multilayered 
quilt of tribal and religious societies resurfaced.

I spent the summer of 2003 volunteering as a rescue ranger for the National Park
Service on the highest mountain in Alaska, Denali, climbing, pondering, and 
listening to radio reports at night in my tent. I listened as Iraqis were 
quickly pulled into the undertow of a violent upheaval against an occupation 
they had not sought.

While climbing on icy slopes during the day, I wondered what I might do to bring
the information I found reported in other countries back to the uninformed, 
horribly misled population of my own country.

I would like to say that I decided to go to Iraq for philosophical reasons, 
because I believe that an informed citizenry is the bedrock of any healthy 
democracy. But I went to Iraq for personal reasons. I was tormented by the fact 
that the government of my country illegally invaded and then occupied a country 
that it had bombed in 1991. Because the government of my country had asphyxiated
Iraq with more than a decade's worth of "genocidal" sanctions (in the words of 
former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Denis Halliday). The 
government of my country then told lies, which were obediently repeated by an 
unquestioning media in order to justify the invasion and occupation. I felt that
I had blood on my hands because the government had been left unchecked.

My going to Iraq was an act of desperation that has since transformed itself 
into a bond to that country and so many of her people. There were stories there 
that begged to be heard and told again. We are defined by story. Our history, 
our memory, our perceptions of the future, are all built and held within 
stories. As a U.S. citizen complicit in the devastation of Iraq, I was already 
bound up in the story of that country. I decided to go to learn what that story 
really was.

While the vast majority of the reporting of Iraq was provided by journalists 
availing themselves of the Pentagon-sponsored "embed" program, I chose to look 
for stories of real life and "embed" myself with the Iraqi people. The U.S. 
military side of the occupation is overly represented by most mainstream 
outlets. I consciously decided to focus on the Iraqi side of the story.

The story of the many oppressed peoples of the world is rarely recorded by the 
few who oppress. We are taught that the truth is objective fact as written down 
by the conquerors.

Truth is more than fact. Before his testimony against the flooding of his 
traditional life and homeland in James Bay by Hydro-Quebec (for power shipped to
the United States), François Mainscum, a Mistassini Cree hunter, was asked to 
place his hand on the Bible. He had left his bush camp only a few days before he
appeared in court. "When I was told to touch the book, my first reaction was to 
wonder what this book is for," he said, "Until I was told to touch it, the book,
so that I could speak the 'truth.'"

He spoke with his translator at length, and finally the translator looked up at 
the judge. "He does not know whether he can tell the truth. He says he can tell 
only what he knows."

There are roughly 27 million people in Iraq. Each of them has his or her own 
story about what has happened in Iraq during the U.S. occupation. Their stories 
define them, and us. They belong in our history, our memory, our perceptions of 
the future.

This book contains some of those stories.

Dahr Jamail has reported from inside Iraq and is the author of Beyond the Green 
Zone. He writes for Inter Press Service, The Asia Times, and is a contributor to
Foreign Policy In Focus.

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