Point 1 (of 23):
Iraqi staff in the Public Affairs sector have complained that Islamist and Militia groups have been negatively affecting daily routine. Harassment over proper dress and habits is increasingly persuasive. They also report power cuts and fuel prices have diminished their quality of life.
These are the privileged ones with access to the power. Goddess only knows what life is like for Iraqis who aren't so well-connected!
Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Saddam Hussein but, under his rule, women had freedom of choice about dress, religious observance, full access to the professions, and didn't suffer the sort of restrictions to things like automobile driving and use of modern communications that women in much of the Middle East do. American occupation has let things devolve to the point that women are now being threatened into conservative, Persian-style religious dress, including demands by some government ministries that their employees wear the hijab at work. Taxi drivers fearing retaliation by religious death squads are demanding their female passengers not only comply with conservative dress requirements but refrain from using cell phones in the taxis. Women report being pressured not to drive. No single sect is responsible. Factional fighting among employees over religious dress codes has surfaced in the embassy.
Men and children are also under dress scrutiny -- shorts and jeans are out.
Early signs of the ethnic cleansing faced by Kurds elsewhere in Iraq are now surfacing in Baghdad -- and militias are often involved.
Electricity is avaliable intermittently only 4-8 hours per day -- in 115-degree heat -- and none after 2 a.m. -- and that's with generator supplementation, for which they pay more per month than most Iraqi families' incomes. In a country with so much oil that it flows freely from the ground like Jed Clampett was making like Johnny Buckshotseed, people wait twelve hours in line for gas.
The middle class is leaving in droves -- particularly on the heel of kidnapping threats and kidnappings themselves. Being identified as a government employee -- particularly a U.S. government employee -- is a potential death sentence. Things are so bad that even Green Zone gate guards are acting more loyal to partisan militia forces, adding to the danger. Green Zone employees hide this from their families, thus they can't come in to work on weekends or holidays.
The most telling bit was this report from one female Iraqi embassy employee:
She told us ... that most of her family believes the US -- which is widely perceived as fully controlling the country and tolerating the malaise -- is punishing the population as Saddam did (but with Sunnis and very poor Shia now at the bottom of the list.) Otherwise, she says, the allocation of power and security would not be so arbitrary.
A male employee describes a "burden of responsibility, new stress coming from social circles who increasingly disapprove of the coalition presence, and everyday threats weigh very heavily." The Iraqi Christian district is now under mukhtar control.
The embassy has now begun shredding documents with employees' names on them and they haven't been able to use locals as on-camera translators for over half a year.
Factionalism requires stealth and good acting skills to travel within the city, adopting the dress and habits of the area one is in at any given moment -- if one can get past the neighborhood barricades that I started noticing in pictures in the last year. Spies called alasas are common. The only security that embassy employees can now trust is the mercenary goon squads run by American contractors sans Iraqis.
This is a land that has had enough KBR gravel dumped on it to practically pave it wholesale. There are enough U.S. government trailers lined up in easy-to-bomb rows to put even FEMA's Arkansan trailer ghost town to shame. The Washington ostriches still have dollar signs in their eyes and jingoism in place of brains. They're still lying to an American people either still hungry for mendacious leadership or too exhausted by it to care. But there's a voice in Iraq trying to squeak out a warning. Would that the posturing traitors in Congress were listening.