Life In Hell: A Baghdad Diary

In more than 20 trips to the ravaged city, TIME's Aparisim Ghosh has navigated countless perils. His extraordinary story offers a rare insight into the daily life of Iraqi citizens

  • Share
  • Read Later

Welcome Home: Time Baghdad correspondent Aparisim Ghosh returns to the Iraqi capital.

(6 of 14)

The failure of new political nostrums is driving Iraqi and U.S. officials to retry military remedies that have been thoroughly discredited: massive security rings around Baghdad, high-visibility troop presence in the streets and sweeping house-to-house searches. If Iraq has taught us anything in the past three years--and Lebanon in the past three weeks--it is that conventional military tactics don't work in an asymmetrical conflict. Sheer numbers and firepower count for very little. Despite an ongoing 50,000-man, joint U.S.-Iraqi military operation dubbed Operation Forward Together to flush Baghdad clean of nationalist insurgents, jihadist terrorists and sectarian militias, the capital is as dangerous as ever. If anything, the Shi'ite militias are getting more brazen; a few days after my return, they entered the largely Sunni neighborhood of al-Jihad and slaughtered at least 50 people, including several women and children. Eight days later, Sunni fighters attacked a market in Mahmoudiya, just south of the capital, and mowed down more than 50 Shi'ites. Increasingly, attacks are taking place in broad daylight, leaving Iraqis to wonder how their security forces can overlook large numbers of armed men moving through the streets.

The failure of Forward Together is a blow to the Bush Administration's hopes of quickly scaling down the U.S. military presence. With some 7,200 American and coalition soldiers joining 42,500 Iraqis, the operation was meant to showcase the growing ability of Iraqi security forces to protect their citizens. The experiment was effectively declared a failure two weeks ago when Bush and al-Maliki announced in Washington that more U.S. troops would be sent to protect Baghdad. But will that work? Probably not. When the full might of the U.S. military has been brought to bear in an Iraqi city--think Fallujah, Tall 'Afar, Samarra, al-Qaim--the enemy has simply melted away, taking its terrorist tactics to places that are inadequately defended. And when U.S. forces have eventually stood down, leaving the policing to Iraqis, the enemy has returned to the very places that had supposedly been cleaned up--at the cost of American blood. There is no reason to believe that a re-tinkered Operation Forward Together will be any more successful, especially since insurgents, terrorists and militias have had ample warning that more Americans are coming, giving them time to pack their rocket-propelled grenades and leave.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14