August 21, 2007
Nir Rosen is an independent journalist and the author of "In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq." He is a fellow at the New America Foundation and has reported extensively from Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. [includes rush transcript - partial]
Earlier this year Rosen wrote a cover story for the New York Time Sunday Magazine called "The Flight from Iraq." He estimated that up to 50,000 Iraqis were leaving their homes each month.
- Nir Rosen, independent journalist and the author of "In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq." He is a fellow at the New America Foundation and has reported extensively from Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.
AMY GOODMAN: Nir Rosen is an independent journalist and the author of In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq. He is a fellow at the New America Foundation and has reported extensively from Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Earlier this year, Nir Rosen wrote a piece, a cover story for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, called "The Flight from Iraq." He estimated up to 50,000 Iraqis were leaving their homes each month.
Nir Rosen joins us now from our firehouse studio here in New York, just returned from Beirut on Sunday night. Welcome to Democracy Now!
NIR ROSEN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk further about the refugee crisis? Again, lay out the numbers that we’re talking about inside Iraq and outside.
NIR ROSEN: Outside Iraq, we’re approaching three million refugees who have left since 2003. There were, of course, refugees who left before then, due to Saddam and other factors.
Inside, I think you have a similar number of internally displaced Iraqis fleeing their homes in mixed areas and going to more homogenous areas. Sunnis from Basra are heading to Sunni neighborhoods, Baghdad, or all the way up to Kurdistan. Shias from Diyala province are going to safer areas for Shias. Kurds from Mosul going up to Kurdistan, as well.
And a family like the one we just saw on the show is never going to go back to their home again, actually, it seems.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
NIR ROSEN: Iraq has been changed irrevocably, I think. I don’t think Iraq even -- you can say it exists anymore. There has been a very effective, systematic ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from Baghdad, of Shias --from areas that are now mostly Shia. But the Sunnis especially have been a target, as have mixed families like the one we just saw. With a name like Omar, he’s distinctly Sunni -- it’s a very Sunni name. You can be executed for having the name Omar alone. And Baghdad is now firmly in the hands of sectarian Shiite militias, and they’re never going to let it go.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Senator Levin calling for the Maliki and the whole government to disband?
NIR ROSEN: Well, it’s stupid for several reasons. First of all, the Iraqi government doesn’t matter. It has no power. And it doesn’t matter who you put in there. He’s not going to have any power. Baghdad doesn’t really matter, except for Baghdad. Baghdad used to be the most important city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled Iraq. These days, you have a collection of city states: Mosul, Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk, Irbil, Sulaymaniyah. Each one is virtually independent, and they have their own warlords and their own militias. And what happens in Baghdad makes no difference. So that’s the first point.
Second of all, who can he put in instead? What does he think he’s going to put in? Allawi or some secular candidate? There was a democratic election, and the majority of Iraqis selected the sectarian Shiite group Dawa, Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution, the Sadr Movement. These are movements that are popular among the majority of Shias, who are the majority of Iraq. So it doesn’t matter who you put in there. And people in the Green Zone have never had any power. Americans, whether in the government or journalists, have been focused on the Green Zone from the beginning of the war, and it’s never really mattered. It’s been who has power on the street, the various different militias, depending on where you are -- Sunni, Shia, tribal, religious, criminal. So it just reflects the same misunderstanding of Iraqi politics. The government doesn’t do anything, doesn’t provide any services, whether security, electricity, health or otherwise. Various militias control various ministries, and they use it as their fiefdoms. Ministries attack other ministries
AMY GOODMAN: Which is the most powerful militia?
NIR ROSEN: Well, the various Shia ones, such as the Mahdi Army, the Badr Corps, the police, the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army. Of course, the American army is also another militia, and it’s a very powerful militia in Iraq -- maybe not the most powerful. But the Mahdi Army basically controls the police and the Iraqi army. Of course, in the north the police are more in the hands of various Kurdish militias, and the army is in the hands of Kurdish militias. So it sort of depends where you are.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break. When we come back, we are going to talk more about the refugees throughout the Middle East. There are not many here in this country. We’re talking to Nir Rosen, independent journalist, author of In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq. Stay with us.
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