Im November 2007 beschrieb unser Mitarbeiter James Hagengruber in einer Reportage das Leben der Zwillinge Robert und Matthew Shipp aus Idaho, USA. Er hatte sie auf ihrem Weg von der High School zu den Marines, einer Einheit der US-Armee begleitet. James’ Geschichte endete damit, dass sich Matt Shipp von seiner Frau verabschiedete und, wie sein Bruder Robert, in den Nahen Osten aufbrach. Kürzlich besuchte James die Zwillinge auf dem Schiff USS Germantown und im Irak. Für jetzt.de schreibt er in einer Kolumne über seine Erfahrungen und darüber, wie es den Brüdern ergeht - hier die Übersicht zu den bislang erschienenen Folgen. Als etwaige Übersetzungshilfe hier ein Link zu LEO. *** Teil 7:
Matthew Shipp auf Patrouille im Irak. In 2002, shortly before the United States invaded Iraq, one of the nation's top diplomats co-wrote a secret report titled "The Perfect Storm" that warned of decades of stifled ethnic conflicts being unleashed should the U.S. overthrow Saddam Hussein. The report is now public. The diplomat who wrote it, Ryan Crocker, is now the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. It's now his job to calm the storm. On a bright Sunday afternoon in March, Crocker met me in the rotunda of Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace. I followed the 58-year-old ambassador up marble stairs. We stopped at a heavy door for Crocker to punch in a secret code to enter the heavily secured hallway leading to his office, where we spent an hour talking about the future of America's involvement in Iraq. Crocker is fluent in Arabic and Persian and has served as the United States' top diplomat in Pakistan, Kuwait, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq. These assignments have included a fare share of physical danger, including several hasty exits by helicopter (ambassadors, like captains on a sinking ship, like to be the last ones to leave). Still, nothing compares to the problems Crocker faces in Iraq.
Ryan Crocker, US-Botschafter im Irak, bei einer Pressekonferenz. The country has been ruined by five years of war and three previous decades of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein. Crocker must also take into account the situation back home, where the U.S. public is increasingly weary of the war's continuing cost: More than 4,000 U.S. troops are dead – not to mention at least 82,000 documented deaths of Iraqi civilians. And so far, the war cost at least $600 billion (or about $5,000 per second, according to a recent analysis by The New York Times). Is it worth it? Should the U.S. stay? Crocker paused before addressing the questions. It's clear he thinks the U.S. would be making a grave mistake by pulling out before Iraq is standing on its feet again. "A very brutal civil war could become a regional conflict. And all of that would be devastating for America's own longterm interests in a stable region," Crocker said. "Frankly I think it would be devastating for just how we look at ourselves. Remember the impact that Rwanda had on Americans? We didn't intervene and more than a million people died. How would we think of ourselves if we had unchecked civil war in this country […] and we simply decided we didn't want to be here anymore?" Crocker made frequent references to his experiences in Lebanon in 1983 when the U.S. Marine barracks and embassy were bombed. The U.S. pulled out of the country the following year, giving the impression to leaders of Syria and Iran, Crocker said, "the U.S. can be pushed out. ... And we're dealing with the consequences 25 years later." Reconciliation between religious sects is beginning to take place and members of minority Sunni and Kurdish sects are obtaining more posts in the Shia-led Iraqi government, Crocker said. A new law was passed recently by parliament in an effort to bring about more fairness in the distribution of oil revenues. The economy is expected to grow by 7 percent this year, providing more legitimate jobs, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund. The United Nations, after essentially being blown out of Iraq in the invasion's early days, is increasing its presence and will help with upcoming provincial elections, as well as mediating disputes over internal boundaries. Iraqi society has also begun to turn against the insurgency.
Crocker. The next few months will be critical in this process. By July, when 20,000 U.S. troops from the recent "surge" are back home, Iraqi security forces are expected to take their places. "That's a point where we really have to take very careful stock," Crocker said. As the Iraqis take more control, less will be required from the U.S. military. That's the plan, anyway. Overall violence has dropped 60 percent since the start of the surge last year, according to reports from the U.S. military. But high levels of violence have returned in recent weeks, including a series of mortar and rocket attacks aimed at Baghdad's green zone, which is home to the embassy and top military staff. Crocker's office window remains blocked for security reasons. Concrete bunkers are scattered around the embassy and warning sirens still send employees scurrying under desks.
Matthew Shipp mit jungen Erwachsenen im Irak.
Crocker and hundreds of embassy employees are now in the process of moving to a new, heavily fortified complex:
The $592 million embassy is expected to be the biggest and costliest ever constructed by the U.S. Skycranes still tower over the 40 hectare site along the Tigris River.
The massive embassy no doubt reflects America's longterm future role in Iraq. An upcoming change in the White House, however, could bring about a different approach to the military conflict. Republican candidate John McCain is backing a stay-the-course policy more closely aligned with President George Bush's. The leading Democratic presidential contender, Barack Obama, is opposed to the war and is calling for deep cuts in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Crocker plans to retire in January, just as the new president takes office. He has no immediate plans for his retirement, other than returning to his hometown of Spokane, Washington, and building a house near the Rocky Mountain foothills. There'll be time for flyfishing and his neighbors will be far enough away for him to crank up his beloved heavy metal music (he's reputed to love “Rage Against the Machine” and “Nine Inch Nails”). Although he won't have to wake up each morning spend the day trying to fix a broken country, it's clear Crocker thinks America can't afford to turn its back on Iraq.
"There really hasn't been anything like this since the second world war. ... Iraq and Afghanistan is going to be a defining challenge for us and for the world for the 21st century."
Hier eine Übersicht zu den bislang erschienenen Folgen der Irak-Kolumne.
Text: james-hagengruber - Fotos: Brian Plonka, ap