A Remarkably Cruel Joke

U.S. Backs Hot Line in Iraq to Solicit Tips About Trouble

BAGHDAD, Nov. 4 — When armed insurgents moved into her southern Baghdad neighborhood last spring and started threatening Shiite families like hers, Umm Hussein called Iraq’s widely publicized 24-hour terrorism hot line. Nobody answered.

After several attempts over several days she finally got through and was assured that the police would follow up. “But nothing happened and no one ever came,” recalled Umm Hussein, who told her story on the condition that she be identified only by her Shiite nickname. Several days later she moved her family from their neighborhood, Hor Rijeb, to the relative safety of Zayouna, a mixed neighborhood in central Baghdad.

The hot line, she said, is “a joke.”


The National Tips Hot Line, as it is known, was founded in 2003 by the Coalition Provisional Authority, guaranteeing callers anonymity and collecting information about insurgent activity, bomb threats, kidnappings, killings and other major crimes. The hot line, which later became a joint coalition-Iraqi venture, was a foreign concept in a country that associated intelligence gathering by the state with brutal coercion.

The American military started a multimedia promotional campaign for the hot line, budgeting $9.9 million through March 2007 for billboard, print, radio and television advertisements, as well as market research. And month after month, officials hailed it as a growing success. A senior American spokesman said at a news conference in March that the rising number of tips represented a “groundswell of support” from citizens for the American-led fight against the insurgency.

Readers may recall that we reported an instance of how this program works some days ago, when we related an experience of a Baghdad blogger named Zappy. It seems not to be any better now. Read the complete article here.

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