October 11, 2006

The Unimaginable Versus The Unreal

Jane Arraf, NBC's Baghdad correspondent, confronts the wingnuts (link via Atrios):
Some readers and viewers think we journalists are exaggerating about the situation in Iraq. I can almost understand that because who would want to believe that things are this bad? Particularly when so many people here started out with such good intentions.

I'm more puzzled by comments that the violence isn't any worse than any American city. Really? In which American city do 60 bullet-riddled bodies turn up on a given day? In which city do the headless bodies of ordinary citizens turn up every single day? In which city would it not be news if neighborhood school children were blown up? In which neighborhood would you look the other way if gunmen came into restaurants and shot dead the customers?

Day-to-day life here for Iraqis is so far removed from the comfortable existence we live in the United States that it is almost literally unimaginable.
Arraf cites a mysteriously upbeat comment (on a previous story URL) from a guy named Bob who claims to be a US schoolteacher in Iraq. Bob says the US media are deliberately ignoring good news stories. Arraf challenges him:
Because if Bob is actually an American school teacher in an Iraqi classroom it's a great story we have to do. It's so wonderfully normal...

We know now that contractors tasked by the Department of Defense to put "good news stories" in Iraqi papers pay for stories but reporters don't. Have I mentioned that very few reporters live in the Green Zone? Bob - let's talk.
It sounds to me like "Bob" is a perfect example of US PsyOps at work, and it is great to see NBC chasing him down. Bob's email address is islandbogie@hotmail.com if anyone else wants to drop him a line...

UPDATE: On a similar note, check out The Sandbox - a Slate/Doonesbury site where US soldiers abroad can post comments. Here's an example:
We burn anything that may be considered classified. It could be the address label off of a box that our family has sent us, a personal letter, or an official military document. If the enemy can use it to his advantage, just burn it. Leave nothing to chance.

There are burn barrels and little pits dug into the ground all over. Sometimes at night you pass by an area and see mysterious darkened figures around a barrel alight with orange flame, like hobos in a New York back-alley...


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