Saturday, November 01, 2003


I think I understand the disconnect of the Bushies who are at least in some cases genuine in their belief that the media isn't reporting the "true" story in Iraq. Consider this from the NYT:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — "I have come to hate the media," a senior aide to L. Paul Bremer III, the head of the occupational authority in Iraq, wrote in a recent e-mail message to family and friends. "I have worked in politics for a while and I have always, ALWAYS given them the benefit of the doubt. But, I simply cannot continue to sit here and say, `Oh well, they will turn around eventually and get the story straight.' "

The "straight story" the journalists are not reporting, she said, is the progress that has been made here in the last six months. "There is LIFE here," she wrote in her message, the latest in a continuing letter to the folks back home, which received wider circulation when one recipient sent it to many others, including officials who continued passing it along. "The streets are full of life," the message said. "There are children playing in the streets with other kids. . . . The markets are bustling. . . . People are crossing the streets, playing in traffic. Traffic jams are occurring."

Aside from the obvious "dog bites man" explanation for some of this, I think these people simply have fundamentally altered expectations of what "life" is like under adverse circumstances. Of course life goes on. The alternative is curling up under your bed in the fetal position and closing your eyes for 6 months straight.

Look, life went on in London during the Blitz. Life went on in France under occupation. People were eating and drinking and screwing and cracking jokes as the German army rolled into Russia. Life goes on under every authoritarian regime, throughout every war, and during every period of political instability. Life goes on in the crossfire of urban drug wars, during natural disasters, and everything else. Life went on under Saddam.

These people see every smiling face, every open market, every child walking down the street, as evidence that things are much better than the media is portraying. While we should applaud every instance of "normal life," they really aren't evidence of much of anything. Aside from the imposition of a 24 hour curfew, nothing much is going to stop "normal life" from happening.

But, what we also know is this:

In her e-mail message, Mr. Bremer's aide wrote, "I don't think anybody has a clue of what is really going on out here" except those who leave "their sheltered homes and come out here" from Washington to see the progress for themselves.

On that score, she would appear to be right. But she and the other Americans here typically do not mingle with ordinary Iraqis. The e-mail writer lives in a guarded compound and, as she noted in her message, must have an armed escort to go even a few blocks to get a pizza.

When reporters who do venture into the street meet Iraqis there, they aren't typically greeted with stories about all the schools built, or praise for what America has done. The Iraqis, typically, are glad Saddam Hussein is gone. Now they want security. They expect Americans to provide it. So far, Americans haven't been doing that to the Iraqis' satisfaction. And the Iraqis complain that reporters are not telling that part of the story strongly enough.

Read the whole article. It's quite interesting.