Thursday, December 15, 2005


Journalist
In Iraq:
"Everything

I Thought
I Knew
Was Wrong"


An extraordinary article from a journalist who went to Iraq and had his mind changed:


Everything I thought I knew was wrong.

Maybe not wrong, but certainly different than the picture in my head.

I liken it to this; It was real struggle for me to choose to see the Harry Potter movies. I had read the books and loved the pictures I had in my mind of the details I read. I didn’t need to see a movie; I had a movie playing in my head of exactly how I perceived the stories.

I had similar notions about Iraq, Mosul, the war and what exactly soldiers do. And it was handily shattered like glass today by a group of soldiers, half of them younger than myself.

There are houses of this city that by Fairbanks standards are luxurious. Or at least they were at one time. They are ornate and gated and in neighborhoods with schools, stores and mosques.
They are also ghosts of what they once were. They are still lived in, but after years of war and lack of many basic municipal services, the houses look spent and tired around the shutters.

There is garbage on the streets, in yards, in open areas. There is a stench. There is grime. But there are also people.

They are vivid, unlike their surroundings. They are excitable and friendly and conversational. They live in conditions I hope I don’t have to experience in my own life. Yet, if my neighborhood saw two wars, the breakdown of the national and local governments and decline of municipal services, I’m not sure I wouldn’t be in the same boat.

I still haven’t seen U.S. troops engaged or encounter car bombs or explosives. But I did see them play backgammon with some local police and Iraqi soldiers. I saw them take photos with more locals and make jokes mostly lost in translation. They gave advice and expertise to local troops on how to conduct a neighborhood patrol. They drank the local customary tea, and many admitted they’ve become addicted to it. They know several locals by name. I didn’t hear one slight or ridicule of a very distinct culture.

One soldier mentioned it might be a good idea to clean up the trash around one polling place, and another commented on the status of women in the culture, but they were nothing but respectful, friendly and buddy-buddy with the Iraqis they mingled with today.

And this is good stuff.

More than anything in the last few days I’ve heard from soldiers and commanders that people back home don’t quite get it. They don’t see the real picture. They don’t get the real story. Some of them, like Lt. Col. Gregg Parrish, look seriously pained in the face when he says only a part of the picture is being told; the part of car bombs and explosives and suicide bombers and death. It’s a necessary part of the picture, but not a complete one, he says.

I’ve listened to the soldiers and Parrish about the missing pieces of the puzzles that don’t reach home. My selfish, journalistic drive immediately thinks “Perfect. A story that hasn’t been told. Let me at it.”

But I have a slight hesitation; I need to keep balanced. I can’t be a cheerleader, even if I have a soft spot for the hometown troops, especially after the welcome they’ve shown me. I still need to be truthful and walk the centerline and report the good or bad.

But then I realize it’s not a conflict of interest. If I am truly unbiased, then I need to get used to this one simple fact; that the untold story, might in fact, be a positive one. It takes a minute to wrap my mind around it, as a news junkie that became a news writer. The great, career-making, breaking news stories usually don’t have happy endings; they usually revolve around disturbing news, deceit and downfall. Nasty political doings. Gruesome crimes and murders. Revealing secrets.

But I’ve come upon something that is none of those. Not this aspect of it. There are politics to this war and controversies and investigations. But there is another side.


Notice how the journalist's first inclination was that to report something positive about the American military was the equivalent of not being objective. This is the poisonous ideology which has infected the whole of Western media. And, finally one of them not only admits it, but realizes it's wrong, and changes.

Hallelujah!