The Corner

Iraq Points

A couple of Iraq points from Sunday’s press.

(1) A reader:

“Dear Derb—In case you didn’t see it, on Meet The Press this morning, Tim Russert displayed on-screen WFB’s article ‘It Didn’t Work’ and asked Peter Pace how he could remain so optimistic about Iraq when ‘even WFB’ had expressed such pessimism about developments in Iraq. Pace suggested that WFB should visit Iraq and ‘walk the streets’ to get a sense of the prevailing optimism on the Iraqi street.’

[Derb] I didn’t see MtP yesterday, and thanks for the notice. However, the latest information I recall is that Westerners are not actually permitted to “walk the streets” of Baghdad, because any Westerner who does so is highly likely to be kidnapped. Has this situation changed? If it has not changed, then isn’t Peter Pace blowing smoke here?

(2) Ralph Peters in America’s Newspaper of Record Sunday: “But there’s no way we can let irresponsible journalists off the hook – or their parent organizations. Many journalists are, indeed, brave and conscientious; yet some in Baghdad — working for ‘prestigious’ publications — aren’t out on the city streets the way they pretend to be.

“They’re safe in their enclaves, protected by hired guns, complaining that it’s too dangerous out on the streets. They’re only in Baghdad for the byline, and they might as well let their Iraqi employees phone it in to the States. Whenever you see a column filed from Baghdad by a semi-celeb journalist with a ‘contribution’ by a local Iraqi, it means this: The Iraqi went out and got the story, while the journalist stayed in his or her room.”

[Derb] Now, I yield to nobody in my suspicion of MSM journalists. I actually wrote a column once with the title “Journalists Are Scum.” And, yes, I know all the journalist in-jokes about “covering the war from Mahogany Ridge” and so on. (Mahogany Ridge being the bar of the nearest comfortable hotel.)

Is it really the case, though, that MSM journalists representing major news outfits in Baghdad are declining opportunities to go out and see things for themselves, preferring to send Iraqi colleagues out to get their stories, then “pretending” that they themselves were “out on the city streets”? I wouldn’t altogether rule it out, but I’d feel happier if Peters would supply some names of such journalists and their “prestigious” affiliations.

And what is going on with this sentence: “They’re safe in their enclaves, protected by hired guns, complaining that it’s too dangerous out on the streets”? Is it, or is it not, dangerous for Western journalists freely to wander the streets of Baghdad? Do the occupation authorities permit them to? Aren’t those “enclaves” in fact protected by the US armed forces, and isn’t it a bit of a cheek for Peters to refer to our armed forces as “hired guns”? Peters himself was “out in the streets” in a Humvee with a detail of GIs. Isn’t that also kind of “protected”?

Can we please hear the name of a journalist from a major news organization who was offered the same Humvee ride Peters got, but who declined because it was too dangerous?

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