Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Smackdown at Martini Republic!

By far the most engaging weblog comments page last night was at Martini Republic, where the debate about the authenticity of the Fadhil Brothers heated up. All sides participated and we even had a few OLD TROLLS like Gandhi raise their leathery faces (more on Gandhi later).

Anyway, at one point Cesar G. Soriano, the author of the USA Today article that was one of the first to profile the Fadhil brothers, showed up. And, to use Lisa from New York's one-word summation: SMACKDOWN!
I'm Cesar G. Soriano, the USA TODAY reporter who wrote the feature story you're questioning.

In between fits of laughter, I've been reading comments that suggest, among other things, that Iraq the Model is written by CIA agents at Langley who planted stories about the web site into the mainstream media.

For the record:

1. I can vouch that the Fadhil brothers are real, they are Iraqis and they do live in Iraq. During four tours in Iraq, I've met the brothers several times, in person, in Baghdad. Their photographs appeared in our newspaper and website.

2. My story was not the first written about the Fadhil brothers, but it was one of the earlier ones. The story was about Iraqi bloggers in general. I interviewed different bloggers, some “pro-American” and some “anti-American.” Here's the link to the original story:

Iraqis enjoy new freedom of expression on Web journals.

3. I first heard about the web site from a work colleague who happens to be an Iraqi-American. I have never had any contact with the CIA regarding the blog story.

4. As for Riverbend, I have attempted on numerous occasions to contact the author of that blog. “Riverbend” has never responded to my queries and, as far as I know, has never given media interviews.

I thought that there were many interesting comments and observations. One commenter named Occam, for example, wrote:
I'm not a rightwinger. I voted for Kerry (for domestic reasons). I am not a troll. Nor have I been “duped” into sending Iraqthemodel a dime. But I have been reading them for quite a while now.

Perhaps, just perhaps, these guys are actually happier to be free of Saddam than they are angry at the US. I work (in Calif.) with a physician from Iraq (Baghdad U. class of 92). And he tells me there is a deep ambivalence in Iraq, that he has cousins and nephews who are ecstatic about the liberation (or, if you prefer, “liberation”) and a brother and aunt who are not. Maybe, just maybe, the brothers fall into the former category. Seems more likely to me that they are legit--rather than the elaborate efforts made here to undermine their credibility by Americans who, quite frankly, want all Iraqis to conform to their own view of things.

Commenter Joe Katzman joined everyone in laughing at Gandhi:
Some of you guys are priceless. Gandhi, by his own admission, engages in attempted sabotage of ITM to make his point, but can't understand why people might have wanted to ban him. He reminds me of the floormate at university who sat by his girlfriend's dorm room door for over a day after being dumped, holding up a big 4' bristleboard sign that said “Why?” And everyone who passed by, knowing nothing about the relationship, immediately had the answer to his question.

More later, I promise.



Oh, man! Juan Cole is getting his ass kicked from one side of the blogosphere to the other today. When Wretchard from Belmont Club zeroes in on you, you know you're breathing you last gulps of air! Michael J. Totten knees Cole in the groin and Roger L. Simon gives him a 3-Stooges-like BONK on the head.

Ha ha! Lovely.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis calmly removes his gloves and SLAPS Juan Cole silly. Ouch! Folks, that's gotta hurt.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: If you have the time, check out the comments pages for both Jarvis and Totten. Fast and furious. Lots of great commenters stopping by.


Ambassador Fayrouz posted a very good blog entry yesterday on the upcoming Iraqi elections.


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