Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Iraq Punditry at Its Best

Over the last month or so no one in the Iraqi blogosphere has been penning entries with the same frequency and acuity as Iraq Pundit. One of his strengths as a commentator and analyst is his ability to read between the lines of the articles being produced daily by the mainstream press.

In “The Opinion Writers’ Show,” for example, he critiques articles written by Anne Applebaum, David Ignatius, and Tom Friedman. In an op-ed article, Ignatius had used, as Iraq Pundit notes, an anonymous Syrian to bolster his argument that the lull in violence in Iraq was similar to a “draw play” in American football. The Americans would soon discover, Ignatius analogized, that they had been suckered into attacking the quarterback as he flings the football to a waiting halfback with a phalanx of linemen waiting to usher him downfield. Suckered, in short, by the reduction in violence. This anonymous Syrian, Ignatius’s “friend,” agrees with this scenario. Iraq Pundit responds:
I should believe this nebulous Syrian dude? The Sunnis and the Shiites who, according to the MSM hate each other, will unite at last to gang up on the U.S. that Syria hates? Could this be just another of the countless conspiracy theories floating around the Middle East?

Certainly we can all agree with the columnists when they say the Iraqi politicians must get their acts together. But that's all. Because these columnists should stick with the subjects they know.

To me, this is just another reminder that the columnists know very little about Iraq. And the good news out of Iraq is worrisome to them because they have been betting that Iraq is a failure. Even NYT's Tom Friedman admits: "I don’t know. My Iraq crystal ball stopped working a long time ago." No kidding.
In “The Torn Ultimatum,” Iraq Pundit opens his entry:
As Baghdad moves slowly towards normality, Iraqis carefully breathe a sigh of relief. The positive developments have pretty much become undeniable, but civilians are still cautious. And what do the media do?

The journalists are torn. They scramble to change their story from "everything sucks" to "okay, so it's better, but not that much better."
From there he analyzes an article by Thomas Ricks, whose Fiasco will most likely soon be gracing remaindered books tables around the country, in dusty stacks next to the academic treatises from early 1989 discussing the next hundred years of Soviet rule. “Look, nobody's saying Iraq's in fine shape now,” Iraq Pundit concludes. “We all know it will take a long time for it to be even near normal. We're just welcome the positive signs. May I ask, why does the thought of an improving Iraq offend the media so much?”

Along with the other Iraqi bloggers, Iraq Pundit also helps us interpret events from an Iraqi perspective. In “Uncommonly Good,” he writes:
Visitors to the Iraq story often make me laugh. Journalists bring their own interpretations to the story before they observe anything. When Iraqis tell them something, they ignore us. The outsiders then zero in on something and proudly call it a unique observation.

A good example of this is the story of the Bab al Sheik neighbourhood in Baghdad. The reporter acts as though some secret has been uncovered: "Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians live together here with unusual ease."

Any Iraqi describing Baghdad would have said so and added that the spirit of the area is not rare: "It has been battered by bombings around its edges, but the war has been kept from its heart, largely because of its ancient, shared past, bound by trust and generations of intermarriage."

That's the Baghdad we know. We grew up in mixed neighbourhoods, went to mixed schools, and we socialized with our fellow Baghdadis with ease. Good Iraqis are not rare.
In “The War You Have, NYT, Not the War You Want,” Iraq Pundit looks at two articles on the decline in violence in Iraq, one from the New York Times and the other from the Los Angeles Times. From the LA Times article, he quotes: "Without actually saying so, the Bush administration is now trying to move the goal posts, yet again, by arguing that stopping the violence in and of itself constitutes success.” And Iraq Pundit responds:
Don't tell anybody, but Iraqis like me do indeed think that "stopping the violence in and of itself constitutes success." Not total success; we'd certainly like to see political progress as well, and as soon as possible. But protecting and saving innocent Iraqi lives means something, no?
Finally, we would be remiss if didn’t mention Iraq Pundit’s wit. Most of his blog entries show his deft touch. “At the risk of scaring some people," Iraq Pundit smirks as he opens "Afraid of a Slowly Improving Iraq," "the British Observer newspaper reports that students are returning to class in Baghdad."

I urge anyone interested in Iraq and the Iraqi blogosphere to make Iraq Pundit a regular source for new information and a fresh perspective.

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