Times Watch for June 28, 2004
"Everyone Lives In Fear" Now That Saddam's Gone
Somini Sengupta, new to the Baghdad beat, files a story on girls living in fear in Iraq-fear that has increased with the fall of Saddam Hussein.
In Sunday's front-page story "For Iraqi Girls, Changing Land Narrows Lives," Sengupta writes: "To catch a glimpse of the future of this country, look for a moment through the eyes of teenage girls who are coming of age here in the capital. In an air-conditioned bedroom with pink everything on the walls, Yosor Ali al-Qatan, 15, stares longingly at a hip-hugging pair of pink pinstriped pants. The new Iraq, her mother warns her, is far too dangerous for a 15-year-old girl to be seen in such pants".In the past several months, the new access to satellite dishes, Internet cafes and cellphones has given these young women a new window on the outside world. But creeping religious conservatism, lawlessness and economic uncertainty have also been conspiring against them in peculiar ways. Parents are so rattled by reports of rapes and kidnappings that they keep their girls under closer watch than ever. Girls accustomed to pool outings and piano lessons during the crushingly hot summer vacation months are instead locked up at home. They quarrel with their mothers; they sleep too much; they grow cranky and dejected from mind-numbing boredom."
Sounds like typical teens to me.
"Still, the American invasion and occupation have wrought small, but profound, changes in the everyday lives of girls-changes that serve as a weather vane of sorts for the social fabric of a sovereign Iraq. Even though the last years of Saddam Hussein's rule had brought new restrictions on women's freedoms, the simultaneous collapse of the police state that had kept public order and the new leeway for religious clerics to demand stricter compliance with Islamic law have increasingly narrowed girls' lives."
Sengupta talks to a 15 year-old: "For months, Mariam said, her parents have kept her under strict lock-down at home. She has read all the teen magazines she can stand, seen movie after movie. She has grown bored and glum. She has lost weight. Once she would stay out with her parents until midnight. She would hang out with her cousins every week. Now hardly anyone goes out. Everyone lives in fear".Fear eats at everyone here, but in a conservative society where daughters are already governed by stricter rules than sons, adolescent girls find themselves particularly vulnerable."
So "fear eats at everyone" in Baghdad now-but things were fine under the rule of the tyrant Saddam Hussein.
This whitewash reminds Times Watch of a Chicago Tribune story from May 25, a similar profile of some teenage "victims" of Saddam Hussein"s ouster, one that also provided no indication of the previous horrors endured by Iraqis not favored by Hussein.
For the rest of Sengupta's story from Baghdad, click here.
" Saddam Hussein | Iraq War | Somini Sengupta
In Iraq, "Resistance" vs. U.S. Soldiers and "Collaborators"
Edward Wong's Monday story from Baghdad is headlined "In Anger, Ordinary Iraqis Are Joining the Insurgency." The fact that the "insurgency" is killing U.S. soldiers doesn't stop Wong from labeling them a "resistance" force, one "spreading to ordinary Iraqis."
Wong talks to one "resistance supporter" in a Sunni town northeast of Baghdad, "where the resistance burns as fiercely as anywhere in Iraq".It has extended well beyond Saddam Hussein supporters and foreign fighters, spreading to ordinary Iraqis seething at the occupation and its failures. They act at the grass-roots level, often with little training or direction, but with a zealousness born of anti-colonial ambitions."
Wong insists it"s a popular uprising, that "much of the insurgency reflects street-level anger at the lack of progress in Iraq".The April uprisings woke commanders up to the fact that the nature of the resistance had morphed into a more widespread movement than they had previously thought."
He mildly notes that "Interpreters for the military regularly receive threatening letters at their homes, and insurgents hand out fliers in the crowded bazaars threatening collaborators."
(Incidentally, "collaborators" is a pretty irresponsible word choice, given its connotations of treasonous cooperation with an enemy occupier.)
Wong could have noted those threats have been carried out: James Glanz's story (right below Wong's) on the struggles to rebuild Iraq notes two sisters were recently murdered for working with Americans as translators.
For the rest of Wong's story on the Iraqi "resistance," click here.
" Iraq War | Labeling Bias | Terrorism | Edward Wong
Criticizing Michael Moore: As Phony as John Ashcroft
Arts editor and columnist Frank Rich pens "The Best Goebbels of All?" which compares left-wing Michael Moore's new anti-Bush "documentary," "Fahrenheit 9/11," to John Ashcroft's choreographed terror warnings.
Of Moore's borrowing of Ray Bradbury's title "Fahrenheit 451," Rich writes: "Mr. Moore hijacked the title because he knows it elicits fear, and his right-wing radio critics liken him to Goebbels because of his willingness to manipulate facts to whip up an audience accordingly. Sometimes they have a case. Mr. Moore is not aspiring to journalistic objectivity when he stirs Prince Bandar, various bin Ladens, the Carlyle Group and the Bush family into a malevolent conspiracy of grassy-knoll dimensions."
So far, so good. But Rich is willing to slam Moore to get to his real target, Ashcroft: "Yet Goebbels is in fashion everywhere these days. As Mr. Moore implies that the Bush administration is in cahoots with the native country of 15 of the 9/11 hijackers, so the Bush administration has itself used a sustained campaign of insinuation to float the false claim that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with those hijackers, too. As Mr. Moore seeks to shape the story of what happened on 9/11, so the White House, President Bush included, collaborated on a movie project with the same partisan intent, 'D.C. 9/11: Time of Crisis,' seen on Showtime last fall."
Rich provides another example of the Times excoriating the administration for giving out too many terror warnings (after previously criticizing Bush and Co. of pre-9-11 passivity): "While F.D.R. once told Americans that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, Mr. Ashcroft is delighted to play the part of Fear Itself, an assignment in which he lets his imagination run riot".Whether Mr. Ashcroft's alarming presentation led to the thwarting of a single terrorist remains unknown. What it did do was take our minds off Abu Ghraib and the rest of the metastasizing bad news from Iraq. Like a master Hollywood showman plotting the release schedule of a movie, Mr. Ashcroft always times his productions exquisitely."
For the full Rich on Moore and Ashcroft, click here.
" John Ashcroft | Columnists | "Fahrenheit 9/11" | Michael Moore | Movies | Frank Rich
Keeping Good Economic News Off the Front Page
The economy is picking up, but don't expect to read all about it in the Times. Monday's front-page story from "gloomy" Louis Uchitelle is headlined: "Families, Deep in Debt, Bracing For Pain of Interest Rate Rise."
In his profile of a Pennsylvania family worrying about their rising credit card debt, economics reporter Uchitelle cites figures from an (unlabeled ) liberal economic group, the Economic Policy Institute, showing lower income people are far more likely to devote 40 percent or more of their income to debt repayment.
Finally, in the story's 19th paragraph, Uchitelle suggests a rise in interest rates might not actually hurt so much: "One antidote to rising interest rates could be the recent surge in employment, and all the new income that will accompany the one million jobs created since February-but that remains to be seen."
One million jobs in four months? Hey, maybe that's worth a front-page story, too.
For the rest of Uchitelle on rising interest rates, click here.
" Economy | Interest Rates | Louis Uchitelle