A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, May 23, 2005

Some Iraq Updates

This certainly seems like good news. Especially given that the heavy lifting of the operation was done by Iraqi forces, with the multi-national troops merely providing support. One of the keys to stabilizing Iraq is getting Iraqis in control of the policing. This shows that the country's government is legit and makes it very hard for the terrorists to claim they are merely victims of the U.S. forces.

And for those that see a civil war brewing in Iraq, please also read Omar's thoughts on prejudice, bias and ethnic strains in Iraq as seen from a middle-class Baghdad citizen. Money quote:

And who am I to disagree with the shiny names of the media who although might be spending 3/4 of their time in a hotel room and might not even know the culture or the language of the country but they certainly are the giants of their field.

In comparison I am just an Iraqi guy who lives in the town, walks in the streets and meets more people than he's supposed to so certainly I don't see what the big names see.

He writes better, and with more perception, in his second (or third or fourth) language than most journalists do in their first.

On a more disturbing note, Ali, who was one of the first Iraqi bloggers, has some depressing thoughts on Spirit of America, one of the largest, and oldest, NGOs aimed at helping Afghanis and Iraqis. Perhaps Ali is just being paranoid, he has shown such tendencies before, but maybe he's just shining a light on one of the great drawbacks of NGOs-- they tend to become vehicles unto themselves, more determined to keep the NGO viable than to actually aid those they were originally funded to help. BTW: for those that haven't been reading Iraq the Model or Free Iraqi, please be aware that Ali of Free Iraqi is brother to Omar and Mohammad of Iraq the Model and helped his two brothers start Iraq the Model before starting Free Iraqi back in 2004.

Finally, a very interesting post from Ali on journalism and perception. Given my rather dismal opinion of journalism in general right now, and its coverage of the war in particular, it was a very intriguing post. So, perhaps I have to attribute some of the negativity of the war's coverage to plain old human nature. On the other hand, given the increasing predisposition of human beings to analyize their lives through a perspective greatly influenced by the media, it also makes a very compelling argument for trying to keep journalism as objective and balanced as possible.

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There are a lot of good stories coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan; it's just that they aren't getting air-time or front page coverage. A poll that was conducted in February at some Iraqi universities regarding democracy was very encouraging. Abdallah Al Jibouri, an exiled Iraqi who had been a dentist in Manchester until the cessation of major combat operations in OIF, returned to Iraq to check up on his mother and ended up becoming the governor of the province. A Multi-ethnic and multi-faith school, where Muslims and Christians study side-by-side, has opened in Iraq. The Afghani women's soccer team will begin international competitions soon. Afghanistan is preparing for parliamentary elections in September. USAID has been helping to enhance rural agriculture and the central bank in Afghanistan; steps which help to stabilize and improve the society and the economy.

Like the Iraqi blogs cited by Nick in this post, sources outside of the big news providers are the best places to find this information. I've found that local media or organization websites are the best bet to find these stories. At the same time, two of pieces that I just referenced above were from a major British newspaper and Reuters. Even some of the larger and more mainstream organizations are starting to put a few of the good news stories out, but one may still need to look at the back pages or on their websites to find them.

I think Ali made some good observations on journalism and negative perceptions, and I especially like the final questions he asked the cabbie regarding his car and the education of his children. They weren't really perception questions, so the tone and inference changed.

It reminded me of a quote from a Bret Stephens piece: "The problem is not that journalists can't get their facts straight - they can and usually do. Neither is it that the facts are obscure; often, the most essential facts are also the most obvious ones. The problem is that journalists have a difficult time distinguishing significant facts - facts with consequences - from insignificant ones. That, in turn, comes from not thinking very hard about just which stories are most worth telling."
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