Posts about Mideast

The press narrative

Reading and especially watching TV coverage of two stories today stuck me how mainstream media is stuck in two eeyore narratives:

On the Iraqi constitution, a week’s delay is seen as a defeat. But, of course, we should compare that with our own heritage: 16 months to negotiate articles of confederation that were a disaster; 13 years from the Declaration of Independence before we ended up with a constitution and a government. And we had an advantage: We weren’t murdering each other.

On the Gaza pullout, the narrative is about the fight from the settlers. But the bigger story is the process for peace: Israel took a step forward and so now, what about you, Palestinians?

The real story in Iraq

Kit Seelye reports on a rather curious meeting of newspapers editors asking the Associated Press whether they — and thus we — are getting the full story in Iraq: that is, not just the bombing but also the building.

Some editors expressed concern that a kind of bunker mentality was preventing reporters in Iraq from getting out and explaining the bigger picture beyond the daily death tolls.

“The bottom-line question was, people wanted to know if we’re making progress in Iraq,” Ms. Goudreau said, and the A.P. articles were not helping to answer that question.

“It was uncomfortable questioning The A.P., knowing that Iraq is such a dangerous place,” she said. “But there’s a perception that we’re not telling the whole story.”

Mr. Silverman said in an interview that he was aware of that perception. “Other editors said they get calls from readers who are hearing stories from returning troops of the good things they have accomplished while there, and readers find that at odds with the generally gloomy portrayal in the papers of what’s going on in Iraq,” he said.

Well, it’s good they’re asking … a bit late in the party of public perception, but at least they’re asking. I also would have been curious to hear the same questions asked of papers, including The Times, that have their reporters in Iraq. [insert full disclosure here]

One thing they can do is turn soldiers and bloggers there into contributors. No, they’re not journalists. Yes, they have a viewpoint (what human doesn’t). But they have eyes and ears where the American news organizations do not.

Ding dong

So Saudi King Fahd is dead. I’ll be eager to see who the White House sends to that funeral. Hope it’s the gardener.

Note this from the AP report:

The portly, goateed Fahd inadvertently helped fuel the rise of Islamic extremism by making concessions to hard-liners in an effort to boost his Islamic credentials. But he also brought the kingdom closer to the United States and agreed to a step that enraged many conservatives: basing U.S. troops on Saudi soil after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

What an odd bit of writing that is: First, how do we know he “inadvertently” helped fuel the rise of Islamic extremism? Second, what an odd segue from People-magazinish adjectives — “portly, goateed” — into the tipping point for the clash of civilizations.

In memory

Egyptian bloggers — a new and already vibrant community — have organized a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Sharm El Sheikh terrorists.

Arabs attack Arabs… and it works

So now the insurgents terrorists of Iraq are going after Arab diplomats to get them to leave the country… and, sadly, it’s working.

Gunmen ambushed the top Bahraini and Pakistani diplomats in separate attacks as they drove through the capital today, spurring Pakistan to announce the withdrawal of its ambassador from Iraq.

The Bahraini diplomat, Hassan Malallah al-Ansari, was struck in the right arm by a bullet and taken to a hospital. The Pakistani ambassador, Muhammad Yunis Khan, escaped unharmed, though a car in his convoy was raked by bullets. The ambushes came three days after the top Egyptian diplomat here was kidnapped as he drove alone through western Baghdad. Insurgents appear to have begun an organized campaign to drive Muslim diplomats out of Iraq as the American and Iraqi governments are pressing Arab countries to send ambassadors here and upgrade their diplomatic ties.

You’d think, you’d hope that the proper response among Arab brethren would be to denouce the attacks with defiance and vow to stay. You’d think.

: Later: Says Captains Quarter:

The Arabic world has now gotten a taste of al-Qaeda diplomacy over the past week, as Iraq-AQ ringleader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has changed tactics. Instead of just blowing up Iraqis in an attempt to demoralize the populace — a strategy that clearly has backfired — he has now turned his guns and bombs on diplomats posted to Iraq from neighboring Middle East countries….

It’s difficult to devise a dumber strategy than this, and it reeks of desperation. Some of these countries have significant sympathy in their population for AQ’s goals in the region. However, these attacks not only risk alienating their less-lunatic enables in the Middle East, they threaten to turn Arabic governments from positions of benign neglect to active and deadly opposition to AQ and its supporters. No government will blithely allow its envoys to become targets for Islamists, no matter how sympathetic they might be.

Zarqawi must know this — he’s crazy, but so far we’ve seen no evidence that he’s stupid. To go out of his way to antagonize countries like Egypt and Bahrain, he must realize that all other options have run their course and have failed. He risks accomplishing what George Bush has tried for years: uniting Arabs in the Middle East to fight terrorism and to support democracy, specifically in Iraq.

We can only hope.