Jay Reding.com

Being There

Blackfive notes that Washington Post stringer Kiki Munshi thinks that traveling to Baquba, Iraq is “suicidal”:

Last year at this time, I traveled from Forward Operating Base Warhorse into the Iraqi town of Baqubah several times a week to meet with the governor, the provincial council chairman and other officials. Yes, it was dangerous. But it wasn’t suicidal.

Today, though, such trips would be almost impossible. Baqubah is a battlefield, the site of a major push against al-Qaeda and other insurgents. The houses that haven’t been destroyed are riddled with bullet holes. Many of the Iraqis I worked with are dead, and many others have fled.

Meanwhile, independent journalist Michael Yon is in Baquba and draws an entirely different picture:

And so on 05 July, or D + 16, after the meeting, Iraqi leaders including the Deputy Governor of Diyala, and also Abdul Jabar, one of the Provincial chair holders, headed to some of the most dangerous areas in Baqubah on what Americans would call “a meet and greet.” At first the people seemed hesitant, but when they saw Iraqi leaders—along with members of their own press—asking citizens what they needed, each place we stopped grew into a festival of smiles.

The people were jubilant. None of the kids—and by the end of the day there were hundreds—asked me for anything, other than to take their photos. These were not the kids-made-brats by well-meaning soldiers, but polite Iraqi kids in situ, and the cameras were like a roller coaster ride for them. The kids didn’t care much for the video; they wanted still photos taken. While the kids were trying to get me to photograph them, it was as if the roller coaster was cranking and popping up the tracks, but when I finally turned the camera on them—snap!—it was as if the roller coaster had crested the apex and slipped into the thrill of gravity. Of course, once the ride ended, it only made some clamor for more. Iraqi kids that have not been spoiled by handouts are the funniest I have seen anywhere.

Yon even brings pictures from his “suicidal” mission into the heart of Baquba, where roving bands of vicious children threaten all with their smiles.

This incident explains exactly why the American people are not getting the truth about what is going on in Iraq. Ms. Munshi isn’t in Baquba, yet feels compelled to tell a story that is plainly and evidently disputed by someone who is there. The biggest failure in Iraq is the failure of the media to report the truth in that country — for if they did, it might actually lead people to believe that we’re doing some good there. The disparity in opinion between those who spend their time in Iraq and those who do not is massive: those who actually experience the reality of life in Iraq seem to have an entirely different view of the situation than those who are trying to shape the narrative about this conflict.

The media simply isn’t giving the American people the real story — and it is giving advantage to the enemy. The real story of Iraq is far more complex than the simpleminded narrative that the media conveys to the rest of the world — and people like Ms. Munshi betray the public trust when they issue such blatant falsehoods.

8 responses to “Being There”

  1. Mark says:

    What on Earth are you doing in Minnesota if Baquba, Iraq, is where the quality of life is best? Why would you put up with those spoiled brat kids in Apple Valley when everyone is smiling in Baquba? I just don’t get it.

  2. Jay Reding says:

    I just don’t get it.

    Clearly not.

  3. Mark says:

    I knew you’d take the easy way out and seize upon those five words for a cheapshot retort. You can’t seem to appreciate the irony that you are not in Iraq either, Jay. In your zeal to find any possible ally who still supports staying the course in Iraq, you’ve resorted to thesis that one person who is in country is necessarily an authority on the conditions there over anybody and everybody who is in country. Yet you are not in country, Jay, while fiercely anti-war Congressional candidate Paul Hackett was in country….and anti-war CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, among other journalists, are in country. If your theory that being within the borders of Iraq ensures one of an indisputably superior understanding of the situation in Iraq than anybody who reside outside that border, doesn’t that necessarily mean that Paul Hackett and Lara Logan’s opinion on Iraq is of more value than yours?

    And just last week, you were skewing Live Earth rock stars hypocritically calling for sacrifice among the peasantry while continuing to lavish in their own wildly indulgent lifestyles. Certainly that is a fair point, but it loses its effect when coming from the keyboard of a ferocious supporter for continued American warfare in Iraq who elects only to send other people’s kids to battle while he spends his own time waiting in line to pick up the iPhone.

  4. Jay Reding says:

    You can’t seem to appreciate the irony that you are not in Iraq either, Jay.

    Michael Yon, however, is. He is one of the few Western journalists in Baquba, and what he’s reporting directly contradicts the media line on Iraq.

    In your zeal to find any possible ally who still supports staying the course in Iraq, you’ve resorted to thesis that one person who is in country is necessarily an authority on the conditions there over anybody and everybody who is in country.

    And the antithesis of that is that being in Iraq has absolutely no bearing on understanding what’s going on there — which is a silly argument. Just going to Iraq doesn’t make one an instant expert, but it sure as hell goes a long way towards showing some credibility.

    Again, Ms. Munshi is arguing that going to Baquba is “suicidal” — while someone who actually is in Baquba is finding the exact opposite. Just the other day General Petraeus visited Baquba in person. The media narrative is wrong on that city, just as they’re consistantly missing dozens of crucial pieces of information that people need to have an informed view on the situation.

    Yet you are not in country, Jay, while fiercely anti-war Congressional candidate Paul Hackett was in country….and anti-war CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, among other journalists, are in country.

    Hackett hasn’t been in Iraq for years, and Logan is exactly the sort of journalist who rarely (if ever) leaves the Green Zone. For instance, her reporting on Haifa Street used insurgent videos as one of the primary sources.

    If your theory that being within the borders of Iraq ensures one of an indisputably superior understanding of the situation in Iraq than anybody who reside outside that border, doesn’t that necessarily mean that Paul Hackett and Lara Logan’s opinion on Iraq is of more value than yours?

    Being on the street in Iraq certainly matters a hell of a lot more than being in the Green Zone and relying on insurgents to deliver the news to you.

    Personally, I’d love to go to Iraq as Michael Yon has done. The problem is that the process of getting the permissions to go and buying the equipment costs a hell of a lot of money. Yon is one of the few who can get enough readership support to pull it off. If I happened to win the lottery tomorrow, I’d probably start making arrangements now, but that just isn’t going to happen.

    And just last week, you were skewing Live Earth rock stars hypocritically calling for sacrifice among the peasantry while continuing to lavish in their own wildly indulgent lifestyles. Certainly that is a fair point, but it loses its effect when coming from the keyboard of a ferocious supporter for continued American warfare in Iraq who elects only to send other people’s kids to battle while he spends his own time waiting in line to pick up the iPhone.

    You people still don’t get it. We have a volunteer military. Nobody sends “other people’s kids to battle”, we have a military in which professional soldiers step up to defend this country. They are professionals, they are not children. It’s insulting when you treat them as though they were little more than pawns.

    I suppose you like the protection of the police, but I don’t see you wearing a badge. I suppose you like the protection of your local fire department, but I doubt you’ve ever picked up a firehouse in your life. The police, the firefighters, and our military are all professional organizations. Not everybody can be a police officer, firefighter, or soldier. That is why society puts a high value on those who can. It’s no more hypocritical to support the military’s mission in Iraq without being a soldier than to support fighting crime without being a cop — except for those who have to resort to cheap ad hominems rather than substantive arguments.

  5. Mark says:

    “Nobody sends “other people’s kids to battle”, we have a military in which professional soldiers step up to defend this country.”

    Yes…”somebody” has to step up. But when the fiercest and most arrogant champions of flexing military muscle are not that “somebody”, they should expect to be called on it. If it’s a cause that you cite as the definitive battle of our civilization, yet you elect to remain on the sidelines, you’re no more believable than Live Earth rock stars calling for conservation from their private jets.

    “I suppose you like the protection of the police, but I don’t see you wearing a badge. I suppose you like the protection of your local fire department, but I doubt you’ve ever picked up a firehouse in your life.”

    Well no, I’m not the Incredible Hulk. I’ve never tried to pick up a firehouse. :)

    And actually, you’re wrong about that. I was part of the volunteer firefighting crew in my hometown for two years before I moved out of the area. But whatever the case, your analogy fails because one can be a supporter of either their local police department, fire department, or of military action in Iraq without being a rabid and bloodthirsty advocate of assertive usage of those institutions.

    If I was filling up my blog with a dozen comments per week on how the “brave men and women” of police departments in America should ramp up efforts to lock up every drug user in the country lest our society will face imminent destruction, then you would be justified in questioning why I am not a soldier in domestic law enforcement willing to combat the war on drugs. But since I’m not advocating such a militaristic proactive “save the civilization” approach to policing crime at home, I would say I am able to support the duties of police officers without having to wear a badge myself. Given the ferocity of your wartime rhetoric, it’s an entirely different ballgame for you as it pertains to Iraq. If you’re not out there stopping what you insist will amount to certain armageddon for civilized society, then it becomes harder to accept that the you believe the stakes are quite so high.

  6. Jay Reding says:

    Yes…”somebody” has to step up. But when the fiercest and most arrogant champions of flexing military muscle are not that “somebody”, they should expect to be called on it. If it’s a cause that you cite as the definitive battle of our civilization, yet you elect to remain on the sidelines, you’re no more believable than Live Earth rock stars calling for conservation from their private jets.

    Telling the truth about what is going on in this battle may not be storming an insurgent hideout, but it’s hardly “sitting on the sidelines” either. Since the mainstream media won’t pick up on these stories, it’s up to others to get the word out.

    Moreover, what I’m doing isn’t actively causing harm to the effort I’m championing, as it is with the sham of Live Earth.

    Again, we have a professional military. Not everyone can be a soldier — in fact, only a small percentage of the population has the requisite skills.

    It’s the same old stupid “chickenhawk” argument as before, and even when put more tactfully, it’s still a stupid argument. By that line of reasoning then democracy itself is a sham since the Commander in Chief is a civilian position and we let non-veterans vote. If only those who serve have any right to support a war, then we should only allow veterans to make the decisions that can lead this country to war — which is not what our veterans fought to preserve.

    And actually, you’re wrong about that. I was part of the volunteer firefighting crew in my hometown for two years before I moved out of the area. But whatever the case, your analogy fails because one can be a supporter of either their local police department, fire department, or of military action in Iraq without being a rabid and bloodthirsty advocate of assertive usage of those institutions.

    Your argument is silly. “Rabid and bloodthirsty?” It’s that kind of idiocy that destroys what might be a valid argument. Rabid and bloodthirsty would be bombing the living hell out of Iraq and then leaving. We could have done that from the comfort of our own nation and been done with it. I support the current effort because it’s the most likely way to get an Iraq that’s actually livable for the 25 million people who live there. I oppose the idea of withdrawal because it ensures the slaughter of the Iraq people.

    This is what you’d have us surrender to. That’s what all of Iraq would look like if you had your way. What is the bloodier outcome?

    If I was filling up my blog with a dozen comments per week on how the “brave men and women” of police departments in America should ramp up efforts to lock up every drug user in the country lest our society will face imminent destruction, then you would be justified in questioning why I am not a soldier in domestic law enforcement willing to combat the war on drugs.

    1) That’s not analogous to my position, only your strawman version of it.
    2) Even if it were, no you would not be justified in thinking that at all.

    But since I’m not advocating such a militaristic proactive “save the civilization” approach to policing crime at home, I would say I am able to support the duties of police officers without having to wear a badge myself. Given the ferocity of your wartime rhetoric, it’s an entirely different ballgame for you as it pertains to Iraq. If you’re not out there stopping what you insist will amount to certain armageddon for civilized society, then it becomes harder to accept that the you believe the stakes are quite so high.

    The stakes are that high, and it’s only the foolish who refuse to see it. Again, your whole argument is an ad hominem. Do you really think that Tehran attempting to acquire nuclear weapons isn’t a threat? Do you really think that Iraq is going to be in a better place if the US leaves? Do you really think that the situation in the Middle East can be negotiated away?

    Trying to focus the discussion on the author (which is a topic that’s neither interesting nor relevant) and not paying attention to the matters of policy that actually mean something is precisely the sort of thing one does when they don’t have enough information to actually debate the issues.

  7. Mark says:

    “It’s the same old stupid “chickenhawk” argument as before, and even when put more tactfully, it’s still a stupid argument. By that line of reasoning then democracy itself is a sham since the Commander in Chief is a civilian position and we let non-veterans vote. If only those who serve have any right to support a war, then we should only allow veterans to make the decisions that can lead this country to war — which is not what our veterans fought to preserve.”

    The whole debate boils down to the credibility of the messenger and the contrast between his/her rhetoric and his/her actions. If Joe from Sioux Falls says he supports reducing emissions for the benefit of the environment, not too many people are going take issue over it…but when someone leading a lifestyle as extravagant as Sheryl Crow wants the rest of us to conserve energy by using only one square of toilet paper, most of us take offense. Similarly, when Joe of Sioux Falls puts a “support the troops” bumper sticker on his car, not too many are gonna look at him as a chickenhawk….but when Jay Reding starts talking in terms of our very civilization being at stake in this epic battle in Iraq for which defeat equals certain extermination…yet habitually chooses not to serve himself, the message becomes hypocritical and offensive.

    Nonveterans should be allowed to legislate and govern right along with veterans, but they should also face a critical eye when their hyperbolic rhetoric doesn’t match their own sacrifice-free lifestyle.

    “Do you really think that Tehran attempting to acquire nuclear weapons isn’t a threat? Do you really think that Iraq is going to be in a better place if the US leaves? Do you really think that the situation in the Middle East can be negotiated away?”

    All of these are worthy questions, but ultimately a distant leap from my original point that it’s foolish for you to accentuate a handful of opinions of “the faithful” (Petraeus, Yon) simply because they are currently residing in Iraq even as virtually everybody else, inside and outside of Iraq, are moving the opposite direction.

  8. Jay Reding says:

    The whole debate boils down to the credibility of the messenger and the contrast between his/her rhetoric and his/her actions.

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adhomine.html

    All of these are worthy questions, but ultimately a distant leap from my original point that it’s foolish for you to accentuate a handful of opinions of “the faithful” (Petraeus, Yon) simply because they are currently residing in Iraq even as virtually everybody else, inside and outside of Iraq, are moving the opposite direction.

    Those who have first-hand experience of Iraq as it is now have a hell of a lot more insight than someone who has no connection to Iraq or spends their time at the Palestine Hotel while others do their work for them.

    If you want to make the argument that a bunch of political hacks in the Senate know more than the chief general of the Multinational Forces – Iraq or a man whose spend more time in the war zone than nearly any other reporter on the planet, go ahead. It’s a prima facie dumb argument to make. The reason why Petraeus and Yon are more credible is because they’re on the scene and they have the relevant background and experience to fully understand the situation. The typical member of the mainstream media or the average Senator does not. You can talk until you’re blue in the face trying to prove otherwise, but it’s not going to make the argument any less silly.