Good News From Iraq
March 17, 2008
The guy from the Los Angeles Times went looking for good news in Iraq. Really, he tried to find some, but reality and his military handlers kept getting in the way.
First he wanted to go check out that reopened bank branch in Amiriya. Refurbished by the Army at great expense and staffed by the Finance Ministry, it was being touted as another sign of the success story that is Iraq:
Within weeks, I heard back from the military regarding Amiriya. The bank was no longer something the military was willing to highlight.
“The unit operating in the same area as the bank doesn’t categorize the bank operations as a top priority because they don’t directly affect the good of the community of Amiriya,” an Army spokesman, Maj. Mark Cheadle, wrote in an e-mail. “So, the bottom line is they would rather not sponsor an embed or visit for something they don’t deal with on a regular basis.” My request for a follow-up “embed” was denied.
I tried to arrange a visit that would not involve the military, but the neighborhood is surrounded by checkpoints that were judged too dangerous for us to pass. Without being accompanied by soldiers, there was no way for me to tell the story.
Cheadle proposed that I instead write about a videoconference that allowed schoolchildren in Baghdad and Texas to ask questions of each other. I declined.
Okay, so the bank story didn’t go so well. But what about the Chinese restaurant in Baghdad’s Karada district? The one opened by three laid-off steelworkers from China’s Hubei province — the first food joint to be owned and operated by someone from outside the Middle East (and outside the employ of Halliburton) in years. How come the liberal media wouldn’t talk about that, huh?
A few days later, the restaurant employees said they had changed their minds about the interview. They were too scared to raise their profile through a news story. And a Chinese Embassy spokesman said his office had persuaded them to return home, although they were still operating in recent days. “The situation is far too dangerous for them to work here,” the spokesman said.
Because of such fears and the inefficiency that pervades the capital, these “good news” stories evaporated before I could tell them. After only a month in Iraq, I once again left having filed mostly “bad news” stories.
Ah, the hell with it. Let’s put out another press release about the schools that got painted. In another 10 months Bush will be able to slither out of the White House and leave this mess for a Democrat to clean up.