The Way We Were…

How optimistic Kurds and Iraqis were back in April. A story I wrote for Scholastic is full of optimistic quotes — mostly from Kurds, admittedly — but how representative are these opinions now? Looks like it’s time for another trip to Mesopotamia.

Man, I gotta get back to Baghdad. (New title for the site?) The reason I post this is because I finally got around to posting the link to one of the stories I did for Scholastic while I was over there in April.
DSC00703.jpg
Baghdad residents greet me in April. (® 2003 Christopher Allbritton)
How optimistic the Iraqis (mostly Kurds, frankly) sounded!

“Everything will be OK,” said Wuria Ahmed Ameen, a Kurdish translator and professor in the northern Iraq city of Arbil. “There is still certain resistance, but even those that belonged to the Ba’ath Party [Saddam Hussein’s party] are very, very happy about the situation.” The only reason Saddam’s supporters backed him, he said, was because they feared him. Now that he’s gone, “They will accept what happened….even the Arabs will realize how oppressed they were.”

Obviously things haven’t worked out quite that smoothly. I wonder what they think now, really. I read the _Times_ and the _Washington Post_ and much of the coverage focuses on the negative. This is to be expected and it’s how news works. It’s not an anti-American bias or anything like that — it’s a bias every reporter has that defines news as anything that goes against the expected grain. Full disclosure: I do it, too. Thirteen years of journalism and two degrees in journalism die hard.
This bias is, of course, one reason people like to call their local papers and demand less emphasis on “bad news.” Well, things in the America are generally expected to work out OK. When they don’t, that’s news — by definition. And “bad news” is generally more important than “good news.” Who wants to read a paper that tells readers, “everything’s cool,” when things aren’t cool at all?
And in parallel, foreign media in Iraq are focusing on the horrible stuff because _that’s news._ That’s what they do. But is there a silent Iraqi majority that supports the CPA? Or are the angry and resentful people quoted in the papers truly representative of public opinion? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I’d like to find out.
Anyway, my book proposal is in my agent’s hands, and I’m waiting to hear now. Here’s hoping a decent advance is forthcoming and it will be enough to allow me to set up shop in Baghdad for two or three months to finish up the research.