Saturday, December 18, 2004

Voices of Iraq

Jeff Jacoby provides a refreshing perspective in his column on the documentary "Voices of Iraq":

If a phrase like "the liberation of Iraq" strikes you as ironic, chances are most of what you know about the situation there comes from the mainstream press. After all, a tidal wave of journalism has been portraying Iraq as a chaotic mess more or less from the moment US troops entered the country. Story after story dwells on the inadequacy of the postwar planning and the drumbeat of bad news is inescapable: looting, insurgency, terrorists, kidnappings. And, always, the grimly mounting toll of Iraqi and US casualties. This is liberation?

Yes, it is. But liberations are often dangerous and turbulent, less clear-cut while they are happening than they later become in retrospect. There was chaos during the US occupation of Germany after World War II, and journalists were certain then too that military victory was being squandered through postwar blunders. In 1946, leading publications concentrated bad news in articles with headlines like "How We Botched the German Occupation" (Saturday Evening Post), "US seen 'fumbling' its job in Germany" (New York Times), and "Americans Are Losing the Victory in Europe" (Life).

He goes on to describe the documentary (which I have not yet seen) and concludes with a point that bears repeating:

For all they have been through, Iraqis come across as incredibly optimistic, hopeful, and enthusiastic. Above all, perhaps, *normal.* In "Voices of Iraq" they film themselves flying on rides in an amusement park, dancing the night away at a graduation party, taking their kids to a playground, shopping for cell phones. A police officer mugs for the camera. Shoppers throng the streets of Suleimaniyah. A scrawny kid pumps iron with a makeshift barbell -- and makes a request of Arnold Schwarzenegger. ("I like your movies. You're a good actor. Can you please send me some real weights?")

Iraqis haven't had much experience with democracy, but we see the delight they take in the new opportunities Saddam's defeat is making possible. Two women celebrate the freedom to get a passport. An artist talks proudly about work for which he went to prison. A young woman says her dream is to be a lawyer. And one rough-looking fellow says simply, "I wish for a government elected by the Iraqi people."

Iraqis are normal. Just like Americans, some are good, and some are bad.

Yes, it's a liberation. And the men and women we liberated, it turns out, are people just like us. The headlines dwell on the bad news, and the bad news is certainly real. But things are looking up in Iraq, as the Iraqis themselves will be happy to tell you. All someone had to do was ask.

"Voices of Iraq" sounds pretty good, and I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has seen it. Meanwhile, there are plenty of Iraqi blogs where you can read an Iraqi perspective.

Update: Hugh Hewitt points out how today's MSM would have reported the Battle of the Bulge.