Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Omar Meet Rémy

Rémy Ourdan is Le Monde's rather interesting Baghdad correspondent whose articles have often been seen at NP (here, here, here and here).

Ourdan received what may be the hightest compliment for any French Middle East correspondent: back in February of 2003, he was criticized by ACriMed (Action critique des médias) for what they thought was an unfair portrait of the "human sheilds" : "The commitment of the pacifists who are traveling to Iraq under the threat of American bombing can be deemed courageous, suicidal, effective or ineffecitve. It deserves respect in any case. Rémy Ourdan, of Le Monde, seems to have nothing for them but contempt: he describes them as crazy, dishonest imbeciles, alienated from the Iraqis who 'want the war.' His effort at denigration in the guise of reporting deserves all the contempt normally reserved for those who take their ideas to extremes."

Indeed, Rémy. And have we said thanks often enough?

After yesterday's car bombing, Omar at Iraq the Model said, " I don't know why all we get (all of us) is pictures of a bunch of idiots throwing bricks at burned cars."

Well... he might have been happier with Ourdan's latest report, which contains some interesting details about the event:
Having come to the end of Saadoun street, already jammed with traffic at 8 am, the convoy doesn't see, or cannot get away from, a car that has crept among them. An explosion. The bomb set off by the kamikaze is very powerful. Passersby are cut down and neighborhood residents are crushed under the debris. Sixteen dead are counted, including five employees of General Electric, and more than sixty wounded. Among the five foreigners, there are two British, one American, one French and a Filipino. It is the second suicide attack in 24 hours in Baghdad.

The American occupier and the Iraqi government immediately condemned the attack. The prime minister, Iyad Allawi, who Iraqis hope will be able to restore security in the coming months, has promised "harsh measures" against the perpetrators of this sort of attack after June 30, when he will officially be in power. All officials are expecting attacks to get worse between now and June 30.

The divisions among Baghdadis are perfectly illustrated by the attitudes displayed in the minutes following the explosion. First there was a group of overexcited men who threw cans of beer found in a gutted store front into the brasier of the foreign 4x4s. Then there was a throng of around two hundred people who shouted "No to America!," burned a British flag found who knows where and who blame the attack on the Westerners alone, guilty of being present in Iraq.

Then there is Emad, a passerby met later in a café. "I was there just by chance, and I was ashamed," he says. "Ashamed to see Iraqis rejoicing at the sight of the bodies of those who have come to rebuild Iraq burning, ashamed to see my brothers exploiting the situation to loot the stores... I also want the Americans to leave Iraq, but not like this, not in violence and hatred." Emad is far from being the only one to think this.


Many Baghdadis, shocked by the images in April of Fallujah residents burning and hanging the cadavers of four American paramilitaries from a bridge, attributed this to the "savagery" of the somewhat roughnecked villagers. They were very shocked on Monday to see the scene repeated at the heart of their capital. "We've been invaded by these bandits who are liable to do anything," laments a shopkeeper. "These acts are not Islam. It is a perversion," says Emad.

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