Thursday, August 19, 2004

Life in the 'New Iraq' Is Terrible:
Take Le Monde's Word For It

When the independent newspaper must interview somebody, of course it must be a someone from a government-financed agency who can be counted on to spew anti-American messages ("the United States have shown to what extent they intend to remain masters of the political process", "the situation gives the impression of a deplorable waste", "the acting government being perceived as the vassal of its American godfather", "the courage" of Moqtada Al-Sadr), messages that the Le Monde interviewers (in this case, Mouna Naïm), as usual, can be counted on to repeat — and elicit — in their questions ("Isn't the 'new Irak' being built in the image of the fallen régime: nepotism, corruption, authoritarianism?").

The funny thing (so to speak) is that David Baran says many correct things, but because these truths are considered pro-American ("the parallel [in your question] would appear troubling unless one considers the arbitrariness and the brutality — which are incomparable — of the former régime", "the American intervention [although] perceived as cynical and self-serving, appeared as the only possible solution to an unending status quo; the contest was thus favorable to [Bush's military] intervention"), the (short) sentences are inevitable minimized in the following (much longer) groups of sentences to bring about a general feeling that skewers Uncle Sam.

(This is what can be called "token sentences", sentences that, like certain articles, news-gathering, and letters to the editor are added only to a periodical's print edition so that the owners and editors able to say "Oh, well, of course we are objective and allow all viewpoints to be expressed, see the evidence for yourself", although such viewpoints appear only, say, 4% of the time.)

For instance, after evoking the disorganization of Iraqi institutions, the humiliated and disappointed population, the resentment of the Iraqis, all the American faux pas, and "the heavy responsability of the United States in the current situation", the whole article (and the interview) ends with a paragraph on the "country the instability promises to be enduring. The [basic question, therefore, is the following]: For want of a pacified Iraq, how does one manage the instability while preserving the appearances of a certain progress?"

Of course, under Saddam Hussein, you realize, Iraq was stable. And there weren't any journalists to poke their noses around and sniff out the various problems, big or small, real or imagined, that Le Monde is now making such a huge fuss about. Stability in a country where policemen could come into your home, remove your husband, son, or father, your wife, daughter, or mother, and take them away to be "taken care of" in the city jails (or in the killing fields), now that was something!

Aah, for the good ol' days…

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