Thursday, July 26, 2007

Oh look, it's universal . . . for some men

Street celebrations following the Iraqi national soccer team's Asia Cup semifinals victory turned into another cruel tragedy Wednesday when two suicide car bombs exploded amid throngs of revelers, killing 50 and injuring more than 130 in Baghdad, police said.
The attacks broke the wave of euphoria that swept the capital and other parts of the nation after the Iraqi team beat South Korea 4-3 in a close-fought game in Malaysia.
Thousands of overjoyed Iraqis poured into the streets of Baghdad, firing their guns in the air and waving huge flags. Iraqis danced and cheered for their mixed-sect soccer team, one of the last national symbols in a country that's disintegrating along strictly drawn lines of Sunni and Shiite Muslim and Kurd.
Witnesses said the first blast at 7 p.m. tore through a crowd that was chanting, "Today is your day, heroes!" in a public square of the once-upscale Mansour district. Iraqi police blamed a suicide car bomber; at least 30 people died and 75 were wounded.

The above is from Hannah Allam and Lelia Fadel's "Suicide bombings sour celebration of Iraqi soccer win" (McClatchy Newspapers). We'll stay on the above violence by noting the New York Times' coverage of it and we'll pick up mid-stream because apparently when two men cover the topic they think it's important to make like they're doing the sports minute on the nightly news before getting to the violence. If we all agree to assume Richard A. Oppel Jr and Qais Mizher are such big jock 'studs' that they have to wear athletic cups at all times when reporting, will they agree not to start out a story on bombs that left at least 50 dead by talking "errant kick"s, goalposts and "4-2 shootout victory"s? Will they agree that when they're allegedly reporting on at least 50 dead, they devote more than a single paragraph to that and avoid 'reporting' on a game they watched on television?

If not, could the paper please transfer them over to the sports section and assign these type of stories to reporters who grasp that 50 dead is more important than a sporting event which, for the record, did not take place in Iraq? From well into "Soccer Victory Lifts Iraqis; Bombs Kill 50:"

Then, just as suddenly, the moment passed in places, and the fractured Iraq re-emerged. As throngs of people danced and shouted in Baghdad, insurgents took quick advantage of the unguarded revelry. Two suicide car bombs ripped through cheering crowds in Mansour, on the western side of Baghdad, and in Ghadir, on the city's eastern side. Together they killed at least 50 people and wounded 135 more, according to an Interior Ministry official.

On the headline, it should be noted that the AFP photo accompanying the article appears to make clear that those "lift"ed by the victory are male and only male "Iraqis". On the text of the article, it takes a lot nerve (maybe they were on a locker room high?) to write of what's going on "in most of the country" when you're confined to the Green Zone and when 4 million Iraqis are internally and externally displaced. Someone's apparently been reading too many of the non-stop MNF press releases on the soccer game (which started going out last summer).

Far from the fumes of the Times' boys' jocks, IRIN informs:

Haifaa Nour, 33-year-old president of the Women’s Freedom Organisation (WFO), one of the few women’s rights organisations in Iraq, said the threatening letters she had recently been receiving would not deter her from her job, even if it cost her her life. However, she acknowledged that for a woman activist the risks of doing humanitarian work were increasing daily.
"After the US-led invasion in 2003, women's rights were well recognised... but unfortunately in the past two years our situation has deteriorated and the targeting of activists and women aid workers has increased, forcing dozens to give up their jobs," Haifaa said. "I know my life is under threat and I might be killed at any time especially for refusing to wear a veil or other traditional clothes, but if I do so, I will just be abetting the extremists," she said.

Somehow, I'm doubting women, any women, were included in the "mob of teenagers" celebrating in downtown Baghdad that a stringer phoned in to the Times' jock boys nor do I see any woman mentioned at all in their reports on various men and "commandos." But hey, as long as the boys kicked up their heels we should all celebrate, right? Yeah let's all play stupid this morning.

Megan Greenwell (Washington Post) observes (in a report that actually addresses the bombing as well as the crumbling Iraqi Parliament -- the jock boys of the New York Times were too busy head butting for that one), "Still, the streets were choked with crowds of shirtless young men, chanting, singing, waving Iraqi flags and shooting off firecrackers." Not reading about any women there. Possibly, boys in a war zone should attempt to remember they are alleged hard news reporters and not Biff and Holt from the sports coverage team?

In the real world, Leila Fadel's "serving in Iraq" (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy News) details the realities for one American in Iraq:

Today he serves his second deployment in Iraq and this is his description of his military service: "Our job is to go around the world killing people at the American citizens' expense."
Somewhere in Iraq this soldier is hurting.
"Orwell wrote in 1984 that the most rational views of "war" reside with the subjects of the disputed territories. The most delusional views occur with the most intellectual, educated people of the occupying power," he wrote to me.

In the New York Times, Michael Cieply writes of the upcoming films addressing Iraq:

On a night four years ago, five soldiers back from three months in Iraq went drinking at a Hooters restaurant and a topless bar near Fort Benning, Ga.
Before the night was over, one of them, Specialist Richard R. Davis, was dead of at least 33 stab wounds, his body doused with lighter fluid and burned. Two of the group would eventually be convicted of the murder, another pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and the last confessed to concealing the crime.
Now some in Hollywood want moviegoers to decide if the killing is emblematic of a war gone bad, part of a new and perhaps risky willingness in the entertainment business to push even the touchiest debates about post-9/11 security, Iraq and the troops' status from the confines of documentaries into the realm of mainstream political drama.
On Sept. 14, Warner Independent Pictures expects to release "In the Valley of Elah," a drama inspired by the Davis murder, written and directed by Paul Haggis, whose "Crash" won the Academy Award for best picture in 2006. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones as a retired veteran who defies Army bureaucrats and local officials in a search for his son's killers. In one of the movie's defining images, the American flag is flown upside down in the heartland, the signal of extreme distress.

We've noted this topic many times before (including after this year's Oscars when a number of writers online elected to attack the movie industry without grasping the time lag between development, greenlight, filming and release but just knew nothing was in the works because they didn't know about it). Irwin Winkler, in the article, looks at the bad box office for his own film and speculates that "audiences might prefer a longer interval before viewing events as troubling as war". Possible. It's equally possible that bad marketing, a bad title and casting actors known for body wash operettas on the small screen doesn't and will never translate into box office. Home of the Brave is a wonderful film but the title alone hurt it before anyone ever saw it and the poster only fed into fears. Of past films named in the article, only Coming Home was a box office smash and that film had a poster that caught the eye, not one that looked the front page of Stars & Stripes. Iraq was "covered" in the early days of the illegal war the same way Vietnam was in real time -- a lot of rah-rah crap on past wars intended to ride the perceived war craze the nation was allegedly in the midst of it. Then as now, audiences stayed away. If you're attempting to make a film that's not trying to sell the illegal war, the marketing for it shouldn't confuse the viewers into thinking they're about to sit through two hours of war porn. Whatever makes the film different (and each film in the article -- as well as several not listed -- has a quality that makes it stand out) is what needs to be marketed. You can't sell serious drama with posters that look like a backdrop to one of Bully Boy's photo-ops.

The e-mail address for this site is Gina called to say she and Krista have changed the topic for the round-table taking place tonight. If you're participating, check your e-mail because Krista is e-mailing to note the new topic (suggested by Carl) (and not at all surprising in light of yesterday). Visitors with anything that's worth noting and on the topic of Iraq I will try to note in this evening's entry. A lot of nonsense coming into the public account has delayed at least three things. (And we'll also be noting a radio program that probably has nothing to do with Iraq.)