Saturday, June 20, 2009


The glamor and glory of a war correspondent.
Five straight days in the same clothes. Five hours on plastic chairs between planes at London's Heathrow Airport, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Four hours on metal chairs at Istanbul's airport, 11 p.m.- 3 a.m. No luggage after landing at Baghdad International Airport at 6 a.m.. It stayed in Turkey. Washing your hair with hotel hand soap.
Wednesday a biblical sandstorm blew into Baghdad. Visibility that night was one meter. Sahar, a McClatchy bureau reporter, braved the reddish-brown fug to pick up her son up at an Internet cafe. He walked in looking like a gray ghost. No planes in the air, so no bag.
Earlier, Nasif, the bureau manager, kindly dispatched a driver. He returned with shampoo, two pair of pants, two shirts, disposable razors, shaving cream, two undershirts (called "wife beaters" in trailer parks) and two pair of underwear--briefs, colored in green, blue and orange triangles with "Dream Man" stenciled around the waistband. We always wondered what the Scots wore under their kilts. Now we know what some Iraqi men wear under their dishdashas, the gray or white neck-to-ankle robes

The above is from Mike Tharp's "Your correspondent in the rainbow 'Dream Man' undies" (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers). The US broadcast networks left Iraq. Additional outlets are packing it in as well -- despite the fact that not only has the Iraq War not ended, there are over four times as many US service members in Iraq as in Afghanistan. In Thursday's snapshot, we note that Tharp, the executive editor of the Merced Sun-Star, had returned to Iraq for another period of on the ground reporting. Friday's snapshot noted Alice Fordham was in Iraq reporting for the Times of London and blogging at the paper's Inside Iraq. Fordham has covered the Twittering deputy prime minister, how baking can break down barriers, duststorms and rappers:

Meet the Narcycist. He’s an Iraqi slice of the rich and varied world of Arabic hip hop and his new video is quite entertaining if only for its title of PHATWA, which the great man told The Times, "stands for Purposeful Hatred Attacking The Wrong Arabs OR Political Hip-Hop Attracting The World's Attention," addressing the woes of a young Arab going through airport security.
While he was born in the UAE and grew up in Canada, he maintains a strong national identity and is by no means the only Iraqi pop artist operating from overseas -- there are artists in Lebanon and Syria, and another rapper in Jordan. The Narcycist says that, “music opened up that hole that was the loss of our motherland I think and filled it with representation; or the ability to represent my people in one way or another.” Western-style pop music is just beginning to filter into Baghdad, but most of the Iraqi pop music is listened to among the diaspora, according to the Narcycist.

Inside Iraq is also the name of the blog where McClatchy's Iraqi correspondents blog and today an Iraqi correspondent offers:

The Ministry of Interior spokesman said 115 charges of violations of human rights of Iraqis in detention centers have been forwarded to the courts.
Eight officers and two civilians were charged with violations. Nine were convicted and one was acquitted.
Today, 642 complaints are now being looked at by investigators, and so far they've found enough evidence to foward 43 cases to the courts.
Most charges were for being arrested without a court order, some for torture during interrogations and others for rape.
After the press conference held by the ministry was done, I had one more question. So I followed the spokesman to the corridor and called out to him, "We have inherited a legacy of total disregard for human rights from the previous regime. Does the ministry have any programs to raise awareness of the people handling the detainees, to impress upon them the importance of human rights and decent treatment?"

On the topic of Iraqi refugees, Theo Emery's "Iraqi Immigrants: Refugees in a Land of No Opportunity" (TIME magazine) explains :

According to assistance agencies, Iraqi refugees across the country -- some of whom, like the Jabers, risked violence, kidnapping and death threats for assisting U.S. forces -- face the danger of homelessness in their adopted land, a threat heightened by the foundering economy. The government's refugee assistance system as it exists is in crisis, and is failing to meet its basic mandate to protect and serve refugees, said Robert Carey, vice president of resettlement policy at the International Rescue Committee, which assists Iraqis and other refugees to resettle in the United States. A new report co-sponsored by the IRC and the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute points out that the problems existed long before the economic downturn, but the recession has highlighted and heightened its flaws. (Read about the plight of Iraq's refugees.)
The fundamental problem is that employment is the backbone of the U.S. resettlement program. Refugees are expected to find work when they arrive in the United States, and to move as quickly as possible toward self-sufficiency, a system tailored to an economy with plentiful jobs. When jobs dry up, as they have now, the system collapses, Carey said.

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