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Arab media and perceptions

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The myth that there's a moderate, centrist, and pro-West majority in Iraq just waiting to be tapped into continues to sputter on, encouraged by media that gets quotes from the most westernized and west-friendly sources and politicians, as well as, of course, mendacious claims by the reality-averse community. In reality, Iraqi opinion of the U.S. is overwhelmingly negative, and this is reflected in the kind of stories that saturate Arab press but rarely appear in the U.S.

The following is a sample of news stories translated from the original Arabic. All but the first are from Azzaman, which is run by Saad Bazzaz, a former media chief in Iraq who fell out with Saddam (and defected) in 1992, so it's not a comprehensive sample, but the topics are, I think, representative.

- A report that Moqtada al-Sadr himself received the noose that hung Saddam (and a Kuwaiti businessman's attempts to buy it. Gosh, hard to imagine that Sunnis thought the hanging process represented a direct provocation.

- Iraq's unemployment at 50%. Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Mohamed Radhi said the high jobless rate was devastating to a country torn by sectarian strife and violence.

- Iraqi official claims U.S. lying about reconstruction projects. Americans "prevent the implementation of strategic projects that are of benefit to the provincial population at large," the official said. Obviously he hasn't been watching enough Fox News.

- The headline: Children die, miscarriages increase as U.S. troops lay siege to city. The money quote of the article: The town's nearly 50,000 inhabitants are now without running water and food supplies are running dangerously low. But the occupiers seem to be determined to proceed with their mass punishment and are turning away aid convoys.

- Editorial: U.S. concept of victory in Iraq is laughable. The word ‘victory’ is so frequently used in the U.S. political rhetoric that it has almost lost its meanings. For example, U.S. officials call the opening of a hair dressing saloon led by a Muslim woman in Afghanistan a victory even if they are certain that the hapless woman will eventually lose her life as a result. And the talk of victory over 'terrorists' in Iraq has been these officials’ mantra since the fall of the former regime. But they hide the fact that the country was free of all forms of their so-called terror.

Needless to say, the point is not that I agree with everything in the Iraqi press -- I certainly don't -- but this is decently representative of thoughts and feelings in Iraq. And our president is miffed that Iraqis aren't grateful.

I continue to believe that only people who have zero perspective on what life is like without having everything completely provided for would think that "freedom" -- and apparently total anarchy and lawlessness counts -- is everyone's priority above all else.

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