March 25, 2007

You Can't Can Can't Go Home Again


With the Administration trying to squeeze every ounce of propaganda out of “the surge,” why the help?

The article, “Reclaiming Homes, Iraqis Find Peril Still at Door,” in Friday’s NYT, gives the impression the so-called surge is allowing Iraqi’s displaced by sectarian violence to return to their homes in Baghdad.  Based on the headline and the first nine paragraphs, you would surely believe the momentum is shifting, if slowly, back toward a more civil, pluralistic society.

Not till you get that far, however, does U.S. military and Iraqi government wishful thinking end, and descriptive facts begin. 

It’s from that point you realize the preceding information was based, “on the ground,” one the example of a single returnee. What we’re then informed is that:

“Rumors have circulated for weeks that some people who returned have been killed by resurgent militants…”

“(T)he government’s figure of 2,000 [people returned home] is open to question.”

“What is certain … is that nearly all displaced families have decided to remain where they are until conditions improve….”

If the text does a U-turn, however, the situation — as presented visually — is clear from the beginning.

In the case of Sabiha Jassim, and her children, Salah, 9, and Noor, 11, above, living in a mosque in the Shiite neighborhood of Baladiyat since they abandoned their house, they don’t appear to be going anywhere.  And if you review the seven photo slide show, three of which focus on the Jassim family, there is no indication — at least where live people are concerned — that anybody has gotten close to their original home.

… On the other hand, it’s possible the story is based on such limited data, there is no way to know if people are going home or not.  This is clearly a problem with the pictures, as well, based solely on two families, one extended.  And if that’s the case, then on what basis can we form any conclusions at all?

(image: Max Becherer/Polaris, for The New York Times. Baghdad. March 22, 2007.

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Michael Shaw
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