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The Untouchable Chief of Baghdad(reservist rips Washington Post baghdad chief)
CommentaryPage ^ | 06/29/04 | Eric M. Johnson

Posted on 06/29/2004 1:01:16 PM PDT by Pikamax

By Eric M. Johnson 06/29/2004

Iraq veterans often say they are confused by American news coverage, because their experience differs so greatly from what journalists report. Soldiers and Marines point to the slow, steady progress in almost all areas of Iraqi life and wonder why they don’t get much notice – or in many cases, any notice at all.

Part of the explanation is Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post. He spent most of his career on the metro and technology beats, and has only four years of foreign reporting, two of which are in Iraq. The 31-year-old now runs a news operation that can literally change the world, heading a bureau that is the source for much of the news out of Iraq.

Very few newspapers have full-time international reporters at all these days, relying on stringers of varying quality, as well as wire services such as Reuters and Agence France-Presse, also of varying quality. The Post's reporting is delivered intravenously into the bloodstream of Official Washington, and thus a front-page article out of Iraq can have major repercussions in policy-making.

This effect is magnified because of the Post's influence on what other news organizations report. While its national clout lags behind the New York Times, many reporters look to the Post for cues on how to approach a story. The Post interprets events, and the herd of independent minds bleat their approval and start tapping on their keyboards with their hooves.

Chandrasekaran's crew generates a relentlessly negative stream of articles from Iraq – and if there are no events to report, they resort to man-on-the-street interviews and cobble together a story from that. Last week, there was a front-page, above-the-fold article about Iraqis jeering U.S. troops, which amounted to a pastiche of quotations from hostile Iraqis. It was hardly unique. Given the expense of maintaining an Iraq bureau with a dozen staffers, they have to write something to justify themselves, even if the product is shoddy.

This week, Chandrasekaran has a Pulitzer-bait series called "Promises Unkept: The U.S. Occupation of Iraq." The grizzled foreign-desk veteran -- who until 2000 was covering dot-com companies -- now sits in judgment over a world-shaking issue, in a court whose rulings echo throughout the media landscape. He finds the Bush Administration guilty. Such a surprise.

Before major combat operations were over, Chandrasekaran was already quoting Iraqis proclaiming the American operation a failure. Reading his dispatches from April 2003, you can already see his meta-narrative take shape: basically, that the Americans are clumsy fools who don’t know what they’re doing, and Iraqis hate them. This meta-narrative informs his coverage and the coverage of the reporters he supervises, who rotate in and out of Iraq.

How do I know this? Because my fellow Marines and I witnessed it with our own eyes. Chandrasekaran showed up in the city of Al Kut last April, talked to a few of our officers, and toured the city for a few hours. He then got back into his air-conditioned car and drove back to Baghdad to write about the local unrest.

"The Untouchable 'Mayor' of Kut," his article's headline blared the next day. It described a local, Iranian-backed troublemaker named Abbas Fadhil, who was squatting in the provincial government headquarters. He had gathered a mob of people with nothing better to do, told them to camp out in the headquarters compound, and there they sat, defying the Marines of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Chandrasekaran was very impressed with the little usurper: "'We thank the Americans for getting rid of Saddam's regime, but now Iraq must be run by Iraqis,' Fadhil thundered during a meeting today with his supporters in the building's spacious conference room. 'We cannot allow the Americans to rule us from this office'....Fadhil has set up shop in an official building and appears to have rallied support across this city of 300,000 people.

"The refusal of Marine commanders to recognize Fadhil's new title has fueled particularly intense anti-American sentiments here," Chandrasekeran continued. "In scenes not seen in other Iraqi cities, U.S. convoys have been loudly jeered. Waving Marines have been greeted with angry glares and thumbs-down signs."

Readers must have concluded that Kut was on the verge of exploding. The entire city was ready to throw out the despised American infidel invaders and install their new "mayor" as their beloved leader.

What utter rubbish. In our headquarters, we had a small red splotch on a large map of Kut, representing the neighborhood that supported Abbas Fadhil. When asked about him, most citizens of Kut rolled their eyes. His followers were mainly poor, semi-literate, and not particularly well-liked. They were marginal in every sense of the word, and they mattered very little in the day-to-day life of a city that was struggling to get back on its feet.

We knew the local sentiment intimately, because as civil affairs Marines, our job was to help restore the province's water, electricity, medical care, and other essentials of life. Our detachment had teams constantly coming and going throughout the city, and Chandrasekeran could have easily accompanied at least one of them.

Since he didn't, he couldn’t see how the Iraqis outside of the red splotch reacted to us. People of every age waved and smiled as we rumbled past (except male youths, who, like their American counterparts, were too cool for that kind of thing.) Our major security problem was keeping friendly crowds of people away from us so we could spot bad guys.

None of those encouraging things made it into the article. Nor did anything about how we had been helping to fix the city’s problems as soon as we arrived. Just a quick-and-dirty sensationalistic piece about a local Islamist thug bravely going toe-to-toe with the legendary United States Marines. The general reaction to Chandrasekeran’s article was either laughter or dumb bewilderment.

Soon afterwards, a Marine commander met privately with Fadhil and told him he would be forcefully removed if he did not leave the government building. Fadhil, chastened, asked if he could slither into exile without the appearance of coercion, so he could save face. The commander agreed. Suddenly faced with a real confrontation, the "mayor" had backed down, and he left without any riots or bloodshed. The Americans took over the office that Fadhil said we should never occupy. The Post didn't cover any of that, either.

Don't take my word for it that the Post’s reporting is substandard and superficial. Take the word of Philip Bennett, the Post's assistant managing editor for foreign news. In a surprisingly candid June 6 piece, he admits that "the threat of violence has distanced us from Iraqis." Further, "we have relied on Iraqi stringers filing by telephone to our correspondents in Baghdad, and on embedding with the military. The stringers are not professional journalists, and their reports are heavy on the simplest direct observation." Translation: we are reprinting things from people we barely know, from a safe location dozens of miles away from the fighting.

Bennett flatly concedes that they have a “dim picture” of what is happening in Iraq, (not that you would know it from the actual news articles he approves for publication.) "The people of Iraq...are leading their country, and ours, down an uncertain path. This is a story waiting to be told."

Waiting to be told? They have four or five full-time reporters there at any given time. What are they doing, if they're not telling the story of Iraq's new birth?

Bennett might have added that not only are the reporters "distanced" from Iraqis, they're distanced from Iraq itself. Covering it from Baghdad is like covering California from a secure bunker in south-central Los Angeles. Sure, a lot happens in L.A., but you're going to miss important things if you don't go to San Diego or San Francisco, or even Bakersfield once in a while.

Chandrasekeran’s meta-narrative admits of no ambiguity. For him and his reporters, they report in straightforward, declarative sentences, with none of the caveats that Bennett mentions. The Americans are still bumbling, the Iraqis continue to seethe. So it shall be in the Washington Post, until Iraq succeeds and they can no longer deny it, just like journalists were forced to admit reality at the end of the Cold War. Or else their words will have their effect, and Western journalists have to flee the country as it disintegrates.

Since I saw Rajiv Chandrasekaran's integrity up close, I haven't believed a word he writes, or any story coming out of the bureau he runs. You shouldn't, either.

Eric M. Johnson, a writer in Washington D.C., participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Marine Corps. reservist.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: hewillburninhell; iraq; liars; liberalgutlessness; marines; mediabias; medialies; moralrelativism; sedition; washingtonpost; wp
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1 posted on 06/29/2004 1:01:17 PM PDT by Pikamax
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To: Pikamax
Here's the Little Prince:


2 posted on 06/29/2004 1:08:21 PM PDT by danneskjold ("Somebody is behind this..." - George Soros)
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To: Pikamax
Excellent perspective.

Nam Vet

3 posted on 06/29/2004 1:10:56 PM PDT by Nam Vet (Arab nutball bumper sticker ..... "My other wife is a goat")
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To: Pikamax
Since I saw Rajiv Chandrasekaran's integrity up close, I haven't believed a word he writes, or any story coming out of the bureau he runs. You shouldn't, either

I hope that he sent to the WP even though they would never print it they need to read it.

I am deeply saddened, seriesly, but not suprised.

4 posted on 06/29/2004 1:10:57 PM PDT by Mister Baredog ((Part of the Reagan legacy is to re-elect G.W. Bush))
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To: Pikamax

This story is right on!! Being that I am in Baghdad, I get to see some of what the daily routine for the people is here. When I watch the news, I am wondering where they dig this stuff up.

Its not like the "unbiased" press would report on improving conditions in Iraq would they? Not in an election year and certainly not the Washington Manifesto or the New York Manifesto....


5 posted on 06/29/2004 1:11:43 PM PDT by MikefromOhio (Kerry renames the US The People's Republic of America)
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To: Pikamax

Good story ! ( Too bad it won't be read outside this message board.)


6 posted on 06/29/2004 1:12:31 PM PDT by genefromjersey
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To: Pikamax

good one


7 posted on 06/29/2004 1:12:42 PM PDT by Texas_Jarhead
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To: Pikamax

Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark.


8 posted on 06/29/2004 1:14:10 PM PDT by The_Victor
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To: Pikamax
The Washington Post recently had a little-publicized purge in which they offered huge retirement packages to their most senior (i.e. highly paid) reporters and editors. Many of the best of them took the money and ran. As a result, we have atrocities like this 31-year-old neophyte running the Post's Iraq coverage.

I have sent this to Howard Kurtz and to the Post's ombudsman. We'll see if it gets any response.

9 posted on 06/29/2004 1:16:50 PM PDT by Dems_R_Losers (Proud to be a Reagan Alumna!)
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To: Pikamax
This should be a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post. Being the open forum and truth searching orginatition they are, I'm sure they would be happy to print it. < / Little Orphen Annie mode >

Or maybe the Washington Times will print it. BTW. I wonder how many of Baghdad Bob's old employees are now stringers for the Post.

10 posted on 06/29/2004 1:18:59 PM PDT by Ditto ( No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced.)
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To: Howlin
This needs to be distributed far and wide. Calling all ping lists! Who has the media mischief ping list?
11 posted on 06/29/2004 1:26:00 PM PDT by hobson
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To: MikeinIraq

Welcome to FreeRepublic, Mike. Stay safe.


12 posted on 06/29/2004 1:26:01 PM PDT by MindyW
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To: Dems_R_Losers

This one would also be interesting to Brit Hume and would be likely to get some public exposure.


13 posted on 06/29/2004 1:26:26 PM PDT by Carolinamom
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To: hobson; 1Mike; 3catsanadog; ~Vor~; ~Kim4VRWC's~; A CA Guy; A Citizen Reporter; abner; Aeronaut; ...

PING FOR THE LITTLE PRINCE!!!


14 posted on 06/29/2004 1:27:29 PM PDT by Howlin
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To: Howlin

Thanks! Are you STILL awake?


15 posted on 06/29/2004 1:29:26 PM PDT by hobson
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To: Pikamax
"Very few newspapers have full-time international reporters at all these days"

Even putting ideology aside, this refers to a major troubling development in the "news" business. To save money as they were gobbled up by conglomerates, the media started closing offices overseas and even around the USA. They began relying on the wire services which were also cutting back. The "reporters" became news readers and the news readers spend lots of time interviewing - each other.

Gone are the days of lots of correspondents who had toured the World with U.S. forces during WWII. The media has truly become a left wing paper tiger, with less and less information value for the public.

16 posted on 06/29/2004 1:31:14 PM PDT by Williams
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To: Pikamax
Terrific article. Somebody should pass it along to the Post's ombudsman...
17 posted on 06/29/2004 1:35:54 PM PDT by Interesting Times (ABCNNBCBS -- yesterday's news.)
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To: MikeinIraq

Let me add a welcome to Freerepublic! I hope you get a chance to check in here once in a while with your perspective.


18 posted on 06/29/2004 1:39:41 PM PDT by Cap Huff
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To: Howlin

The media will learn a very harsh lesson come November. The biggest backlash ever recorded will be delivered by the Military to the very people who despise them and paint them as incompetent, bumbling fools. Thanks for the ping.


19 posted on 06/29/2004 1:42:50 PM PDT by TomServo ("I'm so upset that I'll binge on a Saltine.")
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To: Pikamax

Triple Bump.


20 posted on 06/29/2004 1:44:52 PM PDT by mattdono (To President Reagan: Rest now. Look in on us. Enjoy eternity. I'll see you again some day.)
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To: Pikamax

Did anyone catch Time's Baghdad bureau chief being interviewed on Fox News this morning? Australian guy, rambling, long-winded, full of sh*t. Came off very poorly.

I made a mental note to myself to pay even less attention to Time's biased bullsh*t.


21 posted on 06/29/2004 1:45:47 PM PDT by Jhensy
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To: Pikamax

BTT. The days of media gods are long past.


22 posted on 06/29/2004 1:47:08 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: MikeinIraq; Howlin; Peach; prairiebreeze; Dog
When I watch the news, I am wondering where they dig this stuff up.

They look for the lowest life forms and hang on their every word .. and if they can't do that the LIE and repeat it enough times hoping people will believe it

By the looks of the subscriptions from the WP and NYT and the rating from CNN .. Many folks are not falling for their LIES

Back when the troops were heading to Bagdad there was a reporter by the name of Richard Engle .. we called him Pretty Boy/Mr. Chicken/Pretty Chicken

Everyday he would call into the main headquarters here in New York to get the updated news so he could report on it because he never left his hotel room

The reason we know this is because there use to be a live webcam were many of us Freepers could hear what the reporters were saying off they air

It was a very eye opening experience Thank you for your service for our country and for the Iraqi people

We ARE hearing the great work y'all are doing ..

23 posted on 06/29/2004 1:50:43 PM PDT by Mo1 (50 States baby .. I want all 50 States come November !)
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To: Pikamax

BUMP!


24 posted on 06/29/2004 1:54:52 PM PDT by Paul Ross (Communism is a mental illness. Historical amnesia is its prerequisite.)
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To: Ditto

tagline: "No trees were killed in sending this message, but billions of electrons were inconvenienced."

Actually, I heard that they were very excited about it.

Ok, I'll go stand in a corner now.


25 posted on 06/29/2004 1:56:07 PM PDT by wyattearp (The best weapon to have in a gunfight is a shotgun - preferably from ambush.)
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To: MikeinIraq

Welcome, and stay safe. I hope you can give us a few word pictures of life in Baghdad from time to time.


26 posted on 06/29/2004 1:59:23 PM PDT by maica
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub; LindaSOG; Radix; Kathy in Alaska; MoJo2001; LaDivaLoca; Fawnn; ...
The media isn't biased ping < /sarcasm>
27 posted on 06/29/2004 2:00:36 PM PDT by Arrowhead1952 (It is not Bush's fault... it is the media's fault!)
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To: Pikamax

WaPo: Get rid of this snotty incompetent.


28 posted on 06/29/2004 2:02:41 PM PDT by aculeus
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To: Mo1

Hey, this guy's name sounds like he is an Iranian. Now an Iranian wouldn't have a vested interest in seeing Americans fail in Iraq, now would he?


29 posted on 06/29/2004 2:02:43 PM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: MikeinIraq
Dear MikeinIraq -

Thanks to Free Republic, Rush, FoxNews, Sean Hannity and the Internet, Americans know what our great military personnel are accomplishing in Iraq. Please know that the majority of true Americans are not as stupid as the liberal media believes. Nor have we forgotten 9/11. God Bless you and thank you for your service to America.

30 posted on 06/29/2004 2:04:29 PM PDT by maxwellp (Throw the U.N. in the garbage where it belongs.)
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To: Dems_R_Losers

Please let us know if they respond.


31 posted on 06/29/2004 2:06:21 PM PDT by iceskater (No nation or state ever taxed itself into prosperity.)
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To: Howlin

thanks for the ping


32 posted on 06/29/2004 2:07:03 PM PDT by iceskater (No nation or state ever taxed itself into prosperity.)
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To: Miss Marple

Interesting observation.....


33 posted on 06/29/2004 2:08:21 PM PDT by iceskater (No nation or state ever taxed itself into prosperity.)
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To: Mo1

The leftists lie, get the major headline, the people who want to believe it do, and then the truth emerges and does not get a headline and many people, even good conservatives, don't know the lies they have been told.


34 posted on 06/29/2004 2:10:31 PM PDT by Peach (The Clintons pardoned more terrorists than they ever captured or killed.)
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To: Pikamax; sultan88; Mudboy Slim; Corin Stormhands; jla; Flora McDonald; AdSimp; ...

Richmond ping.

Another perspective on the Washington Post.

Should I ping he-who-must-not-be-named? Would he then understand what a birdcage-liner the Wash Compost is???
Probably not.


35 posted on 06/29/2004 2:10:40 PM PDT by iceskater (No nation or state ever taxed itself into prosperity.)
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To: Dems_R_Losers

I truly believe the liberal media is self-destructing. I used to read the N.Y. Times many years ago, but haven't touched it in more than 20 years. I won't even read excerpts from liberal media newspapers here on FreeRepublic, because they disgust me.


36 posted on 06/29/2004 2:11:33 PM PDT by maxwellp (Throw the U.N. in the garbage where it belongs.)
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To: Miss Marple
Hey, this guy's name sounds like he is an Iranian. Now an Iranian wouldn't have a vested interest in seeing Americans fail in Iraq, now would he?

You always have a very good eye in pointing things out

37 posted on 06/29/2004 2:16:21 PM PDT by Mo1 (50 States baby .. I want all 50 States come November !)
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To: danneskjold
Here's the Little Prince:

Rajiv Chandrasekaran

I wonder if we can dig up further interesting info about him. Political and religious affiliations?

38 posted on 06/29/2004 2:18:41 PM PDT by lonevoice (Some things have to be believed to be seen)
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To: Miss Marple
Hey, this guy's name sounds like he is an Iranian. Now an Iranian wouldn't have a vested interest in seeing Americans fail in Iraq, now would he?

I thought it sounded Indian/Pakistani.

39 posted on 06/29/2004 2:22:10 PM PDT by Zionist Conspirator (Hinneh, mah tov umah na`im shevet 'achim gam-yachad!)
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To: Miss Marple

Sounds Indian to me.


40 posted on 06/29/2004 2:23:02 PM PDT by kabar
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To: Pikamax
As if on cue . . . read Rajiv's analysis on the handover:

Early Handover . . . Bad

41 posted on 06/29/2004 2:26:11 PM PDT by jayef
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To: Miss Marple

His name sounds more Indian to me, or possibly from somewhere else in Southeast Asia. (Probably Hindu and not Muslim.)

But clearly, looking only 12 years old and getting all this power has gone to his silly America-hating head. He covered dot-coms until a couple of years ago? And the WP put him in charge of Iraq? That says more about the WP than it does about this predictable twit.


42 posted on 06/29/2004 2:26:16 PM PDT by livius
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To: lonevoice
wonder if we can dig up further interesting info about him. Political and religious affiliations?

RAVI

Like several of the Reuters "reporters" these guys have connections to all kinds of web sites, religious organizations and various liberal "anti-conservative" media organizations.

They are anything but unbiased.

They are not fans of the home team. Being negative about the war is fine, but spinning against the truth is not in the best interest of the Post. We need a documentary or two. It's probably coming. Many are only qualified to report on negative events. Their shareholders are responsible and need to get the ax out, soon.

43 posted on 06/29/2004 2:30:28 PM PDT by alrea
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To: Pikamax
What?

The Washington Post isn't telling the full truth!!??

*swoon*

44 posted on 06/29/2004 2:41:01 PM PDT by Gritty ("'Americans are possibly the dumbest people on the planet"-Michael Moore)
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To: maica

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.....believe me when I say I am not as in the thick of things as say the Marines are in Fallujah and our guys around this country....

Allawi is a strong leader but he also has something akin to morals too. He will right the Iraqi ship (I hope I hope).

the liberals can call this a failure or whatever, that still won't help their boy win the election....


45 posted on 06/29/2004 2:42:46 PM PDT by MikefromOhio (Kerry renames the US The People's Republic of America)
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To: MikeinIraq

We will do everything we can here to make sure that their boy (nor his billionaire wife) gets nowhere near the White House.


46 posted on 06/29/2004 2:48:01 PM PDT by maica
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To: Jhensy
Did anyone catch Time's Baghdad bureau chief being interviewed on Fox News this morning? Australian guy, rambling, long-winded, full of sh*t. Came off very poorly.

I saw this and ran to FR to see if anyone posted anything about it. He was unbelievable. His main thesis was that because the Americans "dissed" Saddam's high command and Baathists by not allowing them to become the leaders of the "new Iraq", these heretofore secular and materialistic power mad (power mad is my term, not his) men became fervid Islamic warriors, looking to bring jihad to America as well as Iraq. They long for nothing more than to have Sharia law imposed everywhere!

This was one of the most ridiculous claims I have heard, yet the Time Bureau Chief pointed to his "living with" these people in their "training camps."

If he was hearing such tripe, they were only telling him what he wanted to hear.

Jon Scott could barely keep a straight face and it was obvious that Jon Scott thought he was a crackpot.

47 posted on 06/29/2004 2:50:38 PM PDT by HateBill
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To: Pikamax

Bump for later reading.


48 posted on 06/29/2004 2:57:13 PM PDT by Terpfen (Re-elect Bush; kill terrorists now, fix Medicare later.)
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To: Terpfen

bumpage!


49 posted on 06/29/2004 3:08:19 PM PDT by Bulldog1967 (Who is John Galt?)
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To: Terpfen

bumpage!


50 posted on 06/29/2004 3:08:20 PM PDT by Bulldog1967 (Who is John Galt?)
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