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The Other Fallujah Reporter [Fabulous article!]
Commentary Magazine ^ | 12/16/2007 | Michael J. Totten

Posted on 12/17/2007 6:54:02 AM PST by Tennessean4Bush

The Other Fallujah Reporter

Posted By Michael J. Totten On December 16, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” — Thomas Jefferson

I just returned home from a trip to Fallujah, where I was the only reporter embedded with the United States military. There was, however, an unembedded reporter in the city at the same time. Normally it would be useful to compare what I saw and heard while traveling and working with the Marines with what a colleague saw and heard while working solo. Unfortunately, the other Fallujah reporter was Ali al-Fadhily from Inter Press Services.

Mr. al-Fadhily [1] is unhappy with the way things are going in the city right now. It means little to him that the only shots fired by the Marines anymore are practice rounds on the range, and that there hasn’t been a single fire fight or combat casualty for months. That’s fair enough, as far as it goes, and perhaps to be expected from a reporter who isn’t embedded with the military and who focuses his attention on Iraqi civilians. The trouble is that Mr. Al-Fadhily’s hysterical exaggerations, refusal to provide crucial context, and outright fabrications amount to a serious case of journalistic malpractice.

Some of what al-Fadhily writes is correct. The economy and infrastructure really are shattered. Unemployment is greater than 50 percent, as he says. It’s true that most Iraqis – in Fallujah as well as everywhere else – don’t have access to safe drinking water. But he proves himself unreliable, to put it mildly, after only one sentence: “The city that was routed in November 2004 is still suffering the worst humanitarian conditions under a siege that continues.”

There is no “siege” in Fallujah. He is referring here to the hard perimeter around the city manned by Iraqi Police who prevent non-residents from bringing their cars in. It’s an extreme measure, no doubt about it. But it keeps the car bombers and weapon smugglers out. Iraqis who live in Fallujah are free to come and go as they please. The non-resident vehicle ban is a defensive measure, like a national border or castle moat. Its purpose is to prevent a siege from the outside.

My colleague (of sorts) at least acknowledges that “military actions are down to the minimum inside the city.” He adds, however, that “local and U.S. authorities do not seem to be thinking of ending the agonies of the over 400,000 residents of Fallujah.”

This is nonsense on stilts. Marines distribute food aid to impoverished local civilians. The electrical grid is being repaired now that insurgents no longer sabotage it. Solar-powered street lights have been installed on some of the main thoroughfares and will cover the entire city in two years if the war doesn’t come back. Locals are hired to pick up trash that went uncollected for months. A new sewage and water treatment plant is under construction in the poorest part of the city. Low-interest microloans are being distributed to small business owners to kick start the economy. American civilians donate school supplies to Iraqi children that are distributed by the Marines. Mr. al-Fadhily would know all this if he embedded with the U.S. military. Whether or not he would take the trouble to report these facts if he knew of them is another question.

He claims seventy percent of the city was destroyed during Operation Phantom Fury, also known as Al-Fajr, in November 2004. This is a lie. If he really went to Fallujah himself, he knows it’s a lie. It’s possible that as much as seventy percent of the city was damaged, if a single bullet hole in the side of a house counts as damage. I really don’t know. It’s hard to say. But [2] I saw much more destruction in nearby Ramadi than I saw in Fallujah. Even there the percentage of the city that was actually destroyed is in the low single digits – nowhere near seventy percent. And I spent triple the amount of time in Fallujah as in Ramadi. I didn’t personally see every street or house, but [3] I followed the Marines on foot patrols every day and never once retraced my steps.

You don’t have to take my word for it. [4] Look at Google’s interactive satellite image of Fallujah from space. You can clearly see which parts of the city were destroyed and which weren’t. Most of the damage is in the north. Some of the blanks spots you’ll see are empty lots, some are cemeteries, others are destruction from war. Even if all the blank spots in the city were sites of destruction, the percentage of the total area destroyed is far closer to zero percent than to seventy. Mr. al-Fadhily’s exaggeration is on par with the libelous claim that the Israel Defense Forces killed thousands of people in the Jenin refugee camp in April of 2002 when the actual number was a mere 52.

“All of the residents interviewed by IPS were extremely angry with the media for recent reports that the situation in the city is good,” he wrote. “Many refused to be quoted for different reasons.”

This is about as believable as his seventy-percent destruction claim. What media reports from Fallujah are the residents talking about? Fallujah is very nearly a journalist-free zone. Mr. al-Fadhily and I are practically the only ones who have been there for some time. [5] Google News finds hardly any articles filed from the city aside from mine and his. Noah Shachtman published a Fallujah piece in Wired recently, but it’s unlikely that anyone there came across it. It’s also not very likely that the Arabic-language satellite channels Fallujah residents have access to are bursting with reports of good news from the former insurgent stronghold.

Anyway, the situation in the city isn’t good. Not at all. What it is is non-violent. It’s not a war zone anymore. The infrastructure and economy are only just now beginning to slowly recover because the war, until recently, made rebuilding impossible.

“Many residents told IPS that US-backed Iraqi police and army personnel have detained people who have spoken to the media,” al-Fadhily wrote.

Some Iraqis may well have said this. The idea that Americans were setting off car bombs was another theory that made the rounds in Fallujah not long ago. Only the most paranoid or irresponsible of reporters would bother to publish such claims without a dash of skepticism or evidence.

I have been to the Iraqi Police jail in Fallujah. It’s a terrible place that probably ought to be investigated by Human Rights Watch or the like. (The Marines I spoke to insist it is an abomination.) The Iraqi Police force gets, and deserves, a lot of legitimate criticism. But the idea that its officers arrest citizens for talking to journalists is about as plausible as the silly claim made by Iraqis in Nassiriya recently that the Americans dumped a shark in a Euphrates River canal to frighten people.

Mr. al-Fadhily quotes many disgruntled Iraqis. That’s all fine and good. I, too, heard lots of complaints. There’s plenty to gripe about. Fallujah is a broken-down, ramshackle, impoverished wreck of a city. It was ruined by more than three years of war. What else can you expect of a place that only stopped exploding this summer? But if the best possible scenario ever unfolds, if peace arrives even in Baghdad, if the government becomes truly moderate and representative, if rainbows break out in the skies and the fields fill with smiling children and bunny rabbits, somebody, somewhere, will complain that Iraq has been taken over by the imperial powers of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks.



TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: aqi; embed; enemedia; mediawar; michaeljtotten; reporting; waronerror; yellowjournalism

1 posted on 12/17/2007 6:54:04 AM PST by Tennessean4Bush
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To: Allegra; ari-freedom; arthurus; Bahbah; Ben Hecks; Blood of Tyrants; BOBTHENAILER; Boundless; ...

Totten smacks down inaccurate reporting in Iraq ping.


2 posted on 12/17/2007 6:54:51 AM PST by Tennessean4Bush (An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist fears this is true.)
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To: jveritas; Allegra; elhombrelibre; SandRat; bray
But if the best possible scenario ever unfolds, if peace arrives even in Baghdad, if the government becomes truly moderate and representative, if rainbows break out in the skies and the fields fill with smiling children and bunny rabbits, somebody, somewhere, will complain that Iraq has been taken over by the imperial powers of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks.

No truer words have been written about this war.

3 posted on 12/17/2007 6:59:11 AM PST by Tennessean4Bush (An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist fears this is true.)
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To: Tennessean4Bush
" This is nonsense on stilts "
this would make a great tagline
4 posted on 12/17/2007 7:11:11 AM PST by Prophet in the wilderness (PSALM .53 : 1 The FOOL hath said in his heart, there is no GOD.)
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To: Tennessean4Bush

The Truth is coming out about the Liars in the Dinosaur Press.

Pray for W and Our Victorious Troops


5 posted on 12/17/2007 7:13:15 AM PST by bray (Let's Bring Christ Back to Christmas)
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To: Tennessean4Bush; AdmSmith; Berosus; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Fred Nerks; ..
The trouble is that Mr. Al-Fadhily's hysterical exaggerations, refusal to provide crucial context, and outright fabrications amount to a serious case of journalistic malpractice.
Thanks T4B.
6 posted on 12/17/2007 7:25:31 AM PST by SunkenCiv (Profile updated Monday, December 10, 2007____________________https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: Vom Willemstad K-9

ping


7 posted on 12/17/2007 7:27:31 AM PST by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat ( Islamia Delenda Est ))
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To: Prophet in the wilderness
I'd like somehow to make the following my tagline, but it is too darn long!
But if the best possible scenario ever unfolds, if peace arrives even in Baghdad, if the government becomes truly moderate and representative, if rainbows break out in the skies and the fields fill with smiling children and bunny rabbits, somebody, somewhere, will complain that Iraq has been taken over by the imperial powers of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks.

8 posted on 12/17/2007 7:28:59 AM PST by Tennessean4Bush (An optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist fears this is true.)
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To: Tennessean4Bush

Michael J. Totten is on my A-list of required reading - he is one of that rare examples of real journalism and honest reporting of the facts.


9 posted on 12/17/2007 7:49:25 AM PST by Tolik
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To: Prophet in the wilderness

Absolutely!


10 posted on 12/17/2007 7:49:35 AM PST by tlj18 (Mike Huckabee is nonsense on stilts.)
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To: jveritas; FARS; Ernest_at_the_Beach; knighthawk; Marine_Uncle; SandRat; Steel Wolf; CAP; ...

Future KFC in Iraq ping.


11 posted on 12/17/2007 8:03:21 AM PST by elhombrelibre (GEN Petraeus is MAN of the YEAR. Ron Paul is the Jane Fonda of the year.)
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To: elhombrelibre

Now why would the Inter Press Services be looking to write unreliable information? (Sarcasm on)


12 posted on 12/17/2007 8:11:10 AM PST by april15Bendovr (Free Republic & Ron Paul Cult = oxymoron)
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To: Timesink; martin_fierro; reformed_democrat; Loyalist; =Intervention=; PianoMan; GOPJ; ...

Media Schadenfreude and Media Shenanigans PING


13 posted on 12/17/2007 8:41:24 AM PST by weegee (If Bill Clinton can sit in on Hillary's Cabinet Meetings then GWBush should ask to get to sit in too)
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To: Tennessean4Bush

Luv that last paragraph!


14 posted on 12/17/2007 9:05:22 AM PST by RDTF (Remember Pearl Harbor)
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To: Tennessean4Bush

Thanks for the ping. BTTT!


15 posted on 12/17/2007 9:11:16 AM PST by PGalt
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To: Tennessean4Bush; Cannoneer No. 4; Pinkbell; jazusamo; RedRover; RDTF

Excellent — and substantiated — smackdown!!


16 posted on 12/17/2007 9:39:36 AM PST by StarCMC (http://cannoneerno4.wordpress.com; http://starcmc.wordpress.com/ - The Enemedia is inside the gates.)
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To: Tennessean4Bush; StarCMC

Great piece by Totten! Thanks for the post and pings.


17 posted on 12/17/2007 9:52:53 AM PST by jazusamo (DefendOurMarines.com)
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To: Tennessean4Bush

Totten is awesome.

I like the google map challenge.


18 posted on 12/17/2007 10:24:07 AM PST by lonestar67 (Its time to withdraw from the War on Bush-- your side is hopelessly lost in a quagmire.)
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To: Tennessean4Bush

Superb article


19 posted on 12/17/2007 11:02:31 AM PST by BOBTHENAILER (One by one, in small groups or in whole armies, we don't care how we do it, but we're gonna getcha)
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To: Tennessean4Bush; elhombrelibre
GREAT article! Thanks for the ping.

The Marines out there in Ramadi and Fallujah are pretty bored these days. ;-)

20 posted on 12/17/2007 11:49:38 AM PST by Allegra (Greetings from a kinder, gentler Iraq. God bless US and Coalition Forces.)
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To: Tennessean4Bush; elhombrelibre
Awesome article! In amongst the "reporting" by the other "journalist" is tons of good news!


"This is nonsense on stilts."


I had to laugh at that. It sounds like something we from the South would say. ;o)

It still amazes me that Totten is from Portland, OR. Maybe he will come back here, and shake some sense in the anti-war folks.

21 posted on 12/17/2007 4:03:26 PM PST by dixiechick2000 (There ought to be one day-- just one-- when there is open season on senators. ~~ Will Rogers)
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To: elhombrelibre
The war against fraudulent journalism marches on. Mr. Totten does a nice job within a few paragraphs to remind many of the short on facts why Fallujah requires time to rebuild.
Sadly as usual, the audiences. this bozo from the IPS connects with, will not have a clue as to the rebuilding process taking place in this once Sunni stronghold that supported the Saddamist.
And he surely has not a clue as to the many high population density neighborhoods, say, the Jolen district in the top NW corner, that was where much of the insurgency operated out of, lived long before the invasion took place.
This clown would write the same things about some getto area in some large NE US city as how the citizens live in poor conditions, but never venture about any good will projects, local improvements once numbers of people got tired of walking around in trash, and decided to move forward to better themselves.
And at the same time this guy would never had published how babies where dropped out of choppers while parents where forced to watch, or how Saddam's sadist dropped people into shredders.
22 posted on 12/17/2007 6:15:44 PM PST by Marine_Uncle (Duncan Hunter for POTUS)
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To: Tennessean4Bush
Lol,,, just last week, I had my first cup of Starbucks coffee, I didn’t pay for it myself, someone bought it for me, I am not going to spend any of my money and have it go towards a liberal business.
23 posted on 12/17/2007 11:36:15 PM PST by Prophet in the wilderness (PSALM .53 : 1 The FOOL hath said in his heart, there is no GOD.)
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To: dixiechick2000
"This is nonsense on stilts."

Yes, I can imagine it a southern expression. Ya'all have a lot of good ones.

24 posted on 12/18/2007 7:59:44 AM PST by elhombrelibre (GEN Petraeus is MAN of the YEAR. Ron Paul is the Jane Fonda of the year.)
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