Wednesday, May 11, 2005

On lessons learned in Iraq

Okay, so Atrios points us at an editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journalist written by Molly Bingham. Molly is an American journalist who spent ten months in Iraq, trying to get the complete story there - including the perspective of the insurgents. She also spent some time there at the beginning of the war as a hostage, held by Saddam Hussein's forces in Abu Ghraib.

Read the whole thing. it's compelling in its entirety. Quasi-journalist that I am, I was struck by one particular passage:

One of the hardest things about working on this story for me personally, and as a journalist, was to set my "American self" and perspective aside. It was an ongoing challenge to listen open-mindedly to a group of people whose foundation of belief is significantly different from mine, and one I found I often strongly disagreed with.

But going in to report a story with a pile of prejudices is no way to do a story justice, or to do it fairly, and that constant necessity to bite my tongue, wipe the smirk off my face or continue to listen through a racial or religious diatribe that I found appalling was a skill I had to practice. We would never walk in to cover a union problem or political event without seeking to understand the perspective from both, or the many sides of the story that exist. Why should we as journalists do it in Iraq?

One thing that I run into constantly when discussing the war in Iraq with conservative friends, particularly those in the military, is the idea that American journalists are traitors for trying to cover all sides of the conflict. To them, it's very simple: the insurgents/terrorists/resistance forces/what have you are evil, they're corrupted by the wickedness of Islam, and they want to kill us all because they hate America for our freedom. Now, never having been there, I can't speak to that one way or the other, but I think it's valuable to have a neutral party to go in and find out what really is going on. I'm not saying that the insurgents might have something to say that would justify suicide bombings and constant attacks on our troops, but insight from the other side might well help us win diplomatically what we've been struggling with militarily - not that we're going to convince the insurgents to stop surging, but that we'll be able to hand over full governance to the Iraqi people that much sooner.

No comments: