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Friday, October 15, 2004

Did Chronicle editors turn a Sadr City report into a characterization of all Iraq?

This possibility is raised by an important difference between a story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle and the same material on the reporter’s website.

The Chronicle article "Hatred, fear reign in 'liberated' Iraq" is a litany of woe posted by an American-Iranian reporter named Borzou Daragahi. (Yes, the Chronicle actually put "liberated" in scare quotes.) Daragahi's article was written late enough to include yesterday's Green Zone bombings, but did not include the positive news over the last several days that the Sadr Militia has been disarming, even though the Chronicle story is primarily about Sadr City. That prompted me to Google Daragahi to find out what other kind of biased trash he has written. The surprise came when I happened onto an important difference between the Chronicle piece and the same material as it appears on Daragahi's website (under "Letters from").

I had been particularly irked by the following line in the Chronicle article:
Throughout the country, graffiti-covered walls read "Iraq will be America's graveyard," "Long live the holy warriors," "The occupier will leave, by God," and "Traitors and spies beware."

That is a Sadr-City/Fallujah/Samarra phenomenon. It is NOT all over the country. Thus I was struck when the same paragraph on Daragahi's website only described the graffiti on one Sadr City wall:
The graffiti on the wall says: “Long live the resistance. Long live the holy warriors. The occupier will leave, by God. Traitors and spies beware.”

So how come the Chronicle piece was claiming that this graffiti was all over Iraq? Did Daragahi change it for the Chronicle piece, or did the Chronicle editors change it? I have emailed Mr. Daragahi with my query. If he decides to enlighten us further, I will update with his response.

Daragahi says that the Chronicle asked if the graffiti was more widespread. He confirmed that it was and he okayed the Chronicle's changes to his article.

The generous interpretation here would be that the Chronicle was digging for more facts, except it is obvious that they were only looking for facts that reflect badly on our war effort. For their purposes, Daragahi is even better than a fellow picker-and-chooser of reason and evidence. He seems to be an honest pessimist, overwhelmed by the chaos created by our decision to delay fighting until there is an Iraqi government and army in place to take defeated cities off of our hands.

Kerry's charge that Bush has no plan to win the peace is exactly backwards. Current hardships are precisely because of we have been playing rope-a-dope while we lay the groundwork for winning the peace. It is not surprising that Mr. Daragahi, who is not only a civilian but a hunted journalist, would not be able to see the forest for the trees. If anyone is in the thick of it, it is he. My prayers go out to you Barzou. If any Iraqis are reading, can someone please get this guy a gun?

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