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No news from Sadr City — I wonder why

Posted by Richard on June 14, 2008

Remember Sadr City, the Shi'ite suburb of Baghdad? That's the place where, according to mainstream media reports earlier this spring, American and Iraqi Army forces were being handed a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the all-powerful Mahdi Army, proving that the surge was a failure and the insurgent militias were in control.

There haven't been any mainstream media reports from Sadr City in a while (or from the other "Mahdi stronghold," Basra, which is now firmly in the hands of the Iraqi government). Gateway Pundit posted this U.S. Army photo that makes the reason for the MSM's sudden disinterest pretty clear:

US Troops Celebrated In Sadr City

A U.S. Army Soldier gets a lift from an Iraqi boy and his mule on Route Douglas in the Jamilla Market in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, June 9, 2008. (U.S. Army photo by Tech. Sgt. Cohen A. Young, MNF-Iraq)

Really– What more can you say?
US Soldiers- Smiling children- Safe Streets- Sadr City
Sensational
.

Indeed™. 

(HT: Doug Ross, who thinks this may be the "photo o' the year," and wondered "when Reid and the rest of the Democrats will issue a formal apology to the U.S. military.")

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2 Responses to “No news from Sadr City — I wonder why”

  1. Anita McNaught said

    You know.. sometimes I get really exasperated with bloggers who feed off limited intakes of media reports and construct their own realities off the basis of how they interpret something like a photograph.

    First of all, your assertion that ‘mainstream media’ has not been in Sadr City is flat wrong.

    I am a reporter with Fox News. I have already filed 2 reports from Sadr City examining the situation there – one at the end of May and the other in early June. We were the first TV crew to embed with the Iraqi Army and go beyond the US-controlled area to see what was going on there.

    I have just got back from another 4 days in Sadr City, and am about to put together 3 more stories on the issues there.

    The person with the camera on the left of that photo is, I believe, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was arriving as we left in early June.

    This picture was shot in the US-controlled area of Sadr City. This part of the densely packed conurbation of more than 2 million people represents only about a quarter of the total area, and less than a quarter of its population. It is the most affluent part of the city, and a place where the Mehdi army extorted local businesses for million of dollars in cash every month in a violent protection racket. It has a population of business people whose priority is to get their businesses up and running as soon as possible.

    Any kind of new military force maintaining a semblance of order allows them to do that.

    Let me tell you what the situation is like there. Parts of the area (as you could see) are a complete bombed-out mess.. The US military are doing what they can about this, with compensation payments and grants of cash. Although Mehdi Army fighters probably caused most of the damage you are looking at, the locals still blame the US for the bulk of it.. because after all, if the US had not gone after them, their shops would still be standing.

    And the security cordon the US has put up is causing many local complaints because they say it’s keeping customers out.

    This is perverse, and probably from an outsider’s point of view unfair.. but it’s the reality.

    Are people happy to see the US military? Yes – up to a point. Kids are ALWAYS happy to see soldiers these days. The soldiers love them. They play ball with them, and give them lollipops, and ruffle their hair.. Kids steal their pens and ask them for money and footballs. They both kid around with each other. That’s been the case in Iraq from the outset. Do their parents feel the same way? Who knows? People in Iraq survive by being nice to the person with the most power at any given moment in time.

    So what about the Jaish Al Mehdi?

    We spent a lot of time on the street, over the course of 4 trips in, talking to locals about how they felt. And most of them are far too scared about the ongoing presence of J.A.M. fighters to even tell you. JAM spies are everywhere, even in the US-controlled districts.

    We can’t go anywhere as reporters without 20-plus soldiers armed to the teeth and extremely vigilant. Twice last week the military escort to the US State Department working in Sadr City with local politicians was fired on by snipers. We dare not take off our helmets or body armour.

    There was a place I wanted to go to film – in the US-controlled area of Sadr City – yesterday but was not allowed to because it was deemed too great a risk to me and my crew.

    And there’s the rest of Sadr City where the US isn’t ‘allowed’ to go because of the terms of the Iranian-negotiated truce.. and where the Iraqi Army have not ventured either, except for token forays to say: “We’re here! – (sort of)”.

    Has JAM been dealt to? Has it received the ‘fatal blow’? No way. It’s accepted universally that they are going to try to stage some kind of a come-back.. that they are waiting for a lessening of vigilance or a reduction of troop presence on either the US or Iraqi side, or both, to raise their heads again and try to re-establish control.

    The only thing that will keep them at bay is if the local population stop backing them. But for decades, the Sadr Movement has been the only consistent support the people of Sadr City have had. With good reason, they don’t trust anyone else. And the militia men are the ‘devil they know’.

    The media here is not ‘hiding’ a ‘victory’ from the US public. Things have in places all over Iraq demonstrably improved from how they were a year ago. But in many of those places it’s on a knife edge. That knife edge COULD be a ‘turning point’. I hope history will show it’s a turning point.

    But for any responsible journalist who sees what it’s like on the ground, there are simply too many variables – very nasty variables – at play here.

    There are plenty of conspiracy theories out there about what’s ‘really’ happening in Iraq. But there is not some kind of ‘liberal plot’ to deny US citizens the facts.

    It’s a lovely photo. Like any photo, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

  2. rgcombs said

    Anita, i really appreciate you dropping by and sharing your perspective. Thank you very much. To make sure readers don’t miss your comment, I’ve posted it here, along with my response.

    Again, thanks for your remarks, and best wishes. Stay safe!

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