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Saturday, March 29, 2008

 
Weird, As In Pravda Weird

by tristero

Am I the only one who finds this news article about al-Sadr's call to Arabs to support his cause profoundly weird?
Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on Arab leaders meeting in Syria to voice their support for Iraq's "resistance" to what he calls foreign occupation.

Al-Jazeera television has shown a brief clip of an interview with the Mahdi Army militia leader. It says the full interview will be shown later Saturday.

The broadcast is the first word from the reclusive cleric since the Iraqi government launched a crackdown against militia violence in the southern oil port of Basra earlier this week.

Al-Sadr is believed to be in Iran, but Al-Jazeera doesn't say where or when the interview took place. The portly al-Sadr, who is in his mid-30s, appears to have lost a great deal of weight in the clip.
From word one, "Anti-American," the article is designed to create an irrational animosity against al-Sadr.He could just as accurately, and with less volatility, be described as "Shiite cleric," "Radical Shiite cleric," "The popular radical Shiite cleric Muktada al-Sadr" but no. The only salient feauture, as far as AP is concerned is his anti-Americanism. Then we get scare quotes around "resistance" and a careful hedge "from what he calls foreign occupation," as if that is somehow an inaccurate description of the American - I'm so sorry, I meant coalition - troops stationed in Iraq behind heavily protected walls.

Then we learn that al-Sadr is "reclusive." Oh, really? For all I know he really may be another Unabomber, choosing to live alone in some shack out in the desert, but somehow I suspect he doesn't go for a nice stroll in public because he's shy but because the United States military once had a contract out on his life (and probably still does). I may be a nervous Nellie but I, too, would probably become pretty reclusive if I knew the most powerful military organization on earth was trying to kill me. But "reclusive" really does imply someone mysterious, vaguely malign, and maladjusted. In short, an evil "anti-American."

Next we are told what al-Sadr's resistance to the occupation really should be called - "militia violence." In this context, "militia" implies illegitimate paramilitary organizations, quite a contrast to describing the beyond-any-law mercenary killers of Blackwater as "contractors." Yet there is a bit of truth to AP's description. This is no longer about "insurgents" - shadowy guerrilas and the like. The civil war in Iraq goes far, far beyond IED's and surreptitious assaults. Heckuva job, General Petraeus!

Finally, AP pulls out all the stops to portray al-Sadr in the most unpleasant light to a famously obese America. "The portly al-Sadr" - I honestly can't believe I read that - lost a "great deal of weight"! That evil, anti-American, militia-wielding bastard! How did he do it? I guess we'll have to tune in to our local al-Jazeera broadcast later today to get his diet tips.

All joking aside, this kind of blatantly propagandistic reporting (how, by the way, do we know he may be in Iran?) serves no useful purpose whatsoever. It merely makes it more difficult to understand what is going on and provides nothing of importance about what is clearly a very ominous move on al Sadr's part - an overt appeal to make the Bush/Iraq war a regional conflict. But to write an article about that requires research and interviews and a lot of icky work with translators - it's too much to ask that American reporters speak Arabic. It's far easier to notice that al-Sadr has slimmed down and "report" that.


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