LETTER FROM MEMPHIS 

LETTER FROM MEMPHIS

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Gunmen firing from a car killed Iraq's deputy foreign minister Saturday in the first assassination of a senior official since the new interim government was announced this month. Iraqi authorities blamed Saddam Hussein loyalists. -- Lead story on the AP wire, 11 pm EDT, 12 June 2004
I'm sorry. I don't really want to speak harshly about the media so soon after the historic events of this past week, at a time when the editorial leaders of the American press are no doubt still recovering from the stress of covering, 24/7, the Mother of All Funerals. The adjustment back to "hard" news (dare we call it reality?) should be expected to be a little jarring. But the above report deserves comment. It left me wondering if the anonymous AP writer who wrote this story about Saturday's assassination of Bassam Salih Kubah in Baghdad had taken complete leave of his senses. Take a close look at the second sentence above. It's simple enough, just six words. "Iraqi authorities" (read: the just-appointed government of Iraq working inside the Green Zone under the watchful eye of the American "authorities") are blaming today's sad incident upon "Saddam Hussein loyalists." Really? On whose authority do the authorities make this assertion? Are the authorities neither Iraqi nor American, but creatures from another planet? Martian, perhaps? I have been watching, reading, and observing this sad little war of ours for fifteen months now, and not once have I seen a statement from an insurgent organization, in which that group takes responsibility for some horrid destructive act with language like this: "We did this because we are followers of Saddam Hussein, and we will keep doing nasty things like this until he is returned to power." Nope, and not once have I seen any one of the dozens of incidents that get oh-so-frequently attributed -- at least at first -- to "Saddam Hussein loyalists" proven eventually to have been the work of dastardly fellows who fit this job description. Whoever they are, "Saddam Hussein loyalists" seem as ethereal and as hard to find as the once-famous Weapons of Mass Destruction. Not even within the walls of Abu Ghraib, apparently, have there been any sightings of SHL's. Who are they, these ghost-like apparitions, these "Saddam Hussein loyalists"? Where do they live? Do they all have lookalike mustaches? Do they have secret handshakes? And who's in charge of them now, now that the Main Man is safely behind bars at some Cheney-esque "undisclosed location"? Tough questions. Questions somebody in the American media should present to the "authorities" before the next catastrophic event gets attributed to spectres. There can be little doubt that some of the Bad Boys perpetrating outrages like today's assassination are former Saddam-regime employees; Saddam after all had a liking for thugs. But, please, somebody buy dictionaries for the Associated Press staff. Calling the perps in today's incident "thugs" and/or "scoundrels" is one thing; calling them "Saddam Hussein loyalists" suggests something different altogether. After all, loyalists are, well, loyal. Just ask our President, who purportedly seeks out exactly that quality in his key employees. Loyalists are attached to a cause, and in this case, as the connective phrase AP uses suggests, a man. And not just any ordinary man. In this case, they're loyal to a man whose destruction we orchestrated because of the threat he posed to our very existence. Saddam's loyalists must keep to themselves, though. How else do you explain why we've heard so little weeping and gnashing of teeth from Iraqis about their former tyrant? I've yet to see a sound bite in which some Arab man-on-the-street is caught on camera saying, "Good old Saddam, what a helluva guy! We sure do miss him in these parts." Many, many Iraqis have spoken out against the American invasion and occupation, but unless I've missed it, none has ever spoken wistfully about turning back the clock. Not one. Saddam Hussein would seem to be just about as popular in contemporary Iraq as I would be at a Tom Delay church picnic. Maybe even less. So what gives? What does the AP reporter who filed this lead paragraph have in his head in place of brains? Does he intend, along, sadly, with so many of his colleagues, to continue parroting whatever he is told by the "authorities"? Even when what they're telling him makes no sense whatsoever? It's bad enough that the war in Iraq has gotten mighty difficult for the "authorities." Maybe our American faux-reporters should simply get out of the way, and remove themselves from Iraq, a country that they surely aren't coming any closer to understanding. They'd be doing everybody a favor. That way we could get ALL our news straight from the authorities. Eliminate unnecessary middlemen, for efficiency's sake. And hey, if reporting the news ends up eating up too much of their time, the authorities can always "privatize." Halliburton, I feel certain, would be happy to help.

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