Wednesday, December 20, 2006

News from and about Iraq

I am torn when it comes to reporting news about Iraq. This isn't a news blog (there is a rather opinionated blog called that, which often has good content), but a history/class bulletin board focused on material I teach and write upon. One of the things I teach is "History of Islamic Civilization," and you can't avoid the wars of Afghanistan and the Middle East if, like me, you think that survey courses like mine should come up to the present. If I don't say something about the connections here, I'm missing a bet and no doubt disappointing part of my audience.

But what to say and what to omit? I certainly don't want this to be Iraq-and-Afghanistan all the time.

Here's what I'm trying to do: direct people to material that might give them a better idea of the Middle Eastern context than what they read or see in the major North American media. Most of what is in the news, especially US news, is Washington news: Bush, Bush's critics, what well-known columnists are saying, with just a bit more on the latest catastrophe on the front -- the latest big bomb blast or pile of bodies killed execution-style. Mostly it's about who is to blame for current problems, a subject of immense importance to those now-prominent or powerful figures who in the future may find themselves completely discredited, impeached, imprisoned, or denounced in every history book and foreign policy analysis on this period for generations to come. It's too late for most of them but that just makes them more energetic in producing "news" and "analysis" that is Washington-centric and devoted to saving their hides.

If you are not an American trying to influence Congress, most of this news is not very helpful in understanding the Middle Eastern situation, especially how it looks to people who live there. So I will include links to real stories about the Middle East, in the hopes that I can help a few people find the gems among the dross.

Today's offering, thanks to the News Blog and the excellent US McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau, is here: why one Sunni Iraqi became a devoted follower of the al-Sadrist verison of Shiism. Real news about the real Iraq, not about the Congressional line-up or who is running for President in '08, or who favors a "surge." Real reporting, not more Washington score-keeping.

Image: Maha Adel Mehdi. Click and read about her.

Now if McClatchy or the Guardian or the Globe and Mail would just send someone to Amman, Jordan and report on the huge exodus of Iraqis, especially educated ones, to other Arab countries.

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