Washington — Sometimes, after reading American newspaper accounts of contemporary events, I think that Henry Ford must have been the inventor of the American journalist. Ford’s appropriation of the techniques of mass production gave us the Model T. After that I suspect he took over the nation’s journalism schools; and once again, using the technique of mass production, gave us the American journalist — every one rolling off the production line with the same features, the same capacities, the same appearance — and all very cheap. My apologies; that last crack was not very nice. Call it a cheap shot. Yet, surely you have noticed that the basic American journalist seems to be a highly standardized appliance.
Now hundreds of neatly standardized American journalists have been set loose on liberated Iraq, and they all go to the same locales, ask the same questions, and file the same stories. The first series of standardized stories in this episode came a few days into the war, when Henry Ford’s Model T journalists all filed stories about how the Coalition Forces were mired in catastrophe. Apparently, the idiots at the Pentagon had sent our mechanized forces rushing gang busters to Baghdad and forgotten their requisite supply lines. Like Napoleon’s Grand Army charging headlong towards Moscow through the Russian winter, the Coalition’s forces were about to have their thinly stretched supply lines hacked up by Saddam Hussein’s version of Cossack cavalry. The cavalry have yet to strike.
Over the last couple of days Ford’s Model T journalists have settled on another dubious story. Iraqis are usually friendly and malleable towards our big bruising troopers when they kick in the Iraqis’ front doors, but when the Yanks shamble on to the next inviting door, the thitherto friendly Iraqis fulminate against them, expressing indignation at what our troopers are doing to “our Iraqi culture.” Americans are sowing the seeds of “chaos.” Sub themes of this story are that a surprising unruliness towards our troops is growing and that it is being orchestrated by none other than Saddam. Where the old boy is living has yet to be reported, though Argentina or Uruguay may soon be crawling with New York Times reporters. For years after the fall of Berlin there were Hitler sightings in those parts, and now in the age of the Internet Saddam could be a very effective leader of a counter-revolution. Jayson Blair could file the story from Miami Beach.
Of course we readers of the glorious morning Sun are not dependent on journalism’s Model Ts. The standardized stories about American soldiers being pinned down in the Iraqi desert and slaughtered in the streets of Baghdad did not appear in the Sun, and I have yet to see a Sun journalist file the standardized stories about Iraqis hating our rude soldiers.
Iraqis are, Adam Daifallah reports from Baghdad, impatient, suspicious of politics, and fearful of nocturnal looting, which has been a problem since Saddam fell. After all he reports: “the people here have been repressed for so long, all of their pent up energy, anger, and emotion is coming out at once.” Yet Daifallah insists they are glad to be liberated from Saddam and grateful to America.
Mark Steyn reports that at least in the western sector of Iraq, there is no “chaos.” Hospitals are not overcrowded. Grocery stores and restaurants have the expected provender. While dining he left his gun in the car. Perhaps I should point out that neither of Daifallah nor Steyn rolled off the production line of an American journalism school. Both are Canadian.
Unruly conditions in post-war Iraq are not unusual. The breakdown of society after a war leads to all kinds of disturbances and bizarreries. After World War II allied soldiers had to deal with Nazi diehards, communist insurgents, and general disorder. There were even authoritative reports that Hitler got away and was planning a comeback from some distant retreat. No less an authority than Stalin started that rumor. He passed it on to Churchill and Roosevelt after his troops had taken over Hitler’s defunct bunker. Of course, Stalin was lying. Hitler’s remains were actually in his possession. Yet for decades the Soviets kept the lie alive throughout the West. These things happen after a war. I wonder if the Syrians know anything about the whereabouts of Saddam and his sons. There is something about their Realpolitik that puts me in mind of a gentler, feebler Stalin.
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