Iraq: February 12, 2005


When gunmen kidnapped Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena last week, it set off a flurry of paranoia among the pro-Sunni Arab foreign media. Sgrena was not the first such foreign journalist to be kidnapped. Two French reporters were grabbed last year, and only released after several months of negotiations. Ransom was rumored to have been paid, but that was denied. European journalists tend to portray the Sunni Arab and al Qaeda terrorism as the brave efforts of a broad based Iraqi effort to free the country from hated American occupiers. These fantasies get more bizarre, with accusations that coalition forces are behind the kidnappings, or, at worst, it is common criminals looking to score a large ransom. The journalists deal mainly with Sunni Arabs, as that's where they are going to find Iraqis who prospered under Saddam, but are now doing less well with the dictatorship out of business, and are willing to provide lurid and heartfelt complaints. Reality is contorted in truly amazing ways by these writers, as they try to make Saddam's tyranny into the "good old days", and a better place than a democratic Iraq. The recent elections are portrayed as a clever fraud, and any Iraqis fighting against the terrorists are deemed  traitorous collaborators. Most of this reporting goes unread by Americans, as the most surreal stories are in French and Italian newspapers. You can find some of it in the English sections of French and Italian newspapers. Media throughout Europe takes a similar tone, although not with the verve and conviction of French and Italians. 


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