Got that? The New York Times reporter was an officer in Saddam’s army. Nice. By the way, officers were not drafted (that’s how the enlisted ranks were filled). Officers had to be selected and regularly vetted for loyalty and effectiveness. So Saddam decided that he could trust our intrepid correspondent and so did the New York Times. . . . This is Seinfeld reporting—“news” about nothing.
As for the New York Times, one wonders why they didn’t embed a reporter with the Iraqi forces streaming south. Like Dr. Zaius, were they afraid of what they might find?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Sadr's triumphant surrender: "The media appear to be unanimous: by getting his butt kicked, surrendering control of Basra, and being mocked as an Iranian catspaw Sadr has… succeeded. . . . I haven’t seen the media swoon this hard over a militant anti-American in decades. Is Sadr the new Che?" Well, Che was an incompetent buffoon who was a media hero, so . . . .
STILL MORE: A lengthy defense from Damien Cave of the New York Times. I've known Cave as an honest reporter since before he went to the NYT, and his reporting on Iraq has been good. It's a bit lengthy, so click "read more" to read it.
Damien Cave's email follows:
I just noticed that some in the blogosphere are questioning the loyalties of Qais Mizher, who wrote a first-person piece for the Times about his experience in Basra. I feel a need to respond because the accusations are way off base. I worked closely with Qais regularly during my 18 months in the Times’ Baghdad bureau and over and over again, he proved to be a brave and objective journalist who loved his country, understood the value of journalism and reported the facts as he saw them. Qais is not and never has been a member of the Baathist elite, as some seem eager to suggest. He and his family suffered under Saddam like so many others and if in fact he was a “selected” officer in any way (which is not necessarily the case), I have no doubt it was because of his bravery not his politics.
Qais continues to risk his life to help the world understand his country – even after two of our Iraqi staffers have killed since 2003, including one in the past year. This is a guy who never complained when I asked him at 2 a.m. to make a call for me. This is a father of young children who took me into neighborhoods others were afraid to go and who would boldly go to bomb sites and neighborhoods no one else would dare get near. His Basra story is one example of courage among many. If anything, these bloggers writing comfortably from their desks at home, ought to thank men like Qais for risking their lives day after day to uncover the real story of Iraq on some of its most dangerous streets – streets I add, where few American politicians of either party have ever been.
Just to give you an idea of how ludicrous the criticism sounds to those of us know who Qais, let me offer an anecdote. At one point last year, Prime Minister Maliki appeared before Congress. Qais and I were watching it on TV and while I saw little of interest in the exchange, he stood up and seemed to swell with hope, not a common emotion at the time. Seeing American lawmakers standing and clapping for Maliki, Qais said he felt like maybe his country had reached a turning point; maybe it was getting the respect and support it needed; maybe peace and prosperity would begin to grow, and maybe his children could once again feel safe.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was a common courtesy to stand and applaud, but my point is that no lover of Saddam, watching Maliki in Congress, would ever have had such a reaction. The accusations of bias in this case are entirely baseless and insulting.
I hope you’ll post some piece of this...at this point, you’re the only one I’ve written to.