Dateline: Iraq

| July / August 2004

How American journalists try to get inside the minds of an occupied people

In May of last year, as Iraqis began adjusting to the chaotic status quo of gunfire, occasional suicide attacks, and failed electricity that followed the American arrival in their country, The Weekly Standard's Jonathan Foreman sent back a letter from Baghdad cheerily titled "You Have No Idea How Well Things Are Going." Foreman described smiling little girls and "women old and young" flirting "outrageously with GIs." Iraqis in his account could not stop what he called "love bombing" the Americans with such cheers as "Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson," good-naturedly directed at some African American soldiers. The American presence, Foreman reassured his readers, inspired "no fury" among Iraqis.

Around the same time, Nir Rosen, writing for The Progressive, painted a far bleaker picture of Baghdad, one in which 5-year-olds played amid unexploded cluster bombs, and AK-47s and grenade launchers were sold in open-air markets. "Already, there is nostalgia for the old regime," he observed. "At least there was a regime, people say."