by Firas Al-Atraqchi | Mid East Realities | December 2, 2003
Dear Mr. Friedman:
I have been reading your unsubstantiated reports concerning Arabs, the Middle East, Iraq, al-Qaeda, and whatever else rubs your fancy. To cut it short, I have been aghast at the lack of knowledge, which you purport to have, of anything related to Middle East affairs. You sell yourself off as someone who is an expert on the region, but despite having visited the region several times, you have yet to dig deep into the heart of matters.
You write for an audience that is expecting a narrow vision and cannot handle anything beyond the projected norm. You write for an audience who will lap up your vitriol and sarcasm because they don't know any better and have been indoctrinated by years of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim programming in North American media. Thankfully, the American public is not as na´ve as you hope it to be. Your star is fading.
Your latest article 'Letter from Tikrit' in the New York Times (November 27, 2003) is as comic as it is poorly researched. For the sake of readers who want to know more, let us go through your letter together.
'It's not easy getting tapes out from this basement in Tikrit,' you write in your first paragraph. Saddam is not in Tikrit. In fact, U.S. forces do not know where Saddam is. Most Iraqis believe him to be elsewhere. If you knew about Iraqi culture, you would have figured out exactly where in Iraq he is. However, your statement is meant for U.S. audiences only, because it is the line the U.S. military has given you, has given its people, and has given the world. The reason is to account for the rash of attacks on U.S. forces in the Tikrit area. You do not want to acknowledge that most of the attacks are from people who have nothing to do with Saddam, or his deputy, al-Douri. You would like to portray the image that Saddam is leading and organizing the attacks so that once Saddam is nixed everyone will assume the resistance is dead. I seem to remember something similar that was said about Uday and Qusay. But, oh look, the attacks increased after they were popped.
'I got rid of all my W.M.D.,' Friedman writes in the second paragraph, pretending to be Saddam. Shucks, Thomas, haven't you been listening? There are no WMDs. There weren't any since 1998. Remember what Scott Ritter, a former UNSCOM inspector, said? He said that by 1998 everything was gone, destroyed by inspections and subsequent U.S. bombing runs. Oh yeah, you labeled Ritter a traitor. Hans Blix, head of UNSCOM and Mohamed al-Baradei, head of the IAEA said the same thing. But you refused to listen.
The CIA couldn't find anything, nor your buddy David Kay. For a country that is the only superpower and allegedly overheard two Iraqi officers talking on their cellphones, are you trying to tell me the U.S. military could not determine where Saddam hid his WMD? Of course not, because he hasn't had them since 1998. As for the nuclear program, hell, Thomas, you know as well as everyone that it has been non-existent since 1993. Why don't you show some class and drop this line? Admit you were wrong. The fallen coalition soldiers deserve some dignity.
More of the same in paragraph three when you say, 'We started by eliminating the U.N., the Red Cross and attacking oil pipelines.' Come now. Your own U.S. forces have said they have no idea who attacked the U.N. or the Red Cross. They have come up empty. You are passing off speculation as fact for an audience that doesn't know any better. The American people deserve better and unfortunately they ain't getting it from you.
And then you say 'we're secular Ba'athists, but we've made contact with Islamic militants from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria, and they drive our suicide vans.' Thomas, haven't you been reading your own papers, watching your own shows? Haven't you heard from the Iraqi resistance fighters who say they have nothing to do with foreigners and/or with Saddam? Do you think these men would lay down their arms if Saddam came to power? Heck no, these farmers and villagers, former Iraqi army, and unemployed workers who are sick of seeing their homes bulldozed and their crops burned would fight Saddam and his Ba'athists if they returned. Don't you think they blame Saddam for what has befallen them? But they won't say that in front of you. No, Thomas, they have pride. They will wait until you leave and then take care of their own.
You don't want to admit that commoners are able to take out tanks and helicopters. You forget every person in Iraq has served in some form of military service. That would shake American confidence, eh? We don't want to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, do we now?
Forget Saddam, Thomas. You still see Iraq as one man and one man only, as do your peers in the media, forgetting that Iraq is comprised of 24 million viable, vivacious, breathing, innovating, enduring men, women, and children. You insult them with this obsession of Saddam you have.
Do not pretend to speak for the Iraqis. You have neither the dignity nor the intelligence to do so.
[Firas Al-Atraqchi, B.Sc (Physics), M.A. (Journalism and Communications), is a Canadian journalist with eleven years of experience covering Middle East issues, oil and gas markets, and the telecom industry.]
Firas Al-Atraqchi encourages your comments: fatraqchi@YellowTimes.org