Pro-democracy rallies in Iraq, and more.
Dec 22, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 15
"A Great Day for Iraq"
This week we turn most of THE SCRAPBOOK over to Zeyad, the 24-year-old Iraqi dentist and blogger who scooped the world media with his one-man reporting and photography on the big anti-terror, pro-democracy march in Baghdad on December 10. It was, as Zeyad accurately put it, "a great day for Iraq." Unfortunately, unless you visited Zeyad's website (http://healingiraq.blogspot.com) or one of the many blogs that linked to it, you probably never heard about the demonstrations. We'll let Zeyad explain:
"When we were marching on Dec. 10 I told Omar that maybe we didn't need to cover the protests after all since it looked like reporters from all the major media agencies were doing so. As you can see in my pictures there were scores of reporters and cameras all over the place. And since the rallies ended in front of the Palestine hotel we thought that it would be impossible for the media to ignore this event. I felt a bit awkward walking along reporters carrying just a little digital camera while they had all the equipment.
"The last thing we expected was to be the first to publish anything about the protests. It felt both good and awful at the same time. Good for scooping Reuters, AFP, AP, and other wire services and media stations. And awful for the people that depended on these services for their news. I'm telling you there were reporters from every station in the world at the demos that day and yet only a few mentioned them at all.
"Al Jazeera described the demonstrations as protests against 'what is called terrorism' and estimated the number of protesters as 10,000. AFP estimated the number as 200 at first (which made us furious) then later they gave the count as 4,000. While it was very obvious that the protesters were much more than 10,000. The Anti-terrorism Popular Committee stated that there were more than 20,000 demonstrators marching. . . .
"Imagine if half or even a quarter of that number were demonstrating against the war or against the occupation. What do you think would have happened? Would the media ignore it?
"The voice of that old Iraqi Communist shouting to the Arab reporter 'For once speak the truth' keeps resounding in my head.
"What the media also didn't mention was that there were other similar protests all over Iraq in Najaf, Karbala, Nasiriyah, Irbil, Suleimaniya, and even in Sunni cities such as Ramadi, Ba'quba, and Balad on the same day. And these won't be the last. There are many more larger protests planned for the near future.
"If the exact date and location of the protests were not so shrouded in secrecy I believe they would have been even larger. But look at it this way, the first demonstration on Nov. 28 was attended by several hundred people, on Dec. 5 more than a thousand, this time they were between 10,000 to 20,000. Iraqis are getting bolder. And despite the risk of being targeted we felt more safe than ever marching with the others. The IP [Iraqi police] did a great job of providing protection, and the Americans had two helicopters circling the area.
"It was wonderful watching Iraqis from different backgrounds, ethnicities, age groups, and political beliefs all marching for the same cause. Seeing Muslim clerics walking along Communists shouting 'No to terrorism, Yes to peace and democracy' was priceless."
Again, you can read Zeyad's full report and see all his pictures at healingiraq.blogspot.com
O My Amerika!
The saintly and courageous Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged by the Gestapo at the Flossenburg concentration camp on April 9, 1945--which is, we are informed, much the way those who oppose President Bush's actions are treated these days. The theologian George Hunsinger, for instance, announced on a panel about Bonhoeffer's thought at the American Academy of Religion this month that he is just like Bonhoeffer in his saintly and courageous opposition to Amerika. Indeed, Hunsinger--whose lonely moral stands have led to the torture of Princeton's appointing him the Hazel Thompson McCord Professor of Systematic Theology--explained that America is a "fascist state," and consequently, like Bonhoeffer, he declared, "I pray every day for the defeat of my country."
Hunsinger's relation to reality is a curious one. In the months before war in Iraq began, for instance, he took to the pages of Christian Century to deny that Saddam Hussein had actually gassed the Kurds or that Iraq had ever expelled the U.N.'s arms inspectors. But this claiming of the mantle of Bonhoeffer may be his furthest stretch into unreality. If there is anything more obscene than comparing America to the Third Reich, it is the self-congratulation of protesters comparing themselves to the Germans who opposed Nazism--where the personal risk was a little higher than the applause and promotion that America's self-righteous academics have had to suffer.