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Oct 25th 2004

how’s iraq? don’t ask CNN

dr. james mayfield, who spent a year in iraq working with USAID, has a different perspective than you might have heard. what follows is a summary of his remarks, provided by a student who attended mayfield’s recent lecture. the student’s remarks were originally published by thisliberal. here’s the most interesting part:

There is violence in Iraq, but out of the 221 municipalities in Iraq, 90% of the violence is happening in only 18 of those municipalities. That is less than ten percent of the country. Dr. Mayfield pointed out that most reporters stay only in Baghdad, which does not accurately represent the situation in most of the country. Outside of those 18 municipalities, school is in session, universities are functioning, and peoples’ lives are returning to normal.

Dr. Mayfield spent a full year in Iraq working with officials in the Southern part of the country. He was never shot at. He never saw an explosion. He never felt his life threatened. He did work with people daily who are excited about the new system, about democracy, and about freedom.

Many of us have heard about the “horrible” situation in Karbala, an important Shi’ite city in southern Iraq. Last year, Dr. Mayfield was invited to speak to a conference of over 167 teachers about democracy and democratic ideals. They listened intently and cheered when he discussed new textbooks without any pictures of Saddam. At the conclusion, every teacher in that building (all Iraqis) stood and gave Dr. Mayfield a standing ovation. They were excited for the opportunity to really teach their students.

When Dr. Mayfield returned to his home in Hilla that night, he turned on CNN to a headline declaring anarchy in Karbala, with images of people shooting into the air. After he looked into the situation, it turns out that teenagers had invited CNN to a rally in a far corner of the city, shot their guns in the air, and let the Americans film the “anarchy.” Which was the reality: a staged teenage rally or 160 teachers on their feet, cheering the new system? [source]

video of the mayfield lecture and all kennedy lectures available here . but maybe we should ask john kerry how iraq is REALLY doing. i mean, he knew better than the iraqi prime minister himself, so he should know better than some unimportant little western aid worker, right?

8 Responses to “how’s iraq? don’t ask CNN”

  1. doug

    Fascinating….

    I have always wondered if Iraq is not entirely different than Argentina during their economic and political crisis. Certainly Iraq is much more violent, but the comparison seems to not be a bad one.

    During “the crisis” in Argentina, the country got terrible press about the violence, chaos, instability, public strikes, etc. Yet almost all of this stuff happened in the capital, Buenos Aires.

    Just 100 miles from Buenos Aires things were as normal as could be. Yet the American and European press assured us that the country was unsafe for tourists and was consumed by uncontrollable violence.

    Anyways…Iraq is obviously not Argentina, but I think the similarities in media hype are instructive.

  2. Al

    I agree with you, Doug, about the media hype. It is very interesting how the article points out that there was no media coverage at the meetings and gatherings that had the most significance to Iraq and the U.S.
    My uncle is in the military. Most of his men are over in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has mentioned to me several times that many of the guys he speaks with tell him of an Iraq that is quite different from the one the media paints everyday. Too many people here at home are ignorant to what is going on around the world. JFK said, “one ignorant voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” I believe that is true still today.

  3. Ted

    I wrote a real smart-ass sarcastic response to this but then thought better of it.
    I’d just like to point out that there are shootings and bombings going on in Iraq and it seems silly to say that since its only in one place most of Iraq is fine. Most people would not be satisfied with just limiting gunfights to their nations capitol (or less than 10% of the country … maybe 5 states?!).
    The other thing that jumped out at me about this story was that it takes one man who hasnt seen any violence and says “see, its not so bad.” Most of us would consider the terror attacks against the US a national tragedy, but only a small fraction of americans ever saw any, and no one is saying that that was media sensationalism. And we would certainly be “in chaos” if we were continually facing attacks even in *only* one or two cities.

  4. doug

    Ted,

    You couldn’t be more wrong.

    Think back a few years…remember the riots after the Rodney King verdict?

    There were not hundreds of headlines about how “The Country Sinks Into Chaos” and “United States Creeping Towards Anarchy”. The story focused on how certain parts of Los Angeles had descended into madness.

    Fast forward to today…the headlines we get here almost exclusively deal with “Violence in Iraq” as if the entire country is engulfed with violence.

    Now, is it all Pollyanna nice and pretty? Of course not. But the point is that it isn’t as bad as the media make it to be.

  5. doug

    As a quick follow-up….Guess where 16,503 people were killed last year (as in homicide). That’s about 45 per day in 2003.

    If you said “United States of America” you win.[source]

    Granted, we are a MUCH bigger country than Iraq, but I think you see what I’m driving at here…

  6. Ted

    I suppose most news outlets do tend to make their stories a bit sensational. But given whats going on, I dont think that the media is out of line.
    Adjusted for population (our murder rate * their population / our population) the death rate statistic you gave would be 3.84/day. 48 Iraqis were just killed yesterday by a terrorist group called “Unification and Jihad” … Some towns in Iraq are still occupied by insurgents and US and allied troops are still fighting to take back those towns. Along with “horror” some might say there is still a *war* going on.
    Be that as it may, I agree that the media hasn’t covered the other parts of the process as completely. You hear far more about the horrors than for instance the election that just took place in Afghanistan. Let’s hope Iraq looks more like that soon.

  7. All-Encompassingly: Iraq News

    The All-Encompassingly blog compares one professor’s description of his experience working with teachers in Karbala

  8. The roots of racism

    Program on the emergence of civilization.

    “14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
    None from the sub-Saharan African continent.
    13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa.”
    Favor.
    And disfavor.

    They point out Africans’ attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it’s applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

    The roots of racism are not of this earth.

    Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals, so this nulified diversity of life claims on sub-continental Africa, zebras being a fine example.

    god is a computer
    And we’re all on auto-pilot.

    Organizational Heirarchy
    Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

    1. MUCK – perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as “god”
    2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management –
    3. Mafia (evil) aliens – runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere (“On planets where they approved evil.”)

    Then we come to terrestrial management:

    4. Chinese/egyptians – this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
    5. Romans – they answer to the egyptians
    6. Mafia – the real-world interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
    7. Jews, corporation, women, politician – Evidence exisits to suggest mafia management over all these groups.

    Survival of the favored.

    Journal: 10 composition books + 39 megs of text files

    Movies foreshadowing catastrophy
    1986 James Bond View to a Kill – 1989 San Fransisco Loma Prieta earthquake.