When Fighting is Glimpsed From a Different Perspective

Graham, Patrick
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p66
This article presents the author's views on reporting on the 2003 Iraqi war. Reporting in Iraq following the invasion was like walking into a fog bank after leaving a dark room--it seemed brighter than before, but when your eyes adjusted you were still stuck in the gloom. Everybody had a different view of what happened under Saddam Hussein, what was happening under the U.S., and what would happen next. Without an agreed upon history, it was hard to come up with a cogent sense about what is going on. Few American reporters, with the notable exception of The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid, spoke Arabic. The rest of us were unlikely to have a candid discussion with an Iraqi while an interpreter listened. It took months before people trusted you enough to tell you what was going on and have you trust what they said or, at least, understand where they were coming from. If Mohammed had not spoken English, I doubt that I would have had access to what some of the people fighting U.S. troops were actually thinking--and even this limited understanding involved hundreds of hours of hanging out, driving around, or sitting in people's houses. There were a number of other problems for journalists who wanted to write about the resistance, which people in this area of Iraq call the mukawama. Another problem about researching the resistance was checking the facts of what you were being told.


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