Day by Day

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

The Other Side of Iraq

The point is, all this talk about the "Arab Street" (how do I get there again? Turn left at "Africa Street"?) is a useless generalization, reinforced by a bunch of journalists sitting around the Al-Rashid and Palestine Hotel bars, while they wait for their drivers to pick them up in air-conditioned SUVs for a day trip out to Fallujah or Ramadi. Is there a "White Street," an "Asian Street"? It's a ludicrous and vaguely racist concept to begin with.

I have spoken to loads of Iraqis, Syrians, Kuwaitis etc. and what I have seen is the definitive breakdown of "Arab Unity" as a generation of academics (the ones who taught me at least) knew it. As I mentioned in the last e-mail, the graffiti on the walls of Baghdad University is not "US Go Home"-- it's actually...."Palestinians Go Home. The Free Ride Is Over"!!! There is a sea change going on, right now, and CNN will be the last place to learn about it.

Remember that story early in the war about the Iraqis attacking an Al-Jazeera van and destroying it and wounding its crew? CNN barely covered it, but the Iraqis I have spoken to recently said they are sick and tired of the "old" Arab media (which strangely enough includes Al-Jazeera to them) reporting only the negatives and ignoring the progress they've made and the fact that for many, things are better...they see this as other Arabs trying to stir up trouble in "their" country. And they resent it.

They want Al-Jazeera and Manar out of there, and they want to get on rebuilding their country themselves, thank you very much.

Eric Olsen

No comments: