Truth or Consequences

So a bunch of right-wing talk-show hosts are heading on a Truth Tour of Iraq to report on the "success" of the war? Lambasting the "mainstream media that is determined to shut out that success," the truth-tellers will be broadcasting from the Green Zone and travel with the troops. Not for them the "hotel journalism" of the MSM "who 'sit around in a hotel bar' cribbing other writers' quotes and clips 'so they don’t have to go out and cover the war."

The reporters actually on the job have a slightly different version of their task. In a candid email that went beyond her original recipients, the Wall Street Journal's Farnaz Fassihi said:

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest.... I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to, and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows.

... my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

The American journos have good reason to fear especially for their Iraqi colleagues. The most recent press casualty, Knight Ridder's Yasser Salihee, was apparently shot by a US sniper. He told KR's bureau chief that despite the danger, he wanted to be a reporter "because I found it very important to tell the people outside about what's really going on."

Gee, that sounds almost like what the "Truth Tour" intends, but Iraqi journalists tend to be less sanguine about the "success" of the war. My favorite part of the June 24 joint press conference of President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Jaafari was the final question, the one asked by an Iraqi radio journo: "When will you begin the reconstruction in Iraq? When do we begin to establish the first bases of reconstruction?"