Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NYT's James Glanz's "Alley Effect" in Basra and Sadr City

From a Glanz column a few weeks ago on the fighting in Basra and Sadr City. Glanz dreams of himself as a translator for Iraqis occupying Chicago guiding them down an ally on the southside.
Here is what happens in the dream: Because I know a little Arabic, I somehow find myself a translator for the invaders, even as some of my Chicago buddies are in the alleys plotting against my employers. And each night when I walk home along my beloved Dearborn Street under the rusty elevated tracks and past the White Hen grocery store, I wonder what the guys poring over maps in their armored vehicles plan to accomplish against a few million South Siders fighting in their own alleys. That’s usually when I wake up.
Glanz finds the Iraqi's cause hopeless because they don't know Chicago and can't hope to defeat the Iraqi occupier.

I was working in the Green Zone during at the time and emailed Glanz telling him he had it all wrong, and coming from Chicago he should know.
Geez Glanz...I'm from Chicago and in Baghdad now like you. These guys are thugs. Just like the thugs we have back in Chicago except stronger. Sadr is in Iran too, he's hardly sticking around. He's letting Maliki weed out an "army" he can't control himself. Just like a cynical Chicago mob boss might too. There are some brave Iraqi's over here. They deserve our help. How about giving them some credit!
Glanz responded,
Sadr as a mob boss is an interesting thought -- but a lot of what you're saying doesn't have much to do with my job as a reporter. And you're making some sweeping statements without reading all the things I've written about Iraqis in four years. A common mistake readers make is to read two or three pieces by a writer and then make wide judgments about what that writer is about. I've written, what, hundreds of pieces on Iraq?
I admit I haven't read the whole Glanz corpus, but I think he got Basra and now it looks Sadr City wrong. We're not invading Sadr City or Basra. We're helping Maliki establish security and rule-of-law. A good many Chicagoans would appreciate the same security and rule-of-law at home too.

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