Magazine article The American Enterprise

Baghdad's Bohemians Betrayed

Magazine article The American Enterprise

Baghdad's Bohemians Betrayed

Article excerpt

Anyone who doubts the intensity of support felt by many Baghdad residents for the liberation of their country should come to the Hewar Gallery just north of the city's center. Here, in this combination exhibition space, teahouse, and gossip nexus you'll find what passes for Baghdad's bohemians--young, smart painters, poets, and sculptors comfortable with English and familiar with foreign reporters. What they say about recent events would make Paul Wolfowitz blush.

"We feared America wouldn't invade," painter Mohammad Rassim told me. "We knew there would be death, but we chose war to finish Saddam." For sculptor Haider Wady, "Saddam's fall was like a dream, I still can't believe it. We used to pray for five minutes without his regime, now we have the rest of our lives." Remarks poet Nasser Hasan, "April 9 [the date Saddam's statue fell in central Baghdad] was a second birthday for me. I'm now rediscovering parts of my soul I once buried and thought were dead." Other Iraqis, some not as fluent in English, indicated to me that they agree with these sentiments.

These young Iraqi artists--moderate, pro-Western, eager to join the international community--are the kind of people who are crucial to Iraq's move toward democracy. So why don't the world media focus more on such figures instead of just the disgruntled ex-Baathists and religious firebrands? One explanation may lie in an observation that these artists repeatedly stressed to me: Foreigners--especially Europeans--are so anti-American that they refuse to hear positive comments about the war.

"Many reporters don't listen to us," Wady remarks."Especially the French, who just want us to support their attacks on America." Or, as painter Esam Pasha told me, "Many journalists act as if they know all the answers. They just need us to make negative comments about the U.S."

Sometimes this bias becomes manipulation of facts. …

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