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Media Overhyping Iraqis' Return Home? 'NYT' Reporter Thinks So

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Media Overhyping Iraqis' Return Home? 'NYT' Reporter Thinks So

Article excerpt

Since October, proponents of the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq have pointed to a relative decline in death and violence in Baghdad and a huge movement of Iraqis who have fled the country and now are allegedly returning home. But numbers have been funny in the war in the past, and may be twisted again, New York Times correspondent Damien Cave suggests today.

"A half-dozen owners of Iraqi travel agencies and drivers who regularly travel to Syria agreed that the numbers misrepresented reality," Cave reports. "They said that the flow of returnees peaked last month, with more than 50 families arriving daily from Syria at Baghdad's main drop-off point. Since Nov. 1, they said, the numbers have declined, and on Sunday morning, during a period when several buses used to appear, only one came.

"The travel agents said that they believed that Iraqis would continue to return to Baghdad from Syria and Jordan but that the initial rush appeared to be over. A United Nations survey released last week, of 110 Iraqi families leaving Syria, also seemed to dispute the contentions of officials in Iraq that people are returning primarily because they feel safer.

"The survey found that 46 percent were leaving because they could not afford to stay; 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security."

Here is an excerpt.*

By all accounts, Iraqi families who fled their homes in the past two years are returning to Baghdad. The description of the scope of the return, however, appears to have been massaged by politics. Returnees have essentially become a currency of progress.

Under intense pressure to show results after months of political stalemate, the government has continued to publicize figures that exaggerate the movement back to Iraq and Iraqis' confidence that the current lull in violence can be sustained. …

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