The Therapy Sessions
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
The Iraqi Press
Iraq now has the freest press in the Arab world. To anyone who opposed the war, this realization is met with something like "ho hum."
Which is yet more evidence of how little they understand: things there are going very well indeed.
Thomas Jefferson (a libertarian thinker who for some strange reason is viewed as the father of the modern big government Democratic Party(!)) once said if he were given a choice between a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter: a free press, not a powerful government, is what makes civil society possible.
Baghdad is truly a marketplace of ideas. MEMRI recently did a survey of the Baghdad papers to see what they are talking about.
Anyone interested should read it all. Opinions are all over the map, and some are very good and some are very bad. But here are some excerpts that I thought were truly amazing (I've bolded quotes with particular interest):
An optimistic tone typified an editorial by the daily Al-Nahdha (affiliated with Dr. 'Adnan Al-Pachachi) which stated that "there are positive and important signs that the international position will lead to reexamination of the status quo and the authority of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), as well as the possibility of an expanded U.N. role in the political process…" According to the paper there are many factors on the international, Arab, Iraqi and American levels which may lead to shortening the transitional phase and "allowing the Iraqis to take over the administration and [realize] their autonomy and obtain international recognition…" The article concludes: "These ideas are not an illusion or dreams, but the result of an educated analysis of the present situation, and they undoubtedly represent the greater national interests…" 
The independent daily Al-Mada lamented the fact that due to problems of everyday life in Iraq "the political activism of our masses has been declining… after what seemed like an awakening of the silent majority, whose silence wore it down and made it lose its confidence in its ability to deal with oppression and suppression…" The paper lists democratic activities that immediately followed the removal of the former regime and says that "one of the reasons for the decline in these activities is that the [Iraqi] political parties focused on their inter-relationships and their relations with the Civil Administration, and their participation in the [new] regime… By doing so they ignored, or were not attentive enough to enhancing the popular movement, developing it and interacting with it… and it seems that the formation of the new government did not change this pattern…" The paper emphasizes that "establishing a pluralistic-federal-democratic regime cannot be accomplished with slogans and rhetoric but with comprehensive efforts… such as encouraging democratic initiatives of every type and embracing constructive initiatives…" The paper concludes with a harsh criticism of the Arab media: "which, throughout the tenure of the former regime kept on supporting Saddam, and [now] returned to spew its venom, distort the reality of our struggle and shake the confidence in our nation's ability to realize its aspiration in establishing democracy and resolving the crises created by despotism and occupation…" 
About the reversal of an earlier Arab League decision not to recognize the legitimacy of the Iraqi Governing Council, Al-Nahdha says in its editorial that "the Arabs are masters in wasting opportunities and in procrastinating in making important decisions… For weeks they questioned the legitimacy of the new administrative institutions in Iraq… but a sense of danger persuaded the Arab League to soften its position and to agree to Iraq's participation in its ministerial council meetings… This decision, although late and incomplete [Iraq's participation is conditional] is a very important step. There are indications that there is a serious change in dealing with the Iraqi issue both on international and Arab levels…" The paper further states that "the U.S. is no longer insisting on being the ultimate and only power in dealing with Iraq, which may bring about a quick responsiveness from other superpowers, and a recognition of the Governing Council and the new Iraqi government…" The paper concludes by saying that "an American recognition of the Iraqi administrative institutions… will nullify the excuses used by the powers of darkness to justify their acts of violence and destruction…" 
The independent daily Al-Hilal stated that "those who mislead public opinion [to believe] that everything was fine in Iraq during the reign of the dictator are misleading themselves more than anyone else. Could they possibly ignore half a century in the lives of their nations with a stroke of a pen?… You have to pardon us, because the educational curricula during the dictatorship taught students hatred, detestation, and racism. It taught them to wage wars among themselves, if there was no foreign enemy. As for getting back to normal… there will be a need for a timetable that may take years to change the nature of people, so that they will be able to eat a hamburger with an American friend or eat breakfast with an Israeli, or be able to tolerate seeing the Israeli flag raised over the Israeli embassy in Baghdad, and other things that they have not been used to seeing or hearing until now…"
An Israeli embassy in Baghdad? Try to find any other Arab land were that can even be whispered.