Monday, April 25, 2005

His name is Dexter Filkins, and he is Baghdad correspondent for the New York Times. He was on C-Span, and Angry Arab thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn of NYT operations in Iraq, or Middle East. "We are so lucky to have people who can do this," that was his reference to US military occupation forces in Iraq. He said that US reporters always have a backup car of armed man behind the main car just to stay safe. There were several times in the interview when he talked about "my translator." But not once did he pay tribute to his bodyguards, potato slicers, chefs, valets, butlers, and personal trainers. He was interviewed just before the escalating violence in Iraq in the last week. But he used his NYT-derived wisdom and prophetic skills, to make optimistic predictions for the country--days after the predictions of peace, Iraq exploded, of course. (He did mention in passing "the Sunnis, who did not vote.") He said, very proudly, that he does not live in the Green Zone. He said that he lived in the "Red Zone" to be among the Iraqi people. I thought that this--to be fair and balanced--was quite impressive. Here was a news operation that is not confined to the Green Zone. But he explained where he works from: well, the New York Times operates out--and the reporters live in--A COMPOUND. These are two houses, and the NYT contracted outside extra work for extra security and special fortifications worthy of the great newspaper and its special reporters, for high walls. They have armed security guards in and out of the "compound" and they have big security lights for extra caution. He recommend that a US reporter spends no more than 5--yes, FIVE--minutes--in the street talking--through translators of course--to people. When asked about how he felt covering so many car bomb stories with so many dead bodies. He explained: "these are mostly Iraqis, and people that I did not know," he said. What was tough was covering Fallujah where some of the dead and injured were Americans, he added. He also observed that you cannot but conclude that the US war on Afghanistan was a "just war." After listening to him for an hour, I cannot but conclude that he is not qualified to offer any commentaries on the Middle East.
PS After posting this, I received an email from an American correspondent in Baghdad, who wishes to remain anonymous. He/she tells me that the NYT hired a private security firm to be in charge of their protection, and that uniformed Iraqi guards stand outside for extra protection. He/she told me more about Filkins but I cannot use for security reasons--I do care about the safety of journalists, all journalists, especially in a dangerous place like "liberated" Iraq.