Ed Driscoll


If you haven’t read The New Republic article that Glenn Reynolds links to yet, you owe it to yourself to click on over–it’s a staggering look at the hoops that reporters allow themselves to be put through to broadcast from Baghdad, even when they know that what they’ll report will be lies and distortions! The New Republic also mentions an upcoming Cinemax show, which sounds very, very interesting:

There are alternatives to mindlessly reciting Baghdad’s spin. Instead of desperately trying to keep their Baghdad offices open, the networks could scour Kurdistan and Jordan, where there are many recently arrived Iraqis who can talk freely. “Amman is the place to find out what’s really going on in Iraq,” says ex-CIA officer Robert Baer, who spent the mid-’90s working in and around Iraq. (To CNN’s credit, it has sent reporter Brent Sadler to Kurdistan despite Baghdad’s furious objections.) Or they could use their access to depict the harsh realities of life under Saddam–even if it means never returning to Iraq. It’s a method used by [French documentary filmmaker Joel] Soler in his documentary Uncle Saddam, to be aired on Cinemax next month. After spending a month ingratiating himself with Saddam’s entourage, Soler convinced the Iraqis to grant him camera time with His Excellency’s inner circle. His film shows Saddam to be a lunatic, devoid of morality or humanity. It captures images of Saddam’s unique style of fishing-hurling grenades into a pond and then sending aides to retrieve the kill. It documents Saddam’s megalomania: Iraq’s biggest paper features Saddam in a new pose on the cover each day. “I don’t need a relationship with Iraq,” he explains of his decision to bare all. “It was my one shot. Every day it was how can I push the limits.”

To be sure, after screening his documentary for film festivals and Iraqi opposition groups in the U.S., Soler found red paint splattered on his Los Angeles home, his trash can set on fire, and a death threat in his mailbox. But with the film he smuggled out of Iraq via courier, Soler gives more psychological insight into Saddam than ten years of American TV reportage.

In the middle of gathering his footage, Soler recounts this horrifying tidbit to TNR, about how his Iraqi government minder took him to a hospital, ostensibly to examine the effects of sanctions, but then called in a nurse with a long needle:

“He said, ‘Now we’ll do a series of blood tests.'” Soler jumped on the table screaming: “I said, ‘I’m calling my ambassador.’ If I’d been American, forget about it.”

TNR’s article is chockablock full with examples similar to Soler’s tale. But Soler had the right idea: gather the truth, and get the hell out. Why Peter Arnett, Christiane Amanpour, and the rest of CNN’s faces want to go back there time after time, even know though they know they’ll be transmitting lies as news, speaks volumes about their vanity–and of CNN’s willingness to compromise news for the sake of a dramatic video feed.