Neocon bloggers are in such a tizzy over Sarah Boxer’s New York Times piece, provocatively titled “Pro-American Iraqi Blog Provokes Intrigue and Vitriol,” that they can barely contain themselves. We haven’t seen such a roiling of the waters since a certain cigarette-smoking antiwar reactionary punctured their insufferable pretensions way back in 2002, when the blogger phenomenon was really new. My fellow San Franciscan Tim Cavanaugh delivered what was pretty much the death blow in a celebrated piece, “Let Slip the Blogs of War,” published in the Online Journalism Review. That sure provoked plenty of whining from Matt Welch at the time, but Cavanaugh and Welch are both grazing peaceably in the green pastures of Reason magazine these days, so I guess that little spat died down faster than the blogger phenomenon itself. Now that the subject is old and tired, the Times has stumbled on the “news” that the blogosphere is more aptly termed the propaganda-sphere.
Boxer takes on the case of Iraq the Model, a website that captures in its very name the neocon vision of a democratized and properly domesticated Middle East. The pro-war bloggers have been touting the brothers Fadhil, as exemplars of the “good news” from Iraq. Their capstone of their triumphant American tour, sponsored by a “charitable” organization known as the “Spirit of America,” occurred when two of the brothers were received at the White House for face time with the Prezt. But there’s a fly in this ointment, as I pointed out at the time, and I’m glad to see that the MSM, in the person of Ms. Boxer, has fished it out: the disenchantment of the third brother, Ali, whose last post on Iraq the Model read as follows:
“This is the last time I write in this blog and I just want to say, goodbye. It’s not an easy thing to do for me, but I know I should do it. I haven’t told my brothers with my decision, as they are not here yet, but it won’t change anything and I just can’t keep doing this anymore.
“My stand regarding America has never changed. I still love America and feel grateful to all those who helped us get our freedom and are still helping us establishing democracy in our country. But it’s the act of some Americans that made me feel I’m on the wrong side here. I will expose these people in public very soon and I won’t lack the mean to do this, but I won’t do it here as this is not my blog.
“At any rate, it’s been a great experience and a pleasure to know all the regular readers of this blog, as I do feel I know you, and I owe you a lot.
“Best wishes to all of you, those who supported us and those who criticized us as well.”
Boxer got in touch with Ali, and her depiction of his ambiguity about the American occupation, and the tenuousness of his position in relation to the realities of Iraq, ruined the Potemkin Village rah-rah propaganda regularly emitted – in English – on “Iraq the Model” and a slew of other pro-occupation Iraqi blogs:
“Why did he quit Iraq the Model? When was he going to expose the Americans who made him feel he was on the wrong side? He was surprisingly frank. The blog had changed him. When the blog began, he said, ‘People surprised me with their warmth and how much they cared about us.’ But as time passed, he said, ‘I felt that this is not just goodwill, giving so much credit to Iraq the Model. We haven’t accomplished anything, really.’
“His views took a sharp turn when his two brothers met with the president. There wasn’t supposed to be any press coverage about their trip to the United States, he said. But the Washington Post wrote about the meeting, and the Arabic press ended up translating the story, which, Ali felt, put his family in real danger. Anyway, he said, he didn’t see any sense in his brothers’ meeting with President Bush. ‘My brothers say it happened accidentally, that it was not planned.’ But why, he asked, take such an ‘unnecessary risk’? He explained his worries: ‘Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American.’”
Ali, in short, was tired of being used by the War Party to make propaganda in America. The pro-war bloggers are now getting up on their high horses, screeching that Boxer has put the Fadhil brothers in danger. But Ali is right: it is the propagandists in America, including the laptop bombardiers’ brigade, who put them in danger the minute they started holding them up as model New Iraqis, the offspring of the “liberation.” But since Glenn Reynolds-Powerline-Little Green Footballs crowd is definitely not part of the reality-based community, the hard reality of Ali’s comment that “Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American” is inadmissible, becasue “some people” means an awful lot of people.
Boxer takes up the suspicions first raised by Martini Republic that “Iraq the Model” might have informal connections to the U.S. government, a suggestion that was greeted with outrage by pro-war bloggers, but Ali’s account doesn’t dispel the murky aura of intrigue that hangs over the whole affair:
“Ali never did expose the people who made him feel that he was on the wrong side, and in fact conceded that he couldn’t. As he confided on the phone, ‘I didn’t know who the people were.'”
But Ali isn’t disenchanted with the idea of human freedom: it’s just that now he doesn’t identify this idea with the U.S. government:
“‘Me and my brothers,’ he said, “we generally agree on Iraq and the future.’ (He is helping his brother Mohammed, who is running on the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party ticket in the Jan. 30 election.) But there is one important difference: ‘My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions.'”
“Now that,” writes Boxer, “seems genuine,” and I can only concur. .
He’s started his own blog, Free Iraqi. Go check it out.