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Monday, April 21, 2008


Leila Fadel, embed extraordinaire

Over the years I've had occasion to praise a handful of reporters employed by the corporate media; good ones do exist. Strangely enough, outside of the BBC's Orla Guerin, most of the rest have all been part of the McClatchy organization - Dion Nissenbaum, Hannah Allam, and Leila Fadel.

Recently Fadel, who is normally the Baghdad bureau chief for McClatchy and, as far as I can tell, pretty much reports independently, turned herself into an "embed" and accompanied U.S. troops into Sadr City during the recent fighting there. In doing so, however, she demonstrated that a good reporter can embed their body without embedding their mind. She appeared on Bill Moyers Journal a few nights ago to talk about her experiences (and more). The full video is 35 minutes, if you've got time:

Here are some excerpts from the interview, which demonstrate the extent to which Fadel actually behaves like an "embed"...with the Iraqi people:

LEILA FADEL: Yeah. I had been in Sadr City five or six days earlier talking to the victims of air strikes, U.S. air strikes, who had so much anger towards what the U.S. military calls collateral damage. I mean, these people were angry. Angry, angry that their four year olds had shrapnel in their body, that there were soldiers shooting from abandoned buildings in their neighborhoods. They were extremely angry.
And I asked these men [the U.S. soldiers she accompanied into Sadr City, who were using a supposedly unoccupied house as a sniper base, and whose owner returned, but wasn't allowed in, while they were there], you know, what would you do if there was a foreign army in your house?

BILL MOYERS: You asked the Americans?

LEILA FADEL: I asked the American soldiers. And one soldier told me he would blow up half the house to get back into it. And another said he would be a sniper on a rooftop and start taking people out. And I said, "Well, isn't that what this group is doing?" And one soldier told me-- he was from Athens, Tennessee, I think. And he said, "But we're trying to do something good for them."
I ask you, how many American reporters would ask the troops they were accompanying in battle such questions, or use a phrase like "what the U.S. military calls collateral damage"? Precious few. And how many dare to question the veracity of the pronouncements of the U.S. military, as in this exchange:
"The U.S. military says that they have people in detention that say they were trained and supplied in Iran and apparently have killed U.S. soldiers. I don't know. That's what they say. I don't know that it's true."
Update: As a reminder, both Fadel and Allam maintain very interesting blogs well worth checking out. Allam, Fadel's predecessor in Baghdad who is now based in Cairo, reports this week from Baghdad (since Fadel is out of town) and tells us about her trip into Sadr City with...wait for it...Ahmad Chalabi! Who even knew he was still around!

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