Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Candyman

Forty one people, 34 of them children, died when a group of people watching the opening of a new Baghdad sewage facility were hit by three car bombs. Reuters reports:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Insurgents detonated three car bombs near a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad Thursday, killing 41 people, 34 of them children, and wounding scores. In two other attacks, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near a U.S. checkpoint outside the capital, killing two policemen and a U.S. soldier, and a car bomb killed four people in the restive northern Iraq town of Tal Afar. The Baghdad blasts coincided with crowds gathering to celebrate the opening of a new sewage plant. 

But Reuters couldn't resist adding, "It was not clear if the event or a U.S. convoy passing nearby was the target." to remind the readers that the 'resistance' may have meant well. In the very next line Reuters continues, "The first explosion was followed by two more that struck those who rushed to the aid of the initial victims." It was a crowd that predominantly consisted of children. An amazing performance of journalistic even-handedness from an organization whose web page declares:

As part of a long-standing policy to avoid the use of emotive words, we do not use terms like 'terrorist' and 'freedom fighter' unless they are in a direct quote or are otherwise attributable to a third party. We do not characterize the subjects of news stories but instead report their actions, identity and background so that readers can make their own decisions based on the facts. 

Critics have long criticized the American 'failure' to upgrade sewage facilities in the capital as one of the root causes of discontent. Guilty of neglect by Roto-rooter. And Americans were guilty of the crime of handing out candy to kids at the opening ceremony. The Associated Press headline is Rebel bombing kills 35 Iraqi kids; attracted by U.S. troops handing out candy

"The Americans called us, they told us, 'Come here, come here,' asking us if we wanted sweets," said 12-year-old Abdel Rahman Dawoud, lying naked in a hospital bed with shrapnel embedded all over his body. "We went beside them, then a car exploded."

Hence the casual reader may be forgiven for subconsciously assuming that Americans were substantively guilty for the carnage itself. After all, if Americans weren't in Iraq, if they weren't on the planet, none of this would have happened. But there is another possibility. A New York Times article quoting a private security group's data shows that 41% of all terror attacks in Iraq take place in 0.17% of the country -- a thousand attacks concentrated in 734 square kilometers of Baghdad -- attacks which have almost no military value -- only a propaganda one. It is imperative from the terrorist point of view that their depredations take place, not in the unwitnessed wastes of the Western desert, but before a global audience. The Associated Press may have been right about the candy and wrong about the candyman.