July 09, 2004


Omar at Iraq the Model on the Bremer speech controversy:

It seems that some people in the major media still think they’re the only ones who have eyes and ears and cameras and that ordinary people cannot have access to the information except from the major media outlets. They underestimated the prevalence and the effect of the internet in connecting people to each other and making the readers in direct contact with real eyewitnesses at the scene of events. I hope this will serve to make them more careful in the future on what to report ...

Don’t bet on it. Remember clean-shaven Saddam?

UPDATE. Paul Bremer’s little-known farewell speech, as broadcast by renegade underground media outfit "CNN" on June 28:

The future of Iraq belongs to you, the Iraqi people. We and your other friends will help, but we can only help. You must do the real work.

The Iraq your children and their children inherit will depend on your actions in the months and years ahead. You Iraqis must now take responsibility for your future of hope. You can create that future of hope by standing fast against those who kill your police and soldiers, who kill your women and children, who wreck Iraq's pipelines and power lines, and then claim to be your champions.

You can create that future of hope by supporting your government and the elections they are pledged to bring you. You can create that future of hope in a thousand different ways by sharing through your words and deeds a personal commitment to a stable and peaceful Iraq.

You, Iraq's Kurds and Arabs, Shi'a and Sunni, Turkomen and Christian, you are more like each other than you are different from one another. You have a shared vision of how a united Iraq can, again, be a beacon of hope to the region. You have a shared hatred of the violence inflicted on you by those who abhor your vision. And you have a shared love of this wonderful, rich land.

Let no one pit you against each other. For when Iraqis fight Iraqis, only Iraqis suffer.

I leave Iraq gladdened by what has been accomplished and confident that your future is full of hope. A piece of my heart will always remain here in the beautiful land between the two rivers with its fertile valleys, it's majestic mountains and its wonderful people.

(Via reader Michael Jinks)

Posted by Tim Blair at July 9, 2004 06:14 AM

According to Iraq the Model, Bremer recited a famous poem and ended his speech with "Long live Iraq."

The linked CNN page (Google cached) does not report that, but that link appears to represent only a partial transcript of the speech. So I did another search and found a Sacramento Bee story about the speech, which appears to be a complete transcript. http://www.sacbee.com/24hour/special_reports/iraq/story/1461566p-8863396c.html

It, too, omits all mention of poems and exhortations.

Posted by: Carey Gage at July 9, 2004 at 08:12 AM

Driving into work this morning, I heard an NPR reporter who'd just left Baghdad for Jordan being interviewed by the "Morning Edition" anchor.

All she could talk about was how dangerous Iraq is now. Surprisingly, the anchor asked her about "some who are saying the media doesn't report the good stuff happening there".

Her reply was that, yea, a lot of good stuff is happening but it's too dangerous to report it because it's too dangerous.

As this circular discussion continued, I kept thinking "Was it too dangerous to sit and watch Bremer on TV?"

Honestly, too dangerous to go out with a tape recorder to hear some local politician open a new sewage treatment plant in Sadr City? How about the guys that had to build the friggin' thing?

My tax dollars at work!

Posted by: JDB at July 9, 2004 at 08:24 AM

Not to disparage your efforts Carey, but that particular speech was to his staff in the CPA, not the Iraqi people. So it appears the only online source is CNN (so far) with what you rightfully say is only a partial transcript.

There's gotta be video footage out there somewhere!

Posted by: Lydia at July 9, 2004 at 08:34 AM

"It seems that some people in the major media still think"
I may not get it much any more :, but I stream radio feeds and surf the net for the latest and greatist information and it keeps my brain alive with all the multitasking required. Theres a dark TV and a cancelled newspaper subscripsions looking for an owner!

Posted by: The Happy Dyslectic at July 9, 2004 at 08:42 AM

Well don’t forget according to Ali the speech was given in Arabic! Hence it would have had to be translated for an American audience. The poem was as Mohammed pointed out was nearly untranslatable because it was ancient Arabic. (like Old or Middle English is to us hard to translate)

These are the verses which Mr. Bremer used in his farewell speech. They are too difficult to translate (in fact they’re difficult to understand even for Arabs, as it’s an old verse with difficult vocabulary that’s no longer used in daily life) and I’ll post them in Arabic, but they generally say:

I’ve left my heart in the hands of God in Baghdad
I said good bye to him when I wished instead..
That I would say good bye to the days of my life.

Posted by: Michael in SC at July 9, 2004 at 08:50 AM



Posted by: Michael Jinks at July 9, 2004 at 09:16 AM

Hi Michael,
Yes this is the speech, but not all of it, as a large part is missing and I think it has something to do with it being a rushed copy as they noted in the begining of the report.
Thanks for the link. How come I couldn't find it?
Best regards,

Posted by: Michael Jinks at July 9, 2004 at 10:10 AM

The CNN transcript is a transcript of a CNN show, so it has only the portion of Bremer's remarks aired during the show. If you order the CNN video of the show, it won't have anything more of Bremer's remarks than what is reflected in the transcript.

Posted by: Lynxx Pherrett at July 9, 2004 at 11:46 AM

The Happy Dyslectic wries:

" ..stream radio feeds and surf the net for the latest and greatist information and it keeps my brain alive .. "

This is how I get most of my news also. I do have the radio on in my car and watch TV news sometimes, but mainly I get my news from the net.

I enjoy being able to access so many information sources and being able to fact-check when I need to.

I can't understand why more of the Iraqi bloggers have not been hired by one of the media outlets. Having a column written by one of these bloggers would be of value to any news organization, I would think. (As far as I know only one has been given a regular job.)

The Iraq reporting has been the worst I can recall. If I owned a news organization, I'd be ashamed at most of what has passed for news.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at July 9, 2004 at 11:58 AM

To Lynxx Pherrett,

The CNN transcript is a transcript of a CNN show...

Prove it. Since you know seem to know, tell us how that is or how you can to conclude such.

Michael Jinks

Posted by: Michael Jinks at July 9, 2004 at 12:32 PM

Slightly OT: the NYT is set to run a story alleging that Rupert Murdoch ordered the Post to run that "Kerry's Choice" story.


Hmmm...now, where did we hear that theory?

Posted by: Damian P. at July 9, 2004 at 12:36 PM

Actually, it is worse. Even if one assumes that you don't normally check CNN, or trust it, the FDCH had a transcript as well. It is, I think, the same portion of the speech as the CNN bit. And both are available on Lexis-Nexis under the admittedly confusing title "FORMER IRAQI CIVIL ADMINISTRATOR PAUL BREMER DELIVERS REMARKS FOLLOWING THE HANDOVER OF POWER" (my apologies for the caps. I just copied it straight from Lexis Nexis).

I am a researcher for a major columnist in the US, and I always check Lexis Nexis for this sort of thing -- you can never be to careful, especially when writing for a newspaper. But everyone subscribes to Lexis-Nexis. It is the most important research tool used in almost every newspaper. And this is the sort of thing that the newsroom should have checked from LA, to say nothing of Baghdad.

Posted by: Matt at July 9, 2004 at 01:12 PM

I'm not sure WTF your problem is, Michael Jinks, but nobody here is doubting Ali's account. You don't need to sound so fucking smug about this shit either, pally. Good on you for finding the only source available.. I was simply remarking that I'd like to see video of it. I've been a staunch supporter/defender of Bremer from the get-go, so I'm not sure why you insist on reading into everybody's words like they were discounting the whole event. Sheesh. Lighten the fuck up.

Posted by: Lydia at July 9, 2004 at 02:43 PM

Oooooooooh child you is sure one nasty b*tch,

Ain't you mama never told you the f*ck is unacceptable in common discord? I dare not say "human intercourse" 'cause you'd git all "hot and bothered" if I did. Why you sure nuff put me in my place, girlfriend. And I wants to thank you with the following about the "f" word you so dearly luv to use. And I must say what an absolutely cultured and refined human specimen you are! And what lovely engaging posts you write.

Just luv them feisty woman who can take tongue-in-check criticism so well.

A Very, Very Dirty Word
The British Empire's second-greatest gift to the world.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, July 6, 2004, at 1:36 PM PT

The following anecdote appears in one of Niall Ferguson's absorbing studies of the British Empire. On the eve of independence for the colony of South Yemen, the last British governor hosted a dinner party attended by Denis Healey, then the minister for defense. Over the final sundown cocktail, as the flag was about to be lowered over the capital of Aden, the governor turned to Healey and said, "You know, Minister, I believe that in the long view of history, the British Empire will be remembered only for two things." What, Healey was interested to know, were these imperishable aspects? "The game of soccer. And the expression 'fuck off.' "

This prediction, made almost 40 years ago, now looks alarmingly prescient. Soccer enthusiasm is sweeping the globe, and both Sen. John Kerry and Vice President Dick Cheney have resorted to the "fuck" word in the recent past—Kerry to say "fucked up" in connection with postwar planning in Iraq and Cheney to recommend that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., go and attempt an anatomical impossibility. The latter advice received the signal honor of being printed in full, without asterisks, in the Washington Post, thus provoking some ombudsmanlike soul-searching on its own account by the paper's editor, Len Downie.

At some media-pol event in Washington after the invasion of Afghanistan, I was told by an eyewitness that Al Franken attempted an ironic congratulation of Paul Wolfowitz, saying that Bush had won by using Clinton's armed forces. "Fuck off," was the considered riposte of the deputy defense secretary.

If things go on like this—which in a way I sometimes hope they do—we will reach the point where newspapers will report exchanges deadpan, like this:

" 'Fuck off,' he shot back."
" 'Fuck off,' he suggested."
" 'Fuck off,' he opined."
" 'Fuck off,' he advised."
" 'Fuck off,' he averred."
" 'Fuck off,' he joked."
Or even, " 'Fuck off,' he quipped."

The spreading of this tremendous rejoinder by means of the British Empire or its surrogates cannot be doubted. In London, older men of Greek Cypriot descent can be heard to say, as they rise from the card game or the restaurant table, "Thakono fuck off," by which they mean, "I shall now take my leave"; or, "It really is high time that I returned to the bosom of my family"; or perhaps, phrased more tersely and in the modern vernacular, "I am out of here."

A friend of mine was once a junior officer in her majesty's forces in the Egyptian Suez Canal Zone. One of his duties was the procuring of fresh fruit for those under his command. On a certain morning, an Egyptian merchant called upon him and announced that he could furnish a regular supply of bananas. "Just the thing," replied my friend, "that we are looking for."

The man then spoiled the whole effect by stating, in poor but unmistakable English, that of course in the event of an agreement Capt. Lewis could expect 5 percent on top. Peter—I call him this because it is his name—thereupon became incensed. He stated that such a suggestion was an unpardonable one and added that he was sure he could find another banana merchant and that, whatever the case might be, such a banana supplier would emphatically not be the man who had just made such an outrageous proposition to a British serving officer. Sensing his own lapse in taste, the Egyptian made a courteous bow and replied with perfect gravity: "OK, effendi. I fuck off now." It was plain that he had acquired his basic English from loitering around the barracks gate.

Let us not forget, in other words, the implied etiquette of the term. If shouted at a follower or supporter of another soccer team, in a moment of heat, it may connote "please go away" or even "go away in any case." But if used of oneself—dare one say passively—it may simply express the settled determination to be elsewhere. (I once heard the late Sir Kingsley Amis, describing the end of an evening of revelry, saying, "So then—off I fucked.")

"Fuck you" or "Go fuck yourself"—the popular American form—lacks this transitive/intransitive element to some degree. At points, it even seems to confuse the act of sexual intercourse with an act of aggression: a regrettable overlap to be sure. Anglo-Americanism in Iraq may turn out to be the crucible of this difference. I know from experience that older Iraqis, who remember the British period with mingled affection and resentment, are aware of the full declensions of the "fuck" verb. But to judge by their gestures, some of the younger Iraqis are a bit coarser. "Fuck off," some of them seem to be yelling at coalition forces. A lot hinges on the appropriate military response. "Fuck you" might be risky. "OK, off we fuck, then" might buy some valuable time.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His latest book, Blood, Class and Empire: The Enduring Anglo-American Relationship, is out in paperback.

Now how shall you remember me by:
" 'Fuck off,' he shot back."
" 'Fuck off,' he suggested."
" 'Fuck off,' he opined."
" 'Fuck off,' he advised."
" 'Fuck off,' he averred."
" 'Fuck off,' he joked."
Or even, " 'Fuck off,' he quipped."
Michael Jinks

Posted by: Michael Jinks at July 9, 2004 at 03:42 PM

On the topic of journalists and other commentators in war zones.

I met up with a friend the other day who along with his family made an overnight exit from his homeland at the request of an Ak47-wielding militant. Wrong family name, wrong friends, wrong everything. So they left in the middle of the night with what they could carry in their arms.

That was 12 years ago. Earlier this year he returned for the first time as an uneasy peace settled over the countryside. Back in his hometown he met a young foreigner working for an international aid/development agency. The foreigner was a radical, who sent off reports about army brutality back to Europe if government troops so much as sneezed in the direction of the revolutionary militia who took over the area and booted my friend out. But when the latter murdered locals, shot up busloads of people, and detonated bombs in markets, this aid/development worker remained silent. My friend asked his young interlocuter one day why he was always criticising the army but never the thugs. His reply? That it was too dangerous to critique them.

Now, this aid worker jets all over the world to talk on the situation in my friend's homeland. He's an expert. A man with his finger on the pulse. Yet he never mentions revolutionary terrorism because it would prevent him from returning. My friend asked the aid worker whether his access to the war zone was more important that bringing thugs and terrorists to account. Or more important than allowing people booted out 12 years ago to return in peace. The aid worker was puzzled: of course having access was important. His ability to report on the situation was all that kept the world informed about the true story. How would anyone know what was happening if he wasn't there? he asked my friend.

My friend left wondering if he'll ever be allowed to live in his homeland again. With idiots like the aid worker effectively running a propaganda campaign for terrorists, the answer seems pretty obvious.

There's a parallel universe out there. And it's bloody frightening for people like my friend who did nothing other than be born with wrong name. One day the chickens will come home to roost for every middle class radical wanker who went off to save the world but fucked it over for decent people.

Posted by: Hanyu at July 9, 2004 at 04:44 PM

Thanks for that account Hanyu, very revealing of middle class radical wanker's arrogance and ignorance (always a deadly combination). I hope they all end up like Lori Berenson (rotting in a Peruvian jail for aiding Shining Path murderers).

Watch out for the "fuck" nazi", though.

Posted by: nobody important at July 9, 2004 at 11:04 PM

Thanks for that story, Hanyu. It's heartbreaking, though.

Posted by: Sortelli at July 10, 2004 at 09:56 AM