Spinning our “Success” in Iraq


Two days of the Star Tribune’s coverage of the shoe throwing incident illustrate how the Strib spins the news to give us an inaccurate picture of the situation in Iraq.

On December 16, the Strib carried a large article on page 4 devoted to the incident where Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidei threw his shoes at President Bush. Their sources for the article were stated as a New York Times and an AP article. It is instructive to note what they chose to put in the article and what was edited out.

They did cover the anti-U.S. demonstration in Sadr City “calling for an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal”, a demonstration in Baghdad for his release, and three paragraphs about his family’s comments. By giving one fourth of the article to Zeidi’s family’s comments and his Che Guevara poster, the Strib personalizes the opposition to the U.S. occupation. The article makes it clear that this individual is opposed to the occupation, but leaves out the quotes in the NY Times from other Iraqis who express their country’s opposition.

“Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the Iraqi feelings, which is to object to the American occupation,” said Qutaiba Rajaa, an Iraqi physician.

“I swear by God that all Iraqis with their different nationalities are glad about this act,” said Yaareb Yousif Matti, a teacher from northern Iraq.

If a Strib reader is one of the many who still operate under the illusion that the U.S. is a liberator of Iraq, rather than an occupier, the article does not dispel that notion. There are also two brief letters to the editor on the 16th. One praises the shoe thrower for having the courage to express what the world has been saying about Bush for six years. The other asks what would have happened to the shoe thrower under Hussein.

On December 17th, what actually happens to the shoe thrower under the U.S. occupation is not printed in the Star Tribune.

The Strib ignores news the rest of the world is covering – that Zeidi has been beaten in custody. According to the BBC, his older brother Dargham states that, “Muntadar al-Zeidi has suffered a broken hand, broken ribs and internal bleeding, as well as an eye injury.”

Instead, the Strib gives prominent placement and a picture to a two- column letter that extols the free speech that now exists in Iraq so that someone could throw a shoe at a head of state – a letter that states that the only consequence will be “being subject to rules of public behavior”.

So the myth lives on. We liberated Iraq from Hussein. They now have a democracy. We successfully lowered the level of violence with the surge and most Iraqi people are grateful.

Never mind that we broke the country – hundreds of thousands were killed, injured, made homeless, became refugees, and are unemployed.

When an Iraqi clearly expresses anger over what has been done to his country – Zeidi said, “This is for the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq!” – his act is spun to be a great example of the free speech that now exists. Withhold the information that he was severely beaten in custody. Withhold the quotes from his countrymen supporting his action.

A devoted fan of the Iraqi war can continue to maintain their faith in our “victory” in Iraq.

Minnesotans deserve more information and less spin.