Letter from Baghdad

Posted by John Rosenthal

With the expulsion from Iraq of French freelancer Anne-Sophie Le Mauff [link in French], Iraq’s black market in French journalists – rumored to be worth some many millions of euros a piece from the French government when seized as hostages – has taken a serious hit. Regular readers of Trans-Int may remember Ms. Le Mauff from "Le Soir Might be Identifying with the Iraqi ‘Resistance’ Too Much", an April post in which I quoted her describing a fallen member of Moqtada al-Sadr’s "Mahdi Army" as a "martyr". Ms. Le Mauff has seen that post too. (Oh, how I remember the days when it was the first hit on a Google search of Ms. Le Mauff’s name! Now those shameless American lackeys in the so-called Iraqi government have gone and ruined all that by expelling her.) From the tenor of the message I received from her last week, I gather she was not entirely pleased with it.
Asking whether I have ever been to Iraq, Ms. Le Mauff offered that my knowledge of the country [about which, incidentally, I have never claimed to have any particular knowledge - but never mind] was based more on "mental masturbation than lucidity [sic.]". In order to correct this pitiful state of affairs, Ms. Le Mauff suggested I come to Irak, where she promised to introduce me to the locals in Sadr City, as well as to "some of the most extreme Sunni, so that in the future your claims will be more well-founded and developed." It is a shame that it appears now that I will not be able to take up Ms. Le Mauff’s invitation, though I think I might have passed anyway.

Ms. Le Mauff’s mail ends with the following affirmation:

I have been in Iraq for more than a year now and I am neither anti-American, nor pro-resistance. However, I am terrified by negationism.

The impressively self-righteous non-sequitur with which her message finishes will seem rather puzzling – unless one compares some of Ms. Le Mauff’s recent published statements. Thus in a June 15 AP story [link in French], Ms. Le Mauff is quoted as follows in response to reports that French authorities had encouraged her to leave Iraq:

The French authorities have to understand that freedom of the press is essential to keep the country informed and that journalists absolutely cannot abandon Iraq, given that Iraq will become a second Darfur.

I’m sure we would all be very interested to know just how Iraq threatens to become "a second Darfur" in the absence of vigilant journalists such as herself. Since Ms. Le Mauff in the same interview from which this quote is taken says that the treatment of Iraq cannot be left to the "journalists of the coalition", the latter not being "sufficiently neutral" (Dear Ms. Le Mauff, have a look at the NYTimes: you needn’t worry about a dearth of negative reporting on Iraq in your absence), it is presumably, on her view, from Coalition forces that the danger is supposed to originate.

Iraqi authorities have evidently understood that what Ms. Le Mauff continues to call in her mail to me the Iraqi "resistance" – while claiming she is not "pro" – is drawing important financing from its hostage-taking operations. The expulsion of journalists like Ms. Le Mauff, who flaunt their good connections to the "resistance" and whose governments are prepared to negotiate their release when they are conveniently taken hostage by the same, is not a matter of freedom of the press or its limitation. It is a matter of Iraqi security.

(Note: For background, see "More Euros for Terror?".)

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