Reporters on the Job
• Reporter As Lightning Rod: As an American journalist in Iraq, staff writer Howard LaFranchi says he has learned what it means to be a lightening rod. "Far from being reluctant to talk, Iraqis are attracted to you and want to tell you their view of the country's crisis," he says. "And understandably those viewpoints are generally quite emotional and emphatic."
While stopping into a Baghdad photo shop, Howard was approached by a man with a stack of pictures. "He figured out I was American and began sticking laminated sheets with photos of bloodied and mangled bodies under my nose," Howard says. "It turns out the man, Raad Abad Daoud, was preparing the exhibits for a two-day seminar that would publicize the civilian deaths in recent US raids.
"I learned this through a young English-speaking Iraqi who identified himself only as 'George,' and had offered to translate upon seeing Mr. Daoud struggling to tell his story," says Howard. "As sheet after sheet of disquieting photos passed before me, Daoud assailed American actions in Iraq, said the US was violating the very human rights it said it had come to establish, and referring to President Bush's argument that the war on terrorism is being fought here to avoid having to fight it on US soil, concluded: 'It's not fair that America fights its enemies here.'
"But as it turns out I wasn't done hearing opinions. Having finished translating, George leaned closer and said, 'I don't agree with this man, we are 180-degree opposites. As far as I'm concerned you Americans truly are our liberators, but people are quickly forgetting that, forgetting what we lived under before. This man talks about human rights. That is good, but does he forget that for 35 years under Saddam we lived without human rights, people were killed all the time, and no one cared? The Americans are the only ones who saved us from a terrible regime."
- David S. Hauck