Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Don't Blame The Sweet and Tender Kaloogian

The dark humorist in me would say, "You know it's bad in Iraq when..." and then link to this post and Josh's follow up here. I could, of course, leave the humor to the professionals. Allow me to provide the background: Howard Kaloogian, a Republican congressional hopeful looking to fill the seat vacated by disgraced GOP Congressman Duke Cunningham, has posted a picture on his campaign site that is supposed to be of peaceful, vibrant, and surprisingly modern looking, Baghdad. The picture contains the following caption:

We took this photo of downtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it - in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.

Problem is, it looks as if this photo was not taken in Baghdad at all. Not anywhere in Iraq for that matter though that possibility remains. According to a reader quoted at Josh's site, who is writing from Baghdad, the photo contains the following inconsistencies:

Why is this pic definitely not of Baghdad?

As you say, the script is wrong and there are Turkish letters instead of Arabic ("NOTER" is Turkish for "Notary" by the way), including that telltale Turkish “Ç” on the yellow sign on the right.

My four Baghdad staffers tell me the cobblestones on the pedestrian walkway do not exist in Iraq, and anyway, they know every corner in Iraq in this simply is not here.

The blue metal and glass commercial structure at right does not reflect technology in the dilapidated Saddam-nurtured command economy -- "we never had this!," as a staffer adds.

The buildings and taxi are much too nice ("maybe Baghdad in 100 years!" as one of them guffaws); the garb is all wrong; and everything is much too clean for a city greatly straining to meet basic service needs.

The pedestrians are much too relaxed; especially the couple at lower left, with the woman who would be questioned/arrested for indecency being dressed like that. ("This is impossible, to go out like that!," as a female translator of ours relays the obvious.)

In short, they all just laughed, but wherever this is exactly they would like to make a tourism visit. So if the Congressman lets us know, they'd appreciate it. Seemingly, the Congressman relays a photograph of Turkey - perhaps that was a stop on his ill-informed trip?

Another indication that all is not right with the depiction in question: the photo has since been taken down from Kaloogian's site. I have a suggestion though. Instead of removing the photo and destroying it, Kaloogian should make lemonade out of lemons. He could show his conservationist bona fides by recycling it. The photo, after all, would make for a superb pictorial accompaniment to Ralph Peters' series on how the media is misreading the situation in Iraq.

Caption: Dude, check out the real Baghdad.

[UPDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a city. Kaloogian used a photograph of the Istanbul suburb of Bakirkoy to convey the point that the media's version of Iraq is overly pessimistic. Just look at idyllic Bakirkoy, Turkey as proof that Iraq is calm and peaceful. Well done Mr. Kaloogian. His aim with the camera was even worse than Cheney's with a shotgun. If only this was the exception and not the rule for the GOP these days. The gang that couldn't shoot straight indeed.]

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