On Saturday March 29, The Washington Post published a front page story by one of its foreign correspondents, Sudarsan Raghavan, entitled, “19 Tense Hours in Sadr City Alongside the Mahdi Army.”
The Mahdi Army — the Shiite militia supported by Iran and under command of Moqtada al Sadr — is America’s enemy and an enemy of Iraq’s nascent democracy. The Mahdi Army has fired upon and killed or wounded hundreds — perhaps thousands — of U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen.
Muqtada al-Sadr came to his exalted position as militant leader of Shiite extremists by conspiring with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. There is a large body of evidence to suggest that he was involved in the murder of the popular, moderate Grand Ayatollah Abd al-Majid al-Khoi, who did not subscribe to the violent version of Shia Islam espoused by the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran. In fact, there was a warrant for his arrest for that murder that was never used.
It is against this backdrop that the braintrust at The Washington Post decided that it would be a good idea to have one of their reporters meet up with and report on the activities of the radical Islamist Mahdi Army.
Raghavan does not bother to delve into the radical aspects of the Mahdi Army and the illegitimacy of al Sadr’s rise to prominence. Instead, he treats us to stylized, seemingly admiring portrayals of the radical Islamist terrorists:
“There was no sign of dread, or grief, or fear. Death was a matter of honor, a shortcut to some divine place.”
The article matter-of-factly explains how one of the enemy guerillas instructs another on which Iranian-supplied weapon he should use to attack and kill Americans.
The Iraqi government is almost portrayed as a foreign power in this article, which is just the opposite of reality. The Mahdi Army would be nothing at all without Iranian arms, but nowhere does Raghavan even allude to this. Nor does he manage to mention that the “Shiite rivals” that the Mahdi Army is fighting are the Iraqi Army, which was commissioned by the elected Iraqi government.
Raghavan does manage to describe excitedly the proceedings as the guerilla leaders ordered their men to “check all the IEDs they had set” and then detailed the guerillas’ plot to attack a U.S. Army Stryker wheeled armored vehicle with heavy gunfire and an IED. He also provides play-by-play as his newfound companions lay down suppressive fire on the suspected position of a U.S. Army sniper.
Raghavan and the Post twist themselves in pretzels to put a human face on the Mahdi Army fighters that were attempting to kill that American soldier. That soldier is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father. And the companions of Washington Post reporter Sudarsan Raghavan did their best to kill him. If they had succeeded, we can be sure that Raghavan would have reported it and the Post would probably have printed it.
As Sen. John McCain has repeatedly said, the war with radical Islamic terrorists is the transcendent issue of our time. The American soldiers in the Stryker armored vehicle were all thousands of miles from home waging that war to keep the pressure on the terrorists where they reside.
But Sudarsan Raghavan was not embedded with them. He was embedded with radical Islamic terrorists. He should hang his head in shame and so should the editors of The Washington Post.
Imagine if you will that it was 1942 and the Post embedded a reporter with Hitler’s Waffen-SS, or with the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines. Or perhaps a better analogy would be a Post reporter spending “19 tense hours alongside the Red Chinese People’s Liberation Army” at the Chosin Reservoir. The Mahdi Army has killed Americans just as those military organizations did, but our enemies were forced to fight us without the publicity granted by The Washington Post back in the 1940s and 1950s.
Whichever Post editor decided that embedding reporters with the enemy was a good idea not only shamed the newspaper, he or she also shamed the entire profession of journalism that covered wars for decades without ever crossing the line to sleeping alongside the enemy.