June 24, 2004
Room-Temperature Tang, Anyone?
On the heels of grim news out of Iraq, here’s a revealing piece about nights without electricity in Baghdad by Peter Hong at the LA Times.
In the 110-degree daytime heat, there are no fans. No working refrigerators. No ice cubes.
The night provides little relief. In the pitch-black darkness of his garden, where he has taken refuge from the sauna-like air in the house, Qadr explains his disillusionment. “I’m concerned if you write what I tell you, it will sound like I support Saddam,” Qadr says.
It is 10 o’clock. Qadr speaks slowly, just loud enough to be heard over the rolling background noise of automatic-rifle fire. A small flashlight, brought by his visitor, is propped on a table for light.
“After the Americans came, I believed President Bush. I thought things would be better in Iraq,” he says. “But now, after almost a year and a half, there is no electricity, no water. There is more unemployment. My life is worse than it was before the war.”
If I could give Peter Hong an award for writing this, I would. Wait, actually, no: First I would make him go back and re-write it in the first person instead of the fungly newspaper quasi-first-person. You know what I’m talking about: “On this night, the 15 members of the Qadr family have welcomed one of those reporters into their spacious two-story concrete-and-brick home.” Gahhh.
Apparently if the word “me” touches newsprint it explodes.
It’s a style that serves only to obfuscate. For instance, I suspect that in this passage —
Ammar Mohammed, a Baghdad native also visiting the house this night, says the Qadr brothers’ fear of being mistakenly shot by U.S. troops is exaggerated.
— Hong is actually introducing his translator or fixer. I think that’s worth knowing.
So give that story a quick edit, Peter — put yourself back in it — and the Snarkmarket Story of the Week award* is yours!
*Don’t get too excited; all you get is a line of bold text.