March 18, 2009

Talking to Arabs, Big and Small

You'll remember that I echoed Philip Bennett's lament in Sunday's Post that so many of the narratives to have emerged from the Iraq War have left out the voices of Iraqis themselves. The exception to the rule has been the work of Anthony Shadid, who is now back in Iraq and busying himself with speaking to ordinary Iraqis on the streets of Baghdad. Our understanding of Iraq and its peoples is much richer for his reporting, so read what he wrote today. Most reporters in Iraq are hard-working professionals who hustle to keep track of the latest military and diplomatic maneuvers. But an Arabic-speaker like Shadid can spend two hours at a schwarma stand and proceed to tell us more about Iraq than 90% of other stuff out there.

Give some credit, too, to Robert Pollock, who went to Lebanon for the Wall Street Journal and interviewed Muhammad Hussein Fadhlullah. This is a very good interview. Pollock presses Fadlallah on key questions but also allows him time to formulate cogent responses. The title of this post, actually, should have been "Talking with Arabs." Because listening to their responses is often more important than what we Westerners have to say.