Welcome to the Grand Opening edition of The Whole, Impartial Truth, a new and sporadic exposition of what’s “really” going on out here in Iraq.
By implying that you aren’t already getting the whole truth, I don’t mean that anyone is lying. Rather, I’m acknowledging that agenda drives communication; whether it’s a husband arguing for a big-screen TV or a statesman seeking concessions from a neighbor country, the skillful use of words creates a reality.
Each writer writes from a personal perspective, and not all media outlets provide an actual fair and balanced picture. Because of each outlet’s agenda, in fact, it may even be fair to say that not one commercial outlet provides a full and unbiased version of life as it occurs.
Here’s an example:
The Pope and President George W. Bush were fishing in a little rowboat one day. A gust of wind blew the Pope Hat off the Pope’s head and splashed it in the pond 10 yards away. The Pope was beside himself, naturally, because this is an important symbol of his office. President Bush calmly rose, stepped onto the surface of the pond, and walked over to recover the Pope Hat.
The next morning, headlines across the country blared out, “George Bush Can’t Swim” (Thanks, Gabe!)
Here’s another example. In the days before this presidential election, I was amazed to hear CNN and Fox News paint two realities based on this one, undisputable fact: the polls favored Obama 52 to McCain’s 44. Here are the two realities:
CNN: “Senator Obama continues to surge ahead with his ever-widening gap.”
Fox: “Senator McCain is really making a comeback as the gap rapidly disappears.”
(Please understand that those are not actual quotes, but paraphrasings. I don’t want to be accused of still further distortion of the truth!)
So, while Powerful Peace recognizes the existence of continuing beheadings and that little girls have been blown up by terrorist bombs as recently as this week, we must also keep in our hearts the stories that don’t sell commercial airtime such as the following, lifted intact from the “Coalition Chronicle” magazine that we read out here in the sandbox:
Baghdad Zoo – Returning to Normal
- Army Staff Sergeant James Hunter
BAGHDAD - The Baghdad Zoo opened its doors to Iraqi citizens in 1971. Since then, it has been a key centerpiece to the lives of many Iraqis. Many travel from throughout Iraq to enjoy a peaceful day at the zoo with their families.
- Time Alone
Due to the potential threat of violence and security issues in Iraq however, the last several years have not brought many people to the zoo as many feared leaving their neighborhoods and the safety and security of their own homes.
“After coalition forces pushed into Iraq, ousting the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, the zoo and surrounding park were left unattended and desolate,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Sanford…. “Animals were abandoned, stolen or freed by looters and the park grounds were vandalized.”
It was nearly two years before coalition forces began to seriously focus their efforts on the zoo after troops gained a foothold on the adjacent International Zone, which provided the opportunity for Dr. Salah, the Zawra Park director, and Dr. Adel Mousa, the zoo’s director, to truly begin rebuilding the area.
Their efforts, combined with the efforts of MND-B [Multi-National Division, Baghdad], have brought life back into the zoo.
- With Daddy at the Zoo
“The people of [Iraq] visit the zoo quite frequently,” said Sanford, who works closely with the zoo’s director. “It is a central location that helps them see the future of Iraq as a revitalized society and continues to build family relationships and a sense of normalcy in an area so often torn by hardship and conflict. Visiting the zoo and the surrounding Zawra Park area is as much a family outing here in Iraq as it is in the United States.
This time to forge friendships and strengthen family ties would not be where it is today without the efforts of Iraqi security forces and MND-B troops positioned throughout greater Baghdad.
When Iraqi security forces and MND-B cracked down on special groups extremists and sent many fleeing the area, it brought new life and a sense of normalcy back to the Iraqi people.
“The current security situation has been one of stabilization and peace in the area, drawing more families from their home and into the park and zoo for leisure and recreational activities once thought to be too risky to chance,” said Sanford. “The continued effort of both coalition forces and the Government of Iraq have allowed people who once only ventured out for necessity to stray far from their homes at times, even if just to see the new tigers, Hope and Riley, now being proudly displayed.”
Mousa said he now sees a secure place for people from all over Iraq to visit.
Family Picnic at the Zoo
“The people are all smiling; they are happy,” the zoo director said.
The security situation has made many Iraqis happy people, but none may be as happy as those children who walk through the gates of the Baghdad Zoo daily to see the lions, tigers, bears, an array of fish, flamingos, crocodiles, alligators or even a little girl’s favorite, a pony.
Many are seen smiling, maybe some a bit frightened by those larger animals, as they walk across the green grass or the natural or manmade paths during their leisurely strolls.
Sitting atop the freshly cut green grass are many families with picnic baskets and soda cans in tow. The children seem to run endlessly until exhausted from the heat of the sun.
When Sanford visits the zoo to meet with his Iraqi counterpart, he too feels a difference in his surroundings.
As he walks onto the grounds on the zoo, just as many do daily, he finds himself walking along a marble walkway with an array of birds and fowl on either side surrounding him.
“As you walk from cage to cage, you will almost definitely notice the significant difference in cleanliness of the area,” Sanford said. “Trash is placed in trash cans and sidewalks are kept swept and clean.”
“As you make your way around, you will see families laughing and smiling, couples holding hands and children tugging on their parents to point out some fascinating creature,” he adds. “It is truly an experience.”
Copyright © 2008 by Jack Oatmon. All rights reserved.
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