Violence in Baghdad is moving up the scale again. There have been a recent surge of car bombs and vest bombers in crowded markets as well as a renewal of improvised explosive devices against American troops. American casualty numbers are moving back upward.
Nevertheless, there is some small good news coming out of Iraq today. It deals with public relations and publicity as an indicator of personal and local security.
The Coalition and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense both produce color glossy news magazines that tout their accomplishments and achievements. Until recently, these were packed full of newsworthy stories about Iraqi policemen, soldiers, airman, and politicians, who are all doing great things like feeding children, patrolling neighborhoods, and providing health and dental care for the people. But what you would immediately have noticed about these magazines (which are very professionally done by the way) is that the photographs of Iraqi people had all been intentionally retouched to blur their faces. The names in print are sometimes pseudonymic as well. This was done in order to protect those Iraqis, who are working for the government, from direct retribution by their "friends and neighbors.”
In our country, hard-core pornographic magazines use the same technique; blurred faces and captions that seem to indicate having been born with only a first name like "Kristin,” "Debbie" and "Kurt.” Americans do it to hide themselves from embarrassment and Iraqis do it to survive.
Very recently, this is changing for the better. The latest issues of the magazines (and make no mistake, these are propaganda vehicles specifically designed to send the coalition and government message to the masses) now have what appear to be unretouched facial photographs as well as what seem to be real names in the stories. It's a huge step forward and is a small indicator of the changes in internal Iraqi security over the past year. It means that that beyond the obvious personal safety issues, an emergent pride is developing amongst the Iraqis who work for the government.
Considering the recent increases in violence, whether this will survive over time is open to debate.
Melissa deCordova is editor of the series.