Pentagon to Iraq: No press freedoms for you!

Iraq’s shaping up as a brutal testing ground for our revered notions of a marketplace of ideas. From my vantage point in suburban California, it’s outrageous that U.S. troops shut down an anti-U.S. newspaper in Baghdad.

But there’s no denying that any number of factions are exploiting their freedoms to strengthen their ability to call the shots in Iraq, and most of these factions are no more democratic than the mullahs running Iran.

A telling quote:

“When you repress the repressed, they only get stronger,” said Hamid al-Bayati, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a prominent Shiite political party. “Punishing this newspaper will only increase the passion for those who speak out against the Americans.”

The copy editor part of me can’t help thinking: If repression made Iraqis stronger, they’d all have Marvel Comics nameplates after a couple decades of Saddam’s tender mercies. Logic is so rare in a war zone.

Whatever the logic for shutting down the Baghdad paper, it looks bad for the Pentagon to be saying, in effect, “we decide whose press gets to be free, and critics of the occupation should be happy we’re not killing and torturing you like Saddam would’ve.”

Kinda hard to build broad public support around, “well, we’re not as bad as Saddam.”

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