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Letter to the Editor: 'A Peculiar Article' 

I am writing to express the revulsion I feel toward Lorna Tychostup’s peculiar article “Stories of the Displaced” [9/07]. In fairness, until the part titled “Stories from the Displaced Front,” the article is informative. Then, in my view, it becomes shoddy and manipulative.

She writes in this last part about the Iraqi painter Amal Alwan Maseer. I personally know Amal. I met her, as did Lorna, in Baghdad before the war. Congressman Hinchey has since helped her get residency in Jordan. A small group of people in the US—including Michele Riddell, with whom Lorna originally traveled to Iraq—still help Amal support herself by selling her paintings. Amal has been exhibited in a prominent SoHo gallery.

Lorna takes some pains to undercut Amal’s credibility. She says that Amal “appears to have signs of post traumatic stress disorder” and that for her “the line between truth and fiction has disappeared.” She states as fact that Amal has been fed talking points by “peace activists.” I’d like to know who these peace activists are. Kathy Kelly, founder of Voices in the Wilderness, the antisanctions and antiwar group, who now works with Iraqi refugees? Or perhaps she means Cathy Breen, who also works with Iraqi refugees in Jordan? I and the rest of the people who help Amal financially would be glad to put every copy of our correspondence with Amal at Lorna’s disposal to see if she or anyone can find such influence. Lorna apparently assumes we would use our position to turn Amal into some kind of marionette voicing a position against the US occupation. She implies that left to herself she would not come to such a position on her own. Or if she did, perhaps it’s because there’s something wrong with her mentally. Why does Lorna make all these assumptions? Why does she attribute such behavior to a generalized group of unnamed people she calls “peace activists”? Because Amal points to the US as a cause of Iraqi misery instead of talking about the “overbearing influence of Iranians”? Which it seems that Lorna wants to hear?

It’s not the first time Lorna’s done this. In 2005, without going to Crawford, Texas, or talking to a single person from Cindy Sheehan’s encampment, Lorna wrote a lengthy Chronogram article about how I, personally, and “peace activists” in general, were at Camp Casey to influence the politics of the camp. It was pure speculation, which she stated then as fact, as she does now.

I would like as well to know who the “more reliable sources” who claim “overbearing Iranian influence in Iraq” actually are. They may be correct or not, but given the very real danger of a US attack on Iran in the near future, Lorna has a responsibility to back this statement up. The journalist Nir Rosen, the definitive writer on the Iraq insurgency and civil war, cites his sources and is clear about his own position. By not backing up her allegations, Lorna’s otherwise useful piece becomes a camouflage for her own “talking points.” Moreover, there is a tone of contempt toward her interview subjects. Is her hard, dismissive tone a stand-in for journalistic objectivity? For responsibility? What does she stand for? By playing at being an objective reporter while still editorializing in her articles, at best she undercuts her credibility and that of Chronogram, at worst she herself influences people by this posture of authority. She first went to Iraq cut-rate with the antiwar group Voices in the Wilderness. She avoided the costs that the Iraq regime imposed on journalists, but remained, as a journalist, immune from Treasury Department prosecution. Yet she seems not to be against the Iraq war, nor against another one in Iran. There is something ghoulish about this. Other journalists have taken a stand for their values. What are Lorna Tychostup’s?

—Judith Karpova, Kerhonkson

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