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July 26, 2003


What's happened to Donna Abu-Nasr? Readers possessing the fabled recollection of an elephant will remember her as the journalist who wrote the "U.S. Doctors Refuse To Treat Burned Iraqi Children" story filed back in June. The rest of you should just nod and say "Oh yea, her." Here's what I wrote about the story then. Here's what I wrote about it later.

That story was dated June 23rd. For the next few weeks Donna filed stories from Iraq on a regular basis.

June 26th -Search for Saddam Goes Into High Gear Note: The date on this story is the date this newspaper published it; it first appeared the day before. Many of those links do not work, because most news sites think of you, the reader, as slightly less important than a vat of steaming cat puke, so their links decay at an astonishing rate. This will be the case with most of the links more than a week or two old in this post.

June 29th - Violence in Iraq: Last gasp from Saddam loyalists or beginning of a revolt?

July 1st- Gunmen kill head of Saddam's tribe in Tikrit

July 4th - Terrorist led quiet life under assumed name

July 12th - Iraqis glad Saddam is gone, but depressed about the future

On July 14th, I sent Ms. Abu-Nasr an email asking for her reaction to Major David Accetta's version of the story of the burned Iraqi children. Here's what he said, for those of you who don't wish to follow the links I so helpfully provide.

I am enclosing the original email that I sent to Donna Abu-Nasr, the AP reporter. You can see that she used only what she needed to support her angle on the story and generate more sympathy and controversy. It is a 'self-licking ice cream cone'. No matter what we say or do the facts will be manipulated to suit the needs of the writer.

I never heard back from her, not that I really expected to. I'd say something snide like "It will be a cold day in hell before journalists respond to ordinary folk who question them about their stories," except that the response rate from journalists whom I have written is somewhere around 75%. For comparison's sake, that's 75% higher than my Andrew Sullivan response rate.

But she also hasn't filed any news stories since two days before I wrote her, after publishing at a fairly predictable rate of a story every other day or so, a gap of almost two weeks. There are other AP writers in Iraq, among them Matt Moore, who filed his first piece from that country yesterday, and Borzou Daragahi, an Iranian reporter who has been covering events in Iraq for the AP since June 27th at a minimum, so it's not like the AP's coverage is suffering.

Of course, Ms. Abu-Nasr could have simply gone on vacation, or been moved to another beat. Matt Moore had a similar 13 day break between his first Iraq story and the one previous.

Except.....consider the timing of Matt's move, and his previous reports. He was filing business stories, a perfectly respectable beat, but presumably not the one AP uses to prep up and coming war correspondents. His last story, Shell hopes to sell Swedish operations, was filed the day before Ms. Abu-Nasr's last.

So, Donna Abu-Nasr stops filing stories; 12 days later Matt shows up. Almost certainly there's an logical explanation, but what is it? Sheer anal curiosity demands an answer.

One more piece of information, though your guess is as good as mine as to whether it bears on the story or not, from a Washington post story on the deaths of Uday and Qusay. I've added emphasis.

Brig. Gen. Frank Helmick, the assistant commander of 101st Airborne, said the military had received intelligence reports that suggested "high-value targets" were inside the house, a gaudy stone edifice with tall, Greek-style columns in the front. Sanchez did not describe the tipster or identify the person's relationship with Hussein's sons.

Neighbors identified the owner of the house as Nawaf Zaidan, a businessman who boasted of being related to Hussein and a member of the former president's Abu Nasr tribe.

Does the surname "Abu Nasr" mean something along lines similar to that of "Al-Tikriti?" ("Al-Tikriti" means "of Tikrit," that being the name of Saddam's hometown.) If so, if Donna Abu-Nasr is connected to tribe of Saddam or even perceived as so by the locals, then the reasons for her 13 day silence may not be so innocuous.

I've written Borzou, perhaps he can enlighten me.

Posted by Bigwig at July 26, 2003 01:10 AM | TrackBack
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Until the last clue I thought you were leading me to believe that perhaps her boss saw your email to her, agreed with you, and sacked her. Now I think perhaps she's in a sack.

Posted by: Jim at July 26, 2003 07:27 PM

I expect I missed my calling; probably should have been a Kennedy conspiracy theorist

Posted by: bigwig at July 26, 2003 10:26 PM

Interesting post - I wonder what's up, there?

I am reminded of Eric Raymond's insight that "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

In this case, restate that as "get enough people looking at the news, and oddities [like this one] will be spotted."

Perhaps someone would eventually have spotted what you have, but then, maybe not. Is it important? I dunno. Of course, without the 'net, who would ever know, one way or the other?

Posted by: Russ at July 27, 2003 01:39 AM

I was just doing a search on Donna Abu-Nasr and found this site. It is Oct. 29, 2003 and I just read an article from the 27th, Monday, which Donna Abu-Nasr wrote titled: "Singers shakin' what Allah gave 'em set off controversy" about the rather risque theatrics which are being used in current mid-east entertainment and how some more fundamentalist Moslems are upset by this. Of course I am sure people think it is America's fault, their decadent influence. But I found it interesting that as it says in the article, "...some women are so offended that they are praying to Allah to smite the seductresses" and also that women in Egypt should go the the shrine of Zeinab "to pray that Allah take Haifa, Roubi and Nancy." (Three of the women talked about in the article.) Fascinating. The religion of "peace" and yet we are to believe that devout Islamic women pray for people to end up dead simply because they act differently than they approve of. If they want their own people to die, how much more they must want we in the West to meet the same fate. Anyway... Donna Abu-Nasr seems to be alive and well.

Posted by: Derek Lamar at October 29, 2003 07:37 PM
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