CLEVELAND (TDB) -- The editor of the Guild Reporter, the official publication of the union that represents newspaper reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer and many other U.S. dailies, is now calling Iraq a ''formerly egalitarian society." It is an unusual choice of words considering that Webster's NewWorld Dictionary -- commonly available in American newsrooms -- defines egalitarian to mean: Advocating or characterized by the belief that all men should have equal political, social, and economic rights.
How could Andy Zipser, the editor, have so quickly forgotten that Saddam Hussein was a dictator who ran a one-party police state? Zipser's keyboard riff about a once-egalitarian Iraq looks to be the left-wing equivalent of the fringe right-wing's canard that an enormous cache of WMDs still remains concealed Out-There-Somewhere. (To believe there are WMDs, one has to have faith that Saddam would hide them better than himself).
Zipser's comment showed up in the current edition of the Guild Reporter, which landed in my mailbox Saturday, December 23. [Full Disclosure: I have been a member of the Newspaper Guild for 25 years]. It seems destined to offer aid and comfort to those who think print journalists wear their biases on their sleeves, and that they have conspired to successfully wage a deft proganda campaign which has gnawed away support for the war. Zipser was writing about Giuliana Sgrena, the Italian newswoman who was shot by American soldiers, and her new book Friendly Fire, which recounts the incident and goes on to show how the War in Iraq has failed to turn that nation into a model society.
Zipser says, ''The killing of women who endured abuse at Abu Gharib -- some of whom killed themselves, before anyone else could 'avenge' the dishonor, Sgrena reports -- are only the most extreme example of growing religious intolerance that has converted a formerly egalitarian society into a misogynistic one."
Misogynistic means woman-hating, or oppressive against females.
But here's what Amnesty International reports about Iraq, gender-equality and the old regime, which for a time allowed some rights to a Ba'ath Party women's organization while closing down independent groups that did not favor a one-party state: ''The 1980s and 1990s, however, saw the gradual erosion of many of the gains made by women under the massive and systematic human rights violations committed under the government of Saddam Hussein (1979-2003)."
And: "Under the government of Saddam Hussein, women were subjected to gender-specific abuses, including rapes and other forms of sexual violence, as poltical activists, relatives of activists or members of certain ethnic or religious groups."
And: ''An accusation of prostitution was reportedly used as a pretext to behead Najat Mohammad Haydar, an obstetrician in Baghdad, in October 2000. She was alleged to have been detained for criticizing corruption in the health services before the policy to behead prostitutes was introduced."