It is to be expected that in a media consisting of some segments that thrive primarily on sensationalism, truth will occasionally suffer. Although such took place against me earlier this year, I harbor no bitterness and forgive all those who unwittingly published incorrect information about me. This page is dedicated to correcting those misconceptions.
In the aftermath of the mainstream media’s coverage of my Iraq journey, a series of articles by lesser known newspapers, professional bloggers, and political commentators accused me of affiliations with terrorist organizations without any evidence to make such a serious claim. I can hardly imagine a person with greater antipathy towards terrorists and Islamic Fascists than me. Anyone who actually took the time to investigate the facts before branding me an associate of terrorists would have discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote and submitted to my school newspaper in the fall of 2005 concerning the War on Terrorism.
“On 9/11 war was forced upon the United States by a horrific ideology that uses terror to achieve its ends. This ideology has been dubbed Islamic Fascism because in the many Islamic terrorist organizations, one finds a totalitarian mind-set, hatred of the West, fanatical religious extremism, intolerance of dissent, repression of women, loathing of Jews, a firm belief in conspiracy theories, and aims of global hegemony…Islamic Fascism does not just detest our government, it detests us. It sees our culture as the embodiment of debauchery. It abhors the freedom and liberty we exercise in our everyday life. It despises Jews and Christians. It seeks the extermination of secularism. It does not just hate what we do, it hates who we are. These evident truths are corroborated in the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Iranian government, and other leading factions.”
Journalism Class Confusion
An unfortunate misconception occurred when the press discovered that contrary to earlier reporting, no journalism class existed at Pine Crest School and consequently accused me of making that up. In reality, the notion that I had been inspired by a high school journalism class was manufactured by the Associated Press in their first article about me. “It begins with a high school class on immersion journalism.”
I never claimed to be in any journalism class. Quite the contrary, over a bowl of cereal I explicitly explained to the AP reporter in Baghdad, who was recording our conversation without my knowledge, that my interest in immersion journalism was sparked by a study during my English Language AP class of non-fiction authors who use a participatory style of active observing to gain a deeper understanding of their subjects.
During the 1980s many thousands of Iraqis were aggressively exiled by Saddam Hussein and did not possess proper identification papers to receive basic social services in their host countries. My father sought to ameliorate this serious refugee crisis by printing the identification documents that Iraqi refugees desperately needed in order to do normal things like send their children to public schools, receive public healthcare, and become official residents of their host countries. The FBI investigated his efforts however, and he subsequently appeared in court to defend himself. After examining the nature of my father’s case a judge found him innocent and all charges were dropped.
The New Times of South Florida used that event to claim that my father was illicitly involved in anti-American activities supporting Islamic extremists in association with certain individuals that were found guilty of conspiracy charges and sent to jail. But I personally know that my father would never pursue anti-American activities for he often lauds the virtue of our great nation. He passionately feels that America is his home and only nationality. An avid supporter of the Republican Party’s platform and traditional American values, his position on the War on Terrorism is tougher than 90% of the Democratic Party. He strongly resents the “Islamic” regime currently ruling Iran because he believes it is an affront to the institution of religion for government to impose religious dogma on the public. He certainly purports no religious bias. If he did, he would not have sent me to an Christian school for ten years where I participated in church services five days a week, nor a high school with a mostly Jewish student body. Truly his most passionate belief is that faithful Jews, Christians, and Muslims are brothers in the same religion of love and belief in one God.
While I maintained from the beginning that I had gone to Iraq completely on my own and that the extent of my parents’ involvement was severely limited, confusion occurred when in a press conference my high school stated that my parents were aware of and condoned my Middle East travels. My father’s comments on the issue caused further misunderstanding. They never said they would take me to Iraq, yet that is what the media reported. I hope the following brief summary of my travels expresses the extent to which I operated independently.
Telling only two friends about my plans, I departed Florida on December 11, 2005. On December 13 I sent an email to my mother briefly stating that I was on my way to Baghdad. After I discovered the Iraqi borders would be closed for a week, I was forced to devise some activity to pursue until they reopened. My father called me on December 14 (the first time I had spoken to him since leaving the U.S. three days earlier) and sternly ordered me to return to the United States immediately. I refused and reaffirmed my goal of going to Baghdad. Remembering that my father’s best friend lived in Lebanon, I suggested that either I would wait alone in Kuwait until the Iraqi borders opened and then attempt to reach Baghdad overland, or I would fly to Lebanon and do research there while the Iraqi borders remained closed. Confronted with the condition that I was going to Baghdad with or without his opposition, he finally relented.
I kept in touch with my father during my ten day stay in Lebanon in order to reduce as much as possible the stress my trip was causing my family. My father never stopped demanding that I return home; so without telling him, I bought a plane ticket with some of the last of my personal savings and flew to Baghdad on December 25. Contrary to media reports, my father did not arrange private security for me while I was in Baghdad. I was completely on my own.