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Going the extra mile for freedom
December 29, 2005 3:04 PM   Subscribe

"Hi, Mom? Hi, I'm just calling to say I'm on my way to Baghdad." In which a Floridian teen decides he wants to see what's going on in Iraq. So he, you know, goes. "It was mid-afternoon Tuesday, after his second night in Baghdad, that he sought out editors at The Associated Press and announced he was in Iraq to do research and humanitarian work. AP staffers had never seen an unaccompanied teenage American walk into their war zone office. ("I would have been less surprised if little green men had walked in," said editor Patrick Quinn.)"
posted by LondonYank (109 comments total)

 
Unbelievable.

Something akin to the "boyscout builds nuclear reactor in grandma's shed" story.

I think this kid has a bright future ahead of him.

Or he'll get himself offed. Probably the first one, though.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:19 PM on December 29, 2005


The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.

This is in the USA, mark you. Not in Iraq. So ... what's the teacher trying to say here? Don't talk to Muslim men, they might be terrorists?
posted by kaemaril at 3:22 PM on December 29, 2005


i don't care what anyone says, the kid has the heart of a lion. he may not have understood the totality of what he was doing in going to iraq,

but come on , he can see the nightly news. the brass balls it would take to do something like this . . . its brave , stupid , and original.

wow, just wow.
posted by nola at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2005


Kaemil: Don't knee-jerk - I think the teacher is probably discouraging his/her students from staying up until 6 a.m. talking to any group of recent acquaintances.
Plus, staying up until 6 a.m. can have negative effects on students' ability to watch Channel One.
bwaha. kneejerk.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:27 PM on December 29, 2005


Man, now that'll look good on the old college admissions essay.
The kid is lucky he didn't get killed and dumped in the desert somewhere.

(On a side note: Someone needs to get JASON STRAZIUSO an editor.)
posted by madajb at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2005


Darwin has failed us, we teed this one up real good too!
posted by parallax7d at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2005


kids like him give me hope for the future. and i'm reminded of that teen who landed his plane in Red Square way back when.
posted by amberglow at 3:32 PM on December 29, 2005


Baby Balrog: Sorry, I don't buy it. If a sixteen year old stays up all night that's maybe something to discourage, but it's hardly "dangerous and irresponsible". That just leaves the "talking to Muslim men" bit --- and it doesn't say that they were recent acquaintances, only that he spent an entire night conversing with them.
posted by kaemaril at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2005


f-in 'eh, I was thinking of heading out to see the show in mid-2003, too. History is indeed being made in Iraq, for good or ill.

As everyone knows the situation on the ground is rather complicated. Lotsa love-hate to go around. IMV the USG was too much in bed with the secular shia, the least powerful group in that country.

Let's try a toss-off breakdown of the populace:

10% want to blow us up in retribution for some harm we've done
10% are baathist revisionists still fighting the war
10% are jihadis inimical to any US presence in their culture
20% are middle-class peeps trying to keep their head down
30% are muslim fundie nutjobs working for state power
20% are minorities like kurds & christians

Oddly there's some similarity to the above with:

"Four that wanna own me, two that wanna stone me, one says she's a friend of mine."
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:42 PM on December 29, 2005


When I first read that quote I thought the teacher was referring to the fact that he "immersed" himself by traveling to a war zone. Behavior which, for an American 16 year old, falls squarely in the dangerous and irresponsible behavior category.
posted by chowder at 3:46 PM on December 29, 2005


too bad most neocons don't have the same balls this kid does....
posted by photoslob at 3:47 PM on December 29, 2005


Heywood, you get 10 points. But you lost 50 points just for demonstrating remembering lyrics to an Eagles song.
posted by tkchrist at 3:49 PM on December 29, 2005


i don't care what anyone says, the kid has the heart of a lion.

And the brain of a...?

And, maybe most importantly, the wallet of a very prosperous American teen.
posted by docgonzo at 3:50 PM on December 29, 2005


He said he wrote half the essay while in the United States, half in Kuwait, and e-mailed it to his teachers Dec. 15 while in the Kuwait City airport.

That's going to be one pissed off kid if he doesn't get an A.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 3:53 PM on December 29, 2005


His essay.
posted by ericb at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2005


chowder : Maybe, but that's not the case from the timeline. Either that, or the writer of the article's an idiot.

... OK, maybe the latter's possible :)
posted by kaemaril at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2005


How did a 16 year old manage to get the money for this trip? It was money his parents gave him? I don't think all of my many years of allowance totalled $900. He's lucky he's alive but that doesn't make him smart.
posted by Lockjaw at 3:56 PM on December 29, 2005


Ishmael : I'm going to be pissed off if the kid's not suspended, myself. Truancy is something to discourage, after all :)
posted by kaemaril at 3:57 PM on December 29, 2005


"Those terrorists are not human but pure evil."

Maybe he shoulda just stayed at home and listened to the American government's propaganda, for all the good his 'immersion' seems to have done for his insight into the situation.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:59 PM on December 29, 2005


Well this is an important point: whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years. I mean besides his dress, he probably didn't raise any flags until he opened his mouth.

Besides that, Iraq is incredibly dangerous as the article states. It sounds like this kid is genuinely smart (and loaded, of course if I had that much money to blow at 16 it'd be on other things) -- but come on has it been that long since you guys were 16? I at the time probably thought, "Nah I'll just be cool with them they'll understand." And incredible story by any account, an amazing level of independence for someone that age. It does sound like he was familiar with foreign, specifically Arab travel which helps.

Though to stress how dangerous this, I have friends studying Arabic and Middle Eastern politics. I've been studying the oil industry and I'm an International Business major. Point being me being familiar with Arabic business politics and the others being well versed in culture, current events and the language. I wanted to do something like this, just to experience the culture and form my own opinions, even though I never seriously considered it due to both logistical and monetary concerns (I'm surprised it only cost $1300 to get to Iraq). When I ran it by my very, very informed friends they, without hyperbole, equated it to suicide. The moment the word gets out an American civilian is unprotected and roaming around, some insurgent group will find out, track you down (wouldn't be hard) and kidnap you. This was presented as fact, without significant protection and moving through troop occupied areas it's impossible to go to Iraq and survive. I don't think this kid's luckiness can be stressed enough.
posted by geoff. at 4:00 PM on December 29, 2005


Wow. Unbelievable story.

Can't wait until he sells the movie rights.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:02 PM on December 29, 2005


Kae I see what you're saying too and think you nailed it with either the teacher is over reacting or the writer took him out of context.
posted by chowder at 4:02 PM on December 29, 2005


Having read the essay :F-. This idiot wanted to be a journalist? "Those terrorists are not human but pure evil." ... yep, impartial reporting going on there, sure enough. Level of hyperbole is ratcheted right up. Give him a job on Fox News, he ought to fit right in.
posted by kaemaril at 4:06 PM on December 29, 2005


Man, I would have loved to have done this. But something tells me the only way a thirty-something non-Arabic-speaking, non-journalist, German-American is going to get into Iraq to see how things really are (and not get immediately killed) is by enlisting, and I have no desire to further this war by providing manpower.

I envy this kid: his luck, his courage, and his future.
posted by moonbiter at 4:08 PM on December 29, 2005


Funny the way the same action can be brave or stupid, depending on the outcome.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:09 PM on December 29, 2005


But you lost 50 points just for demonstrating remembering lyrics to an Eagles song.

A Jackson Browne song, actually. The Eagles only covered it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:10 PM on December 29, 2005


Frankly, the kid's lucky he wasn't picked up by US troops on the border, questioned thoroughly about why he wanted to get into Iraq, and quietly detained for a couple of years as a possible "Foreign Insurgent". Hell, I'm surprised he wasn't. This story could have had a completely different outcome.
posted by kaemaril at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2005


I think it was a bit of both chowder. Obviously talking to Muslim men in a mosque is not inherently dangerous. Being up past dusk in Iraq, being an American, being in a Mosque, debating politics are what I think they were implying. I would wager that the real crime is staying in one place for such an extended period of time, and staying in such a public place was the real problem. How easy is it for someone in that time frame to come to the mosque, see what was going on and run back telling his buddies that, "An American is in a mosque talking about politics and religion." I think only the most experienced of journalists (knowing what mosque to go to, at what time, what to discuss, knowing the various mannerisms) would be able to pull this off. I should take this kid to Vegas.
posted by geoff. at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2005


Uh, geoff? The spending a night talking politics thing was in America, not Iraq. It happened some time before...

Diving headfirst into an assignment, Hassan, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, hung out at a local mosque. The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.

The next trimester his class was assigned to choose an international topic and write editorials about it, Hassan said. He chose the Iraq war and decided to practice immersion journalism there, too, though he knows his school in no way endorses his travels.
posted by kaemaril at 4:17 PM on December 29, 2005


Ok, I know everyone else is calling this kid some patron saint for going all the way to Iraq on some world exploring humanitarian mission, but I would still argue that good intentions still has no bearing on the fact that this was flat stupid. I mean really, what did he expect?

He came out safe and everyone is happy that he had a great big heart - but what if he got kidnapped and our forces had to go in and rescue this kid due to all the press it may have gotten? And what if it caused some soliders to be killed? I have nothing against humanitarian aid and relief work in the least, but this kid is just getting in the way of real world things that are going on in Iraq.
posted by MJ6 at 4:34 PM on December 29, 2005


Oh wow I'm wrong, I totally read the article too fast. Red faced and such now.
posted by geoff. at 4:36 PM on December 29, 2005


I don't think this kid should be commended for what he did. By presenting such a tempting target to the enemy, he endangered not only himself but friendly soldiers, who would have risked their life to protect him no matter how stupid coming there was. Without training in the proper skills to survive in a warzone, this kid could have easily gotten himself and others killed.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:37 PM on December 29, 2005


I admire his curiosity but I'm not sure I'd say he has big brass ones. Poor impulse control, perhaps, and a lack of a sense of personal vulnerability, but bravery? I'm more inclined to call someone brave when they recognize danger and sail on anyway. Not perceiving danger seems very different.
posted by phearlez at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2005


What a tool. He stuck his neck right on the chopping block, just to come back and crank out some piece of crap high school paper that sounds like it was ghost-written by a Fox News intern.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:40 PM on December 29, 2005


The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night [in the United States, which has a First Amendment] until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.
Talking politics with brown people is, indeed, "dangerous" in Bush's America.
posted by orthogonality at 4:44 PM on December 29, 2005


One of the horrible things about young people is that they think they are immortal.
posted by spock at 4:52 PM on December 29, 2005


One of the great things about young people is that they think they are immortal.
posted by spock at 4:53 PM on December 29, 2005


spock : Yes, but when it comes to idiots like this, one of the nice things is they're not. Seriously. This could have had Darwin written all over it.
posted by kaemaril at 4:54 PM on December 29, 2005


If this were my kid he'd be grounded for the next ten years.
posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on December 29, 2005


It's really not that difficult. I've come across numerous travel blogs of people traveling in Iraq. The impressive thing is that they all seem to have done much better homework then this kid and know where/where not to go.
posted by iamck at 5:00 PM on December 29, 2005


Most of Hassan's wild tale could not be corroborated, but his larger story arc was in line with details provided by friends and family members back home.

Incredible stories are nice, aren't they ? They put us in suspended belief and make us wonder and ponder , sometimes.

It's curious some among us were ready to believe the Mao Tse & Homerland Security story made up by a kid...I suspect they're even more ready in believing this story , because there's an officiality in the fact (?) the army will fly him back.

But what did he really do ? Actually, it doesn't matter much (but it should) because even if he stayed all the time in a relatively secure hotel room the whole story is a sell.

And that is what some journalist do :)
posted by elpapacito at 5:04 PM on December 29, 2005


And then there's John Walker Lindh.
posted by Huplescat at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2005


Movie rights : "Ferris Hassan's Big Adventure"
or a chapter in one of these books
posted by hortense at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2005


Having read the essay :F-. This idiot wanted to be a journalist? "Those terrorists are not human but pure evil." ... yep, impartial reporting going on there, sure enough. Level of hyperbole is ratcheted right up. Give him a job on Fox News, he ought to fit right in.

He's not yet Christopher Hitchens, I'll grant you. But the kid's only 16.

And what should we call the brave young men and women blowing up trucks and cars in the public squares of Baghdad? Or tube stations in London? Wait! Don't tell me....

Freedom Fighters, right?

I'll take Bushitler over the Gitane-smoking moral equivalency crowd any day.

Back on topic, this kid's a bit of a rich twit, but damn, he's got a great story to tell his grandkids.

Assuming he wises up in time to live so long.
posted by baltimore at 5:09 PM on December 29, 2005


We are not here on Earth to hedonistically pleasure ourselves, but to serve each other and the creator.

Metafilter: We are here on Earth to hedonistically pleasure ourselves
posted by interrobang at 5:16 PM on December 29, 2005


"When I first read that quote I thought the teacher was referring to the fact that he "immersed" himself by traveling to a war zone. Behavior which, for an American 16 year old, falls squarely in the dangerous and irresponsible behavior category."

Yeah, usually we make them wait until they're eighteen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:16 PM on December 29, 2005


Metafilter : why do you hate my hedonistic pleasuring myself ?

It surely beats killing people !
posted by elpapacito at 5:18 PM on December 29, 2005


baltimore: I'll settle for terrorist, thanks. The fact of the matter is that "Those terrorists are not human but pure evil" is sensationalistic hyperbole that dehumanises the enemy, encouraging people to think "Well, why shouldn't they be tortured? Why shouldn't they be looked up without charge? Why should they have any rights at all? Why should they be entitled to a fair trial?"

It's precisely this sort of thinking that leads to atrocities.
posted by kaemaril at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2005


He'll either end up on the no-fly list or working for the CIA.
posted by delmoi at 5:31 PM on December 29, 2005


Heywood Mogroot,

That break down seems rather trite. Almost as if you just made it all up.

Having recently returned from an Arab country neighboring Iraq, I had to opportunity to speak to some of the more well to do Iraqis fleeing the mess in their home country. Nothing in these discussions indicated the sort of percentage break down you suggest. I've read no news reports indicating so either.

Just as you admit that situation in Iraq is complex, the decisions made by the people in these types of situations are also complex. To fabricate and attribute simple minded rationales for the whole of the Iraqi populace is foolish and degrades the level of future debate.

How many people are going to read your ignorant breakdown and think they are reading something based reasonable?
posted by mulligan at 5:35 PM on December 29, 2005


"Those terrorists are not human but pure evil."

Humans can't be pure evil?

Shit, there goes my weekend.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:38 PM on December 29, 2005


For those of you saying that what he did could have gotten other Americans killed, don't be silly. To my knowledge, US forces have never tried to rescue any captured foreigners, nor should they.
posted by delmoi at 5:42 PM on December 29, 2005


Hmm, all he did was fly into Baghdad airport and get picked up by embassy personnel at an adjacent hotel. Hardly that heroic.

He also tried to stiff his cab driver.

Reading the story, he just comes across like a wanker.
posted by delmoi at 5:46 PM on December 29, 2005


He again called his father, who told him to come home. But the teen insisted on going to Baghdad. His father advised him to stay with family friends in Beirut, Lebanon, so he flew there, spending 10 days before flying to Baghdad on Christmas.

So he didn't get to Baghdad "by himself" as the story first implies. Blah.
posted by cillit bang at 5:53 PM on December 29, 2005


Similar naivety led to a Japanese backpacker's death 14 months ago.

It's a shame he approached it without some basic preparation - he occupies a niche that could have been, with a bit of preparation, better leveraged with at least some comprehension of his own ancestry.

One journalist does it this way: "I mean, I grow my beard down to a suitable Taliban length, I wear what the Americans perfunctorily call a 'man dress', but it's actually a salwar kameez. I learned to speak a little bit of Pashtu, enough to bluff my way through a checkpoint, so that if I'm driving or passing through your village or eating in your restaurant you don't know that I'm not a Pashtun."
And he's not even Arabic.
posted by strawberryviagra at 5:56 PM on December 29, 2005


Maybe he shoulda just stayed at home and listened to the American government's propaganda, for all the good his 'immersion' seems to have done for his insight into the situation.


HA! He wrote an opinion that you don't agree with (after having gone over to Iraq) and all of a sudden he is crap. HAHAHAHAHA Too funny. Try and remember he is 16 and a high school student.
posted by a3matrix at 5:56 PM on December 29, 2005


a3matrix : Oh, you consider "not human but pure evil" a spectacular insight only immersive journalism techniques could possibly have gleaned? Well, perhaps the kid believes this because he is, after all, "16 and a high school student" ... but what's your excuse?
posted by kaemaril at 6:05 PM on December 29, 2005


delmoi : Hardly that heroic.

Assuming he didn't lie, the timeline is

11th Leave U.S.
11? Call Mother say I'm in the friggin middle east !
13 Taxi from Kuwait to Border, gets rejected
14 Fly to Beirut in Lebanon
25 Fly Lebanon to Bagdhad (!! Friends let the guy go ?)
25 In Bagdhad hotel with other yanks

The AP quickly called the U.S. embassy.
Embassy officials had been on the lookout for Hassan, at the request of his parents, who still weren't sure exactly where he was.


There's something wrong in the timeline, how could embassy possibly NOT know that he was sent from Lebanon to Bagdad , why did they learn if they did by AP ?
posted by elpapacito at 6:10 PM on December 29, 2005


Movie rights : "Ferris Hassan's Big Adventure" [sic]

Or perhaps "Farris Hassan's Day Off?"
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:12 PM on December 29, 2005


I think "Remember he's 16 and a high school student" is decent advice. I had to explain to a 16 year old kid the other week that Kanye West's negative opinion about George W. Bush does not make him the devil. I kid you not: "Kanye West is the devil because he says George Bush doesn't care about black people," and without a trace of irony. And he was of Middle Eastern descent, as well.

This kid had a great opportunity, albeit a stupid one, to learn something, and (not so surprisingly) probably didn't, since what he's written sounds like someone who may have heard what someone said, but didn't really listen. People who actually listen tend to come away with some understanding of the "grey areas" even if the original opinion remains the same.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:40 PM on December 29, 2005


How did a 16 year old manage to get the money for this trip? It was money his parents gave him?

Well, the kid goes to Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale. It's a private prep school and a very good one (one of my college roommates went there), but it's pretty expensive. If a parent has the dough to send their child there, it doesn't surprise me that they were able to give him this amount of money.

All in all, I'm impressed by the kid's ballsiness.
posted by the_bone at 6:54 PM on December 29, 2005


George W. Bush dosn't care about black people, and I am the devil.

Bwhahahahahah!
posted by delmoi at 6:55 PM on December 29, 2005


Metafilter: We are here on Earth to hedonistically pleasure ourselves

Well, we can't very well platonically pleasure ourselves, can we?
posted by clevershark at 7:45 PM on December 29, 2005


Darwin has failed us, we teed this one up real good too!
posted by parallax7d at 3:32 PM PST on December 29 [!]


Its nice to know that if you are in Iraq you feel that you should be removed from the gene pool.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:52 PM on December 29, 2005


Maven : I think "Remember he's 16 and a high school student" is decent advice.
Well, so would I were it not for the fact he's doing a course on immersion journalism. I think we can safely say that, if the most he got out of this course was, "Those terrorists are not human but pure evil" then really he's kind of missed the point. Like I said ... give him a job on Fox News :)
posted by kaemaril at 8:02 PM on December 29, 2005


I said he'd obviously missed the point, kaemaril. It was after the bit about the other kid I ran into that had confused a hip-hop artist with Mephistopheles.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:05 PM on December 29, 2005


Maven: I don't remember saying that you didn't ...:)

I was just disagreeing with the bit about it being decent advice. For your average 16 year old, yes. Not for somebody who really ought to know better.
posted by kaemaril at 8:26 PM on December 29, 2005


You guys are awesome.
posted by kbanas at 8:27 PM on December 29, 2005


Yeah, usually we make them wait until they're eighteen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:16 AM AWST on December 30 [!]


Only then after they volunteer and receive months of the best military training the United States has to offer. Unless I missed something, 18 year olds are not being rounded up from street corners and sent to Iraq.

This kids behavior not only put him at risk but put the lives of those looking for him at risk. If his 'Big Adventure' had gone horribly wrong and a soldier had died rescuing him this wouldn't have such a happy human interest piece.
posted by geekyguy at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2005


This kid is definitely taking abnormal risks. He should be at home like other boys his age, driving around on the windshield of his truck.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:36 PM on December 29, 2005


geekguy, again if he had gotten in trouble, the amy would probably have just let him die. Not like they've tried to rescue anyone else.

As an american citizen, he's free to travel wherever he likes.
posted by delmoi at 8:42 PM on December 29, 2005


HA! He wrote an opinion that you don't agree with ["Those terrorists are not human but pure evil."] (after having gone over to Iraq) and all of a sudden he is crap. HAHAHAHAHA Too funny. Try and remember he is 16 and a high school student.
posted by a3matrix.

Yeah, you're right. Only 16.

Hey! Whaddayaknow ... the Bush administration thinks exactly like a dumbfuck 16 year old!!!

Who knew?
posted by Blue Stone at 9:06 PM on December 29, 2005


As an american citizen, he's free to travel wherever he likes.

. . . except Cuba.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
posted by gompa at 9:41 PM on December 29, 2005


I don't know why you're all getting so wired up about this. We've all been guilty of half-witted youthtful hubris at some point. Haven't we?

The advantage of being niaive, (and all of the above) is that it can immunize you from danger. A bit like being totally drunk when you fall down the stairs, you're incapable of bracing yourself and so you fall like a helpless limp ragdoll saving you from broken bones. I can't put my finger on it but I suspect our very awareness of peril increases our vulnerability to it.

I bet he could have made it the whole way to Baghdad, out-bewildering all evildoers en-route.
posted by marvin at 10:06 PM on December 29, 2005


I don't think he's brave so much as young, stupid, and rich. Plus, the story doesn't add up. His relatives helped him get to Baghdad?
posted by Ndwright at 10:46 PM on December 29, 2005


If we can't travel as tourists in Iraq, then the terrorists have won.
posted by iamck at 11:32 PM on December 29, 2005


Warzone?

I thought the war was over and Iraq had embraced peaceful democracy already?
posted by slimepuppy at 11:50 PM on December 29, 2005


Having read the essay :F-. This idiot wanted to be a journalist? "Those terrorists are not human but pure evil." ... yep, impartial reporting going on there, sure enough. Level of hyperbole is ratcheted right up. Give him a job on Fox News, he ought to fit right in.

I don't understand your point. By saying terrorists are evil, he's a biased reporter? I defy you to show me any US publication that does not slant towards the US in the War on Terror.

Just to set the facts straight: terrorists are evil. And I've learned in my travels to muslim countries in the middle east and SE asia that ordinary citizens are not afraid to say so. Here, when terror strikes, a small community of vocal morons tries to say "Let's try to understand the terrorists and work with them. The wouldn't have attacked us if we weren't bad people." In muslim countries where people know terrorism has no basis in the religion, people know the truth: terrorist are evil and must die.
posted by b_thinky at 12:26 AM on December 30, 2005


ZenMasterThis: " Movie rights : "Ferris Hassan's Big Adventure" [sic]

Or perhaps "Farris Hassan's Day Off?"
"



Nah. It should be: "Iraq: Farris Hassan's Playhouse."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:49 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: "

Just to set the facts straight: terrorists are evil. And I've learned in my travels to muslim countries in the middle east and SE asia that ordinary citizens are not afraid to say so. Here, when terror strikes, a small community of vocal morons tries to say "Let's try to understand the terrorists and work with them. The wouldn't have attacked us if we weren't bad people." In muslim countries where people know terrorism has no basis in the religion, people know the truth: terrorist are evil and must die.
"


And of course, telling the rich Yankee tourist what they think he wants to hear plays no part whatsoever in this process.

If you really think terrorism has no popular support, check out Sinn Fein's election results sometime. And who the hell were all those Americans sending money to the IRA? Figments of the British Government's imagination?

Or is it just terrorism against the US that has no popular support?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:59 AM on December 30, 2005


Groups like Sinn Fein, Hamas and Hezbollah have clear goals which they try to accomplish. Besides having an armed wing (that could legitimately be described as "resistance" instead of terror), they also have factions that contribute to charities, education, civil life and are legitimate political parties. These groups gain some popular support, perhaps in spite of their violent factions.

Groups like al Qaeda and Jemmah Islamiyah have no goal other than to kill. The reaction of Indonesians to the bombings in Bali and Jakarta were perhaps even more angry than that of Americans after 9/11. Same goes for Jordanians after the recent suicide attack there.

Terrorist apologists might point to sociological triggers that "create terrorists" or as the terrorists themselves say, it's a part of their religion.

Well, for the masses living in those countries, who:

a) put up with the same sociological "triggers" everyday, and
b) know the religion just as well

know the excuses are complete bullshit, and hearing them is an insult on top of the injury caused by the immediate attack.

Seriously, try reading a paper or travelling sometime. It may be fun.
posted by b_thinky at 1:37 AM on December 30, 2005


Terrorists may or may not be evil, but they are definitely human.
posted by criticalbill at 2:32 AM on December 30, 2005


Seriously, try reading a paper or travelling sometime. It may be fun.
posted by b_thinky at 1:37 AM PST on December 30 [!]


Sorry, that part of my post was not appropriate.
posted by b_thinky at 5:05 AM on December 30, 2005


Baby_Balrog: Plus, staying up until 6 a.m. can have negative effects on students' ability to watch Channel One.
No way, man, it's better like that: That's when it gets all subliminal....
posted by lodurr at 5:29 AM on December 30, 2005


geekguy, again if he had gotten in trouble, the amy would probably have just let him die. Not like they've tried to rescue anyone else.

This is patently untrue. They have rescued some hostages here that were not American, they just didn't tell you about it delmoi.
posted by Dagobert at 6:08 AM on December 30, 2005


"he's got a great story to tell his grandkids"

Yeah, that's what it seems to boil down to. Some "I was there" kind of disaster tourism for its own sake.

"Great" is not how I'd qualify it, though. Iraq is not a safari for the rich and curious. If you actually want to go there for journalism or humanitarian work, rather than business, you still need to go prepared for the work you'll be doing (and certainly you don't do it on your own, you need an organisation to work for), and with the full knowledge of the risks and of what you can do to avoid them, which likely at some stage will include employing the services of your embassy/military, so, you're actually going to make other people work for you -- the less careful you are, the more they'll have to work for you.

I don't see how going there on a whim like this kid did, only to end up locked in some hotel with other Americans and then sent back home, is to be admired, when there's people risking their lives daily there to actually do something - be they foreign humanitarian workers or reporters or, even, ordinary Iraqi citizens who don't have the choice to go back to some rich nice place with no bombings, terrorists or kidnappers.
posted by funambulist at 6:14 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: Just to set the facts straight: terrorists are evil.

What's "evil"? Who gets to define it? And isn't whether you're a "terrorist" dependent whether you're for or against the person who uses the term?
posted by lodurr at 6:31 AM on December 30, 2005


Besides having an armed wing (that could legitimately be described as "resistance" instead of terror),

And I bet a number of Iraq's who have shot at Americans or placed bombs on the streets see themselfes as 'resistance' fighters.


Just to set the facts straight: terrorists are evil.


Reminds me of what the old man told me when he was in the Military - A couple of gents were talking about race. And the one lback guy said 'nothing wrong with african americans, but watch out for the niggers'.

The 'war on terrorists' has a big issue with actually identifying 'terrorists', having policies that generate more 'terrorists', or catching 'em.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:36 AM on December 30, 2005


the brass balls it would take to do something like this . . . its brave , stupid , and original.

Darwin has failed us, we teed this one up real good too!


Both of these comments sum up my response to this. I'm impressed both by the kid's stupidity and his reckless adventurousness.
posted by Decani at 6:59 AM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky: Just to set the facts straight: terrorists are evil.

No, that's a subjective opinion not a fact ... there is no objective way to test for evil. One man's terrorist is another man's resistance fighter, and all that.
posted by kaemaril at 7:05 AM on December 30, 2005


Just for reference, he also claimed that cab drivers who attempted to overcharge him were "evil":

"In one day I probably spent like $250 on taxis," he said. "And they're so evil too, because they ripped me off, and when I wouldn't pay the ripped-off price they started threatening me. It was bad."

Well, 55 miles to the border and 55 miles back, plus the fact he's making the driver go to the Iraq border... obviously an evil taxi driver! I have the sneaking suspicion that young Farris isn't used to the wide spectrum of human behavior. Anyone want to bet that the most confrontation he's ever had in his life was that 6AM debate at the mosque and he felt like he'd be able to take on anything after that?
posted by mikeh at 7:07 AM on December 30, 2005


We love the gambler here in America. We love to talk about the people who gamble big and bold and stupid and win. We hardly ever talk about the people who gamble big, bold and stupid and lose.

Oh, we talk about losing gamblers, sure. Or, more precisely: About loser gamblers: People who gamble chronically, small, and lose. We give them names like "addict", at the same time that we give Teh Donald his own TV show and treat him as though he actually knows something about anything besides real estate and self-promotion.

My opinion: The kid's headed for a bold future, sure; in that future, I sincerely doubt he'll do anything that actually does any good for humankind, unless his death while doing immersive journalism by riding the killing-chute in a pig abbatoir causes the pork industry to improve plant safety.
posted by lodurr at 7:12 AM on December 30, 2005


... this does also remind me of an old SCTV sketch. Dave Thomas and Andrea Martin have a "travel" show where they show slides of their many trips abroad. The slides are invariably pictures of their hotel rooms, the hotel bar, the hotel pool, the hotel restaurant, and a few natives (i.e., the hotel staff). They offer sage advice like "buy all your souveniers in the duty-free, because they're more sanitary and you don't have to haggle."

Point being this: This kid thinks he did something real and revealing, and he didn't, really. If he'd had to exist in-country for months on end like, say, Anne Garrels, then I'd think he had something to tell me. But if he can come back and say "those cab drivers were evil, too" -- he's obviously gotten jack shit out of his experience.

OTOH, maybe he'll go back to that mosque and get set straight by some folks who've actually lived there. OTOOH, maybe not -- I've known plenty of people who could take a trivial experience and convince themselves that it gave them some kind of deep and detailed knowledge of the territory. (Call it "Roland Hedley Syndrome".)
posted by lodurr at 7:29 AM on December 30, 2005


Wouldn't it be something if "real" reporters on FAUX News would get out of their Green Zone hotels in Bagdhad and grow a pair like this kid instead of doing steno work for the neocons?
posted by nofundy at 8:30 AM on December 30, 2005


nofundy, accordig to the article, this kid stayed in a hotel all the time.
posted by funambulist at 9:32 AM on December 30, 2005


I know another budding journalist who, during the Reagan Iran-Contra years, decided to go to Nicaragua to see for herself what was going on. She was raped and nearly killed, but managed to come back alive. I've tried to talk her into writing a book, but she doesn't want to revisit her experience. This kid, however, shouldn't have any trouble at all finding a publisher.
posted by Seabird at 10:10 AM on December 30, 2005


He'll be on the news/talk show circuit within a week.
posted by zardoz at 2:02 PM on December 30, 2005


This kid thinks he did something real and revealing, and he didn't, really.

I think this is the crux of it. "My mom and dad paid for my trip to the war zone and all I got was this stupid prejudice." He'd have gotten a hell of a lot more out of reading a good book on the subject.
posted by languagehat at 2:50 PM on December 30, 2005


I was wondering if the terrorists did see some some american 16 year old wandering around the streets, wouldn't they have been suspicious? Thinking it was a trap or something like that, looking in the sky for UAVs ect.
Because how often would an unaccompanied american being about happen.
posted by Iax at 4:25 PM on December 30, 2005


b_thinky:

Terrorist apologists might point to sociological triggers that "create terrorists" or as the terrorists themselves say, it's a part of their religion.

You say apologist, I say analysis. There's a difference, see if you can spot it. Or would you rather that nothing is ever analyzed or examined for causative or contributing factors?

Why did Person A become a criminal? Who cares!

Why did Country B start a war? Who cares!

Do you see the error in this line of thinking?
posted by iamck at 5:06 PM on December 30, 2005


It's amazing the number of people that are judging this kid by standards they themselves likely developed and refined much later in life. It's not surprising that high-schoolers tend to be a little simplistic in their political thinking--it's admirable if one thinks and cares about these issues at all.
posted by shivohum at 7:32 PM on December 30, 2005


It's not surprising that high-schoolers tend to be a little simplistic in their political thinking--it's admirable if one thinks and cares about these issues at all.

I was a high-schooler when this all began; I went to public school, not a prep school, I never went to Iraq on my parent's money and I sure as hell had some more complex political thoughts that, "They must be.....EVIL!"
He's a high schooler, not a five-year old. If that's all he's getting out of the entire experience, he should have stayed home.
posted by 235w103 at 7:37 PM on December 30, 2005


I was a supporter of the Vietnam War through tenth grade, thanks to the brainwashing of the media and the general consensus of the expatriate community in which we were living. In the course of the following year, through wider reading and listening to a veteran who visited our school, I came to oppose the war, and I'm pretty sure I had a more sophisticated understanding of the issues at that point than many of the adults in the community who took their views straight from Time magazine. It's ridiculous to assume high-schoolers are going to be "a little simplistic in their political thinking."
posted by languagehat at 5:58 AM on December 31, 2005


MJ6 writes "but what if he got kidnapped and our forces had to go in and rescue this kid due to all the press it may have gotten?"

He's an Iraqi-American not a cute white teenage girl, I imagine the press coverage would have been minor at best.
posted by Mitheral at 7:10 AM on December 31, 2005


ZenMasterThis writes "But you lost 50 points just for demonstrating remembering lyrics to an Eagles song.

"A Jackson Browne song, actually. The Eagles only covered it."


Well, to be precise, Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey wrote it, so you're both right.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:47 PM on December 31, 2005


Here's an update from the local paper.
posted by the_bone at 8:47 PM on December 31, 2005


"His 23-year-old brother says he will give him a hug, and then a spanking"

... the hell? His family must be into the kinky stuff :)
posted by kaemaril at 9:07 AM on January 1, 2006


US teenager home after Iraq trip
posted by kaemaril at 10:03 AM on January 2, 2006


Baghdad Boy : What was really behind Farris Hassan's trip to Iraq? Ask his father, who has a fascinating and checkered past.
posted by the_bone at 7:23 AM on January 16, 2006


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