Voice of Ramadi speaks for police, city leaders
May 13, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HURRICANE POINT, Iraq — Three times a week, Lance Cpl. Joseph Day surfs the Al Jazeera and the BBC Web sites, looking for news to bring to the city in Ramadi.
The Voice of Ramadi, a 15-minute newscast, blares from loudspeakers throughout the northern part of the city every day but Friday, the Muslim holy day.
The Arabic broadcast includes the Iraqi national anthem, a reading from the Quran, and nationalist songs.
There’s always a soccer score from around the world, and, sometimes, the city’s mayor reads a statement.
The idea is to build credibility between the city and its local leaders, according to Day and Adel Abouhana, a Department of Defense worker who translates the English narrative into the local Arabic dialect and records the message.
To do that, the broadcast never mentions coalition forces.
It also means not mentioning that the message starts in the small public affairs office at Hurricane Point, a Marine Corps base just outside Ramadi that houses the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Corps Regiment. The tagline, “The Ramadi police welcome you to this news update,” but never mentions the U.S. military or American news outlets.
“We’re speaking for the Iraqi police,” Abouhana said Saturday morning.
“It has nothing to do with coalition forces.”
Yet, for now, it’s U.S. Marines who draft and approve the script and produce the audio. They put the seven loudspeakers at various Iraqi police stations throughout the city, and they e-mail or deliver the final versions to the locations for broadcasts.
The choice of news stories starts with Day, 20, of Amesbury, Mass. He generally picks two stories from Al Jazeera about Middle East and Africa, two from BBC about Europe and Asia. One broadcast last week included the Chinese government’s plan to send military engineers to Darfur and the deaths of two Palestinians in Lebanon who were members of the Fatah movement.
Day intentionally skips what he calls negative news: information about economic turmoil or uprisings that reject democratic values, he said. Instead, he looks for stories about other nations in Asia, Europe and Africa that are having elections, conducting peace talks, and improving their economies.
The broadcast also usually includes a local message, Day said. The May 9 script explained two suicide car bombs May 7 that hit a market outside of Ramadi, killing eight Iraqi police and eight civilians.
“On Monday, madmen terrorists committed a horrific act by attacking and killing innocent men, women and children of Jazeera by driving two vehicles filled with explosives into an open market and police checkpoint,” the scripts read in English.
It goes on to explain why a couple of bridges were closed and asks local residents with information about the bombings to contact the Ramadi police.
The Marines hope to pass the production duty onto local city officials, especially in time for the end of Abouhana’s deployment four months from now. Capt. Craig Schaffner, who also helps with the script, said he wants to start including the city government, rather than just the police, on the show’s tagline.
“We don’t want them to think it’s propaganda,” Schaffner said.