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Bush Cites Upbeat Bloggers From Baghdad

By BEN FELLER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 28, 2007; 4:33 PM

WASHINGTON -- To back up his point that pulling out of Iraq would be a disaster, President Bush has quoted opinions from the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top U.S. general in Iraq _ and now, two bloggers from Baghdad.

Bush made a surprising reference to the blogosphere during a spirited defense of his war strategy on Wednesday. The mention seemed even more unusual because the president didn't identify whom he was quoting, so he seemed to be leaning on anonymous commentary.

"They have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we've got here," Bush told the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Then he began to quote: "Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed."

His point was that Iraqi people are seeing signs of progress _ and what better example of their unbridled expression than blogs.

It turns out, the White House made clear hours later, that he was quoting two brothers, Mohammed and Omar Fadhil. They write an English-language blog from Baghdad called IraqTheModel.com. Both of them got to meet Bush in the Oval Office in 2004.

In his speech, Bush was pulling select lines from an op-ed that the brothers wrote. It appeared in The Wall Street Journal on March 5.

Blogs are Web sites that tend to be narrow in focus and directed at a niche audience. Most operate without editors and give instant reaction to the news. Their freewheeling, open nature makes them popular but also ripe for unverified statements.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defended the appearance of blog commentary in a presidential speech.

It is just one more way, she said, to show that positive news is happening in Iraq. But in perspective, she said, the White House cites all kinds of sources. Among the others she mentioned in the same breath: reporting from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

"What the president was doing was taking an opportunity to talk about what one person's expression is," she said. "But that doesn't mean that there aren't other people having the same expression. Certainly, nobody can deny what General Petraeus has been saying."

© 2007 The Associated Press