Infiltrating Iraq

Posted: May 04, 2007 12:54 PM

Infiltrating Iraq

You might call him the "Borat" of the Iraq war.

In much the same way British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen , posing as a fictional Kazakh journalist, filmed his way through an unsuspecting United States, Mike Shiley , 39, of Portland, Ore., made a fake ABC News press pass at Kinko's, rented a bulletproof vest, traveled to Iraq, embedded himself with a U.S. tank combat unit and won a civilian combat medal.

A feature documentary about his amazing experience, "Inside Iraq: The Untold Stories," is being released on DVD on May 15. A far cry from the mockumentary Mr. Cohen produced, "Inside Iraq" has been screened at more than a dozen film festivals, four of which awarded it "best documentary."

"What you're going to feel when you see this film is that for once you have not been lied to or spun," Mr. Shiley tells Inside the Beltway. "The beauty of this film is that I did not have the resources to be biased, I didn't have enough money to do a spin job. I showed it as it is."

Meaning the film, distributed by Passion River Films, doesn't lean left or right, he says: "Everybody wants you to be Michael Moore and Bill O'Reilly . I'm right in the middle of it — it's balanced."

Mr. Shiley is a ski instructor for the disabled when not making independent films. His production about Hurricane Katrina, "Dark Water Rising," was recently selected by the Smithsonian Institution to be part of its permanent collection on the devastating storm.

Monkey business

House Democratic leaders are being criticized by Rep. Ted Poe , Texas Republican, for caring more about monkeys than members of the U.S. military.

Mr. Poe calls "absurd" the House's pre-midnight authorization this week of a project to study the sex lives of the Phayre's leaf monkey. Meanwhile, he said, "our troops in Iraq are running out of money to fight the bad guys" because of a determined, if not "ignorant," group of Democratic leaders that he labels the "congressional surrender group."

535 comedians

Regarding our item this week about Brian J. Kennedy , press secretary to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner , Ohio Republican, alerting late-night talk-show hosts Jay Leno, David Letterman and Conan O'Brien to the latest congressional shenanigans, we are reminded of this quote from Will Rogers:

"Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

$5 Josie

Yes, Virginia, there is life after politics.

Faithful readers will recall John Elvin , the father of this Inside the Beltway column, who left Washington 15 years ago (the same year Bill Clinton came to town) and now plies his craft "in the semi-wilds on about a tenth of a D.C. salary — just me and a malamute and a cat, Geronimo, who thinks he's a mountain lion, in a big oversized suitcase called home."

And instead of quoting President Bush describing Al Gore during the 1992 presidential campaign — "Ozone Man, Ozone. He's crazy, way out, far out, man" — Mr. Elvin is keeping busy researching and writing about antiques, antiquities and collectibles as investments, focusing on fraud and misrepresentation, especially when purchasing off the Internet.

Thus the title of his new book, "Kaloma: The Josie Earp Mystery Photo."

"Scholars, history buffs and Wyatt Earp fans, as well as those intrigued by tales of controversies in the antiques field, will find much to ponder in Kaloma," says Mr. Elvin, whose investigations in the book include the authenticity of one vintage photo identified as the legendary lawman Earp's third wife, Josie.

"I went digging for the truth about a quirky mystery that sparked a storm of arguments among Western history buffs," he says. "In the process I discovered that collectors who buy via the Internet face perils and pitfalls unknown in the past."

As for Josie, Mr. Elvin says, buyers are treating this particular photo as a valuable rarity, but experts he's interviewed for the book label it as bogus.

"The pinup-style portrait reportedly has sold for as much as $4,500 and often appears in auction sites offered for hundreds," he says. "Those who have bought the photo are not going to be heartened by my findings. It's very possible that their hundreds or thousands of dollars bought a photo worth $25 — if it's in a $20 frame."

Mr. Elvin's 138-page paperback is available for $14.95 plus shipping from Lulu: