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August 01, 2005

View Depends On Where You Make Your Stand

A young Marine, just returned to Iraq for another combat tour, reports back to his family. A quick take on his impressions:

- Ordinary Iraqis are living so much better it is not even comparable

- Things are fairly quiet. The Marines have already been tipped off twice on a couple of malcontents and they have been detained

- Bands of foreign fighters still exist, but find no safe haven. The Iraqis won't support them or take them in as last time and turn them in quickly. Different mindset entirely from the last go round.

- Bulk of the resistance is the old Baath regime and suicide bombers of Al Qaeda. Normal Iraqis have had enough and even the Baaths want to take part in their government. They still get killed in large numbers for wanting that, but not by travelling death squads as before. Mostly IEDs/suicide bombers.

- The Marines have pretty much eradicated any forms of large formal resistance and are pretty much chasing down the stragglers.

In the LA Times, Max Boot notes that a similar revolution is taking place - not just in Iraq, but all over the Arab world. Soon, the question may no longer be "Why do they hate us so much?". A poll conducted by the liberal Pew Trust (and co-chaired by Madeleine Albright) found the number of people with a favorable impression of the US increasing in both Muslim and non-Muslim nations:

What accounts for this shift? The answer varies by country, but analysts point to waning public anger over the invasion of Iraq, gratitude for the massive U.S. tsunami relief effort and growing conviction that the U.S. is serious about promoting democracy.

There is also increasing aversion to America's enemies, even in the Islamic world. The Pew poll found that "nearly three-quarters of Moroccans and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia see Islamic extremism as a threat to their countries."

Even more surprisingly, it appears that support is growing, even in the Muslim world, for the War on Terror and the spread of democracy:

To cite only one example of many, Jihad Al Khazen, a rabidly anti-American and anti-Israeli columnist for the Arabic daily Al-Hayat, wrote that "the Arabs and Muslims must help the U.S." in the war on terror. There are still plenty of Muslims who blame the victims for bringing terrorism upon themselves, but there is also a growing countervailing attitude.

Muslim opinion also challenges jihadist orthodoxy that proclaims that giving power to the people, rather than to mullahs, is "un-Islamic." The latest Pew poll found "large and growing majorities in Morocco (83%), Lebanon (83%), Jordan (80%) and Indonesia (77%) — as well as pluralities in Turkey (48%) and Pakistan (43%) — [that] say democracy can work well and is not just for the West."

That's exactly what President Bush has been saying. Though his actions and rhetoric have been denounced as "unrealistic" and "extremist" by his American and European critics, it turns out that Muslims welcome it. "Roughly half of respondents in Jordan and nearly two-thirds of Indonesians think the U.S. favors democracy in their countries," the new Pew study said. "About half of the public in Lebanon also takes that view." Imagine that: Bush's actions might actually be making Middle Easterners more pro-American!

Good news, wouldn't you say? So why don't we see more about this in the press? Why isn't it on our evening news? This may be one reason. Mark Yost dared to smuggle a little good news past the Iron Curtain:

I know the reporting’s bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When’s the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? To judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.

I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren’t so blinded by their own politics that they can’t see the real good we’re doing there. More important, they can see beyond their own navel and see the real good we’re doing to promote peace and prosperity in the world. What makes this all the more ironic is the fact that the people who are fighting and dying want to stay and the people who are merely observers want to cut and run.

Did his colleagues welcome his "balance and objectivity"? Did they welcome another side of the story? Was this the Fairness Doctrine in action? You've got to be kidding me. They turned on him viciously:

Clark Hoyt: It's astonishing that Mark Yost, from the distance and safety of St. Paul, Minn., presumes to know what's going on in Iraq. He knows the reporting of hundreds of brave journalists, presumably including his own Knight Ridder colleagues Hannah Allam and Tom Lassetter, is bad because his Marine colonel buddy tells him so. Yost asks why you don't read about progress being made in the power grid, which the colonel oversaw. Maybe it's because there is no progress.

Foolish people might be tempted to think that "Yost's Marine buddy" is a lot closer to the action than either his CONUS critics or a few hotel-bound journalists in the Green Zone. But the lamestream media know better - they're the professionals. After all, what could anyone in the military, living and working every day in the actual combat zone, know about what life is really like for the average Iraqi? They don't live in a hotel.

The military are out patrolling the streets of Iraq. You know - those streets that are too dangerous for reporters to venture out onto? What useful information could they possibly report back about how things are going? The mere suggestion is preposterous.

Mark Yost's media colleagues have the only legitimate vantage point. They are hunkered down in the Green Zone (a tiny fraction of the huge nation of Iraq) for the duration. But never fear - they're willing to give us the real scoop:

MSNBC: "Is it really that bad in Iraq? It’s hard to say because the international media cannot adequately cover the war and Iraq’s reconstruction because it’s simply too dangerous. I would love to write about new schools being built and local village leaders learning about democracy, but I can’t go out to see such things."
Hannah Allam: Perhaps Mr. Yost would be moved by our office's tribute wall to Yasser Salihee, our brave and wonderful colleague, who at age 30 joined the ranks of Iraqi civilians shot to death by American soldiers. Mr. Yost would have appreciated one of Yasser's last stories -- a rare good-news piece about humanitarian aid reaching the holy city of Najaf.

I invite Mr. Yost to spend a week in our Baghdad bureau, where he can see our Iraqi staff members' toothbrushes lined up in the bathroom because they have no running water at home...If Baghdad is too far for Mr. Yost to travel (and I don't blame him, given the treacherous airport road to reach our fortress-like hotel)...,

Hmmm... I'll say no more.

Of course, some embedded reporters have a different view:

As it happens, I did go to Iraq. I was embedded with the Marines at Camp Fallujah in hostile Anbar province, nearly lost my life, and returned with a colostomy bag as a souvenir. But before that I walked and drove through the streets of Fallujah, which for some odd reason fell off the media map right after the major blood-letting ended. I reported back on progress in reconstruction of buildings and providing electricity and water to parts of the area that NEVER had it. And I can't begin to count the e-mails I got from soldiers and Marines thanking me for telling it like it is.

Yost was right; media coverage on the war is terribly slanted – such that it may threaten our ability to win. This was much more clearly shown in the reaction to his piece than in the column itself. In any case, it's astonishing that his attackers, from the distance and safety of Washington, D.C. and St. Paul, presume to know what's going on in Iraq.

But then the view is always different, isn't it, depending on where you choose make your stand? This article from the Washington Post is typical of everything problematic with war reporting:

On the city's streets, the daily reality involves death, random violence and routine deprivations for people who are beyond anger. But a different view has been presented in the Green Zone, the concrete-barricaded headquarters for U.S. troops, diplomats and contractors, and the interim Iraqi government. There, the situation is described as progressing toward a gradual handover from U.S. forces to Iraqi control.

The "news" article goes on to present a barrage of discouraging statistics and gloomy quotes from local Iraqis. Only at the tail end of the piece does this intriguing paragraph appear:

Bad as it is, comparatively few Iraqis say they want back the days before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted President Saddam Hussein. But the summer of attacks and shortages leaves them short on hope about what will happen when the Americans leave.

And thus the reader is left with an unsettling feeling, if indeed he ever got that far. The metamessage up to that point has been clear: we are losing the war. Things are far worse than they were before. The Marines and DOD are lying to reporters, and if it weren't for the actions of a few brave journalists afraid to venture out to report the good news (don't take my word for it - I'm relying on MSNBC) the bad news about how things are really going would never get out to a gullible public. Worse, public support for the war is fading and we're getting ready to leave the Iraqis in the lurch after destroying their country.

Who can we believe? The media constantly charge the military with being pro-war. Their bias, we are to believe, makes anything they say suspect. As I point out here, the vast majority of the mainstream media are rabidly anti-war. If you have any doubt of that, their reactions when anyone challenges the prevailing orthodoxy are revealing. A simple look at the furor over RightTalk's Truth Tour lays any claim to objectivity to rest:

"This is the most pathetic thing I've heard in a long time. They should be ashamed of themselves," Peter Beinart, editor of left-leaning The New Republic magazine, said. "They have no idea what journalism is, and to pretend they are journalists is laughable," Beinart said. "You do not achieve victory by not facing reality. I think these are the kinds of people that will lead us to lose there."

You see, for the media, there is only one "reality": theirs. No one is allowed to challenge their version of events. Yes Peter, good news, like this from RightTalk host Buzz Patterson, could be extremely dangerous to "the cause":

Before Saddam, of course, there were no independent media. Today, Iraq has 170 newspapers, 80 radio stations, and 23 TV stations, all independent. Al Jazeera and CNN are included. So, apparently, are ABC, NBC, and CBS.

Since the invasion, 3,065 schools have been modernized and 775 are currently under renovation. 8 million children and 770,000 pregnant women have been immunized, most for the first time in their lives. 76 water treatment projects have been completed and 84 are in progress. 33 new fire stations have been built and 55 are under construction.

We met with Gen Abdul Qadr Yassim, the general in charge of the Iraqi Army rebuilding. His estimate is that they are 60% of the way toward self-sufficiency. 250,000 Iraqi troops have been trained to some degree of proficiency. While I was there, the Iraqi Army initiated a major military offensive toward the west of Baghdad. US advisors accompanied them.

I asked him about Saddam and terror. He told us that 6 months prior to the invasion, Saddam was housing over 4,000 trained terrorists and exporting terror. We asked him about WMDs and his answer was, "Saddam controlled all means of technology and business. He had the means and the capability." We asked him about Osama. He said, "Saddam didn't need bin Laden, Saddam saw himself as superior in that relationship."

Speaking with hundreds of American servicemen, we found one who was outwardly negative in his views. As we discovered, his mission was to go out and recover fallen US servicemen. He told one of our team, "be careful sir. If something happens to you, I'll be the one to come get you."

It's not peaches and cream but I will tell you that I expected much lower morale and much more apprehension. These guys and girls are rocking and rolling. I wish that every American could stand in the dust and sand as a patrol goes out at night and see the eyes of our warriors in the turrets. It brought a tear to this airman's eyes.

I can see why you might be worried, Peter. Hope is contagious. In the end, I am left with Mark Yost's observation:

What makes this all the more ironic is the fact that the people who are fighting and dying want to stay and the people who are merely observers want to cut and run.

Given that American news reporters are not content to report all the news - good and bad - nor to refrain from editorializing, one is left with the question, to what end do they write these stories? What do they hope to achieve? The aim is not to report the truth, for they pick and choose which truth they will report. Almost every one seems to end on the same sad refrain: we have, somehow, destroyed Iraq and now we are preparing to cut and run.

But no one in the military wants to cut and run. The administration does not want to cut and run. It seems only the media are bending their every sinew to persuade the American public that defeat is inevitable: that our losses outweigh our progress, that Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the elections, despite all that has been accomplished in the past two years, are a hopeless quagmire. And so I ask again, to what end do they write these endlessly gloomy stories?

Because there is a purpose, I assure you. The press could be neutral, but they are not. They could be positive, but they are not. If democracy is to have the slightest chance of success in the Middle East, a positive outlook, or at least neutrality: reporting both the hopeful and the negative news would seem the only moral course. If the media truly supported our troops or the aims of our government, to refrain from undermining what we are trying to accomplish would seem the only moral course.

The remaining question is: if they finally acknowlege that the Iraqis don't want us to leave, if they know how harmful this would be, then why is the American media coverage of the war so unrelentingly negative?

Posted by Cassandra at August 1, 2005 06:05 AM

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Comments

It is absolutely amazing isn't it? I used to get so angry reading all the doom & gloom when I knew better from firsthand accounts. If the Commandant said the sky was blue the MSM would report, "Commandant quetions Marines' morale. Calls them blue". Heh!

Very well thought out post Cass. I enjoyed listening to Buzz while they were over there even though I only got to hear him twice. What's funny with the entire sitrep is the actual PEOPLE in the ME know what a joke the coverage is.

Freedom is a contagious thing! More so than any other basic human right! What our young men and women have done and are doing should be shouted from The Mountain. Instead we hear nothing but negativity. They are fighting a war on terror with half their hands tied behind their backs simply because of the Left's inability to grow up and a MSM that is politically motivated instead of unbiased and truthful! You just threw it in their teeth and the silence is deafening! I especially liked Fumento's answer to the challenge of why he "didn't suck it up and go over there"! Heh! I happened to know the Marines he was hangin' with when he was wounded. Imagine the utter embarrassment and full apologies offered by the MSM hacks that accused him of being cowardly? Yeah right! Don't hold your breath! ;-)

BTW, Michael Yon is Ernie Pyle reincarnated! :-o

Posted by: JarheadDad at August 1, 2005 02:30 PM

Cass

Home run, no, grand slam!! Just a week in Iraq taught me so much about "our media." Especially priceless was the MSNBC quote.

While in Baghdad, I was asked to come on "Connected Coast to Coast" with Monica Crowley and Ron Reagan, Jr (MSNBC). I was debating Richard Engel, the NBC war correspondent (whose claim to fame, apparently, is that he is the longest serving correspondent in Iraq). Maybe its time he came home.

After the usual name calling, bad mouthing of our 'Voices of Soldiers Tour' and challenges to my "agenda," I asked Engel when was the last time MSNBC did a story on the positive results in Iraq. I told him I understood Iraq was a war zone and that death and tragedy were occurring. I understood that IED and SVBD's were happening. But, my concern was the lack of balance and how that negatively reflected on our men and women in uniform.

He answered, "Oh, well, we do them all the time. I'm constantly asking CENTCOM for the good news stories."

Then, he and Ronnie played a clip of Engel reporting an IED!! "You just made my point for me, Richard."

Little did Richard know, but I was sitting in the studio at Camp Victory with a whole bunch of CENTCOM PA types, all shaking their heads "no."

"Well, CENTCOM is telling me that's not true, Richard."

Silence. Pregnant silence. "Maybe you guys ought to quit exchanging notes at the Al Rashid and get out a little more."

Then your quote. Beautiful. They dont' WANT to know the truth. It's "too dangerous" or, more importantly, counter-productive to their agenda. Much easier to sit at the bar at the Al Rashid and exchange notes.

The Iraqis deserve better. I know damn well our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines do! You should have seen the fire in the eyes of our guys and girls going out on patrol.

Buzz

Posted by: Buzz Patterson at August 1, 2005 02:34 PM

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