Sunday, January 23, 2005
Insider's Comment on US Media's News Coverage of Iraq
Editors' Note: LTC Tim Ryan is Commander, Task Force 2-12 Cavalry, First Cavalry Division in Iraq. He led troops into battle in Fallujah late last year and is now involved in security operations for the upcoming elections. He wrote the following during "down time" after the Fallujah operation. His views are his own.
The inaccurate picture they paint has distorted the world view of the daily realities in Iraq. The result is a further erosion of international support for the United States' efforts there, and a strengthening of the insurgents' resolve and recruiting efforts while weakening our own. Through their incomplete, uninformed and unbalanced reporting, many members of the media covering the war in Iraq are aiding and abetting the enemy.
The fact is the Coalition is making steady progress in Iraq, but not without ups and downs. So why is it that no matter what events unfold, good or bad, the media highlights mostly the negative aspects of the event? The journalistic adage, "If it bleeds, it leads," still applies in Iraq, but why only when it's American blood?
As a recent example, the operation in Fallujah delivered an absolutely devastating blow to the insurgency. Though much smaller in scope, clearing Fallujah of insurgents arguably could equate to the Allies' breakout from the hedgerows in France during World War II. In both cases, our troops overcame a well-prepared and solidly entrenched enemy and began what could be the latter's last stand. In Fallujah, the enemy death toll has exceeded 1,500 and still is climbing. Put one in the win column for the good guys, right? Wrong. As soon as there was nothing negative to report about Fallujah, the media shifted its focus to other parts of the country.
Jack Kelly has an excellent discussion of media spinning :
There's more. But the ultimate question has to be - why is the mainstream media at war with the US? Could this be a case of Vietnam Syndrome - that is the desire to cover all military actions like it was 1968?
The Washington Post's Dana Priest has demonstrated yet again why so many Americans don't trust the "mainstream" media to tell the truth about what is going on in the war on terror.
Her story Jan. 14 on a study by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA's think tank, ran under a scare headline: "Iraq New Terror Breeding Ground: War Created Haven, CIA Advisers Report."
One wouldn't gather from the headline or Priest's lead that the study, "Mapping the Global Future," has next to nothing to do with Iraq. Based on interviews with 1,000 non-government experts around the world, it paints four scenarios for what the world might look like in 2020.
The most important developments in the next 15 years, these experts said, will be the rise of China and India as economic powers that could rival the United States, and the decline of Europe, due to its shrinking and aging population and sclerotic welfare states.
Priest hangs her scary lead on a single sentence in the 119-page report: "The al-Qaida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq."
This is the rather commonplace observation that over time, veterans of the current war will replace veterans of the war against the Russians in Afghanistan 20 years ago as the leaders of al-Qaida. The calendar alone guarantees that. But Priest describes this single sentence as: "an evaluation of Iraq's new role as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists."
Except, of course, there is nothing "new" about Iraq being a breeding ground for terrorists. Saddam Hussein had a special camp at Salman Pak to train terrorists from other lands, and had given sanctuary to terrorist leaders, including one of the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the Jordanian who is the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. The biggest thing that's changed since the American invasion is that now there is a high likelihood that jihadists who come to Iraq will be killed there.