The Media’s Fifth Column

Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall has a sobering piece in which he argues that the constant negativity of media reports on Iraq is helping the terrorists.

News media reports about our progress in Iraq have been bleak since shortly after the president’s premature declaration of victory. These reports contrast sharply with reports of hope and progress presented to Congress by Department of Defense representatives — a real disconnect, Vietnam déja vu. So I went to Iraq with six other members of Congress to see for myself.

The Iraq war has predictably evolved into a guerrilla conflict similar to Vietnam. Our currently stated objectives are to establish reasonable security and foster the creation of a secular, representative government with a stable market economy that provides broad opportunity throughout Iraqi society. Attaining these objectives in Iraq would inevitably transform the Arab world and immeasurably increase our future national security.

These are goals worthy of a fight, of sacrifice, of more lives lost now to save thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands in the future. In Mosul last Monday, a colonel in the 101st Airborne put it to me quite simply: "Sir, this is worth doing." No one I spoke with said anything different. And I spoke with all ranks.

But there will be more Blumbergs killed in action, many more. So it is worth doing only if we have a reasonable chance of success. And we do, but I’m afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded, the Blumbergs. Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with "the rest of the story," the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.

This report is confirmed by dozens of reports I’ve read and even more I’ve heard from people who have been in Iraq. The Iraqi people don’t resent US troops, they’re happy we’re protecting them from the Ba’athist thugs. The situation in Iraq isn’t a quagmire. The Iraqi infrastructure is markedly better than four months ago. Iraqis are starting to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives. Baghdad is becoming vibrant once again.

Of course finding such views in the media is rare. Hospitals, roads,a and power grids don’t sell newspapers, but frantic fear-mongering does. The media is always self-interested, but in this case the interests of the media in selling papers and getting ratings works against the interests of soldiers deployed in Iraq. The media doesn’t have to skew the news, but if they were reporting the facts on the ground the story about Iraq would be decidedly different.

POSTSCRIPT: Glenn Reynolds has more on media bias and Iraq

UPDATE: Even Dan Rather is finding that the media isn’t telling the true story in Iraq.

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