Austin Bay takes a look at how the troops are appalled by the media coverage in Iraq. It seems as though whenever you talk to someone who has been in Iraq, or someone who knows someone who has, you keep hearing the same basic thing: the media coverage of Iraq doesn’t match the reality on the ground:
After my return from Iraq I received phone calls and emails from military friends as they either came back to the US on leave or finished their tours and re-deployed â€œStateside.â€ The typical phone call went like this: â€œIâ€™m back. Itâ€™s great to be home. Whatâ€™s up? How are you doing?â€ Then, the conversation quickly moved on to: â€œWhatâ€™s with the press and Iraq?â€ The press usually meant television. On tv Iraq looked like it was going to Hell in a handbasket of flame and brutality; however, the images of carnage didnâ€™t square with the troopsâ€™ experience.
The media has been quick to pronounce Iraq as a “failure”. In fact, they seem positively giddy about the possibility of Iraq descending into a morass of sectarian violence. The group consensus has already been written in regards to Iraq – the mainstream media has already determined that Iraq is a “failure” and their reporting is less about accurately and honestly assessing the situation and more about propagating their chosen meme. For instance, Riding Sun catches Newsweek burying the lede in a story on Iraq:
On the ground, the shrewder analysts say, it’s not entirely clear that U.S. policy has “failed.” The TV news, not to mention Al-Jazeera, doesn’t regularly summarize the stunning changes in Iraq, many of them morally and politically worthy. Saddam Hussein is gone and awaiting trial. Schools, hospitals and other institutions are operating in most parts of the country. Voters have adopted a constitution. And even many Sunnis are gathering in political parties that are maneuvering in advance of the Dec. 15 national elections. After the elections, the plan is that Coalition forces will use the growing number of capable Iraqi units to “clear, hold and build” a peaceful Iraq.
The part about the “shrewder analysts” might qualify for the understatement of the year. The fact is that the media’s reporting on Iraq is relentlessly ideological, and focuses almost exclusively on suicide bombings while ignoring the ongoing political process and reconstruction. The car bombings and other attacks by the “insurgents” does not represent the totality of events in Iraq. Attacks like that do not mean that Iraq is a “failure” by any stretch of the imagination.
Ralph Peters has a scathing piece on the consequences of failure in Iraq. It is quite clear to a reasonable person that handing al-Qaeda their greatest victory ever would be the most idiotic thing this country could do. Unfortunately, many members of the Democratic Party aren’t reasonable people when it comes to this war. Someone like Rep. John Murtha would have the US leave Iraq, creating a massive power vacuum, give al-Qaeda their greatest victory, and destabilize the Middle East for years on end. Al-Qaeda’s wide strategic picture involves more than just getting the US out of Iraq. From there that gives them a perfect base of operations to topple the Saudi monarchy and starve the West of oil and create the base for their future pan-Islamic caliphate. It is deeply and fundamentally irresponsible to allow that to happen, and while Congressman Murtha may be a decorated and honorable war veteran, it doesn’t make his argument any less defeatist, stupid, or wrong.
Victory in Iraq is not optional, nor is it impossible. The “exit strategy” in Iraq hasn’t changed – we need to train an indigenous force to provide security and protect the reconstruction process. We can’t, nor should we, take the place of the Iraqi army or police forces. Great progress has been made in creating the kind of espirit de corps that is essential for an effective military organization. The media loves to trumpet the idea that Iraq has become a training ground for terrorists – what they completely ignore is that it’s also a training ground for antiterrorist combat as well. We don’t have a great number of Arabic speakers who can pass for terrorists. The Iraqis have plenty. Training an effective native antiterrorist force is the only way to be truly effective in infiltrating terrorist networks. Furthermore, the combat between the terrorists and the coalition is completely one-sided. With each capture or killing of even a mid-level terrorist leader, that diminishes the capacity of that terrorist network. Even when someone else takes the place of that individual, they have to rebuild that network – all while trying to avoid the fate of their predecessor. The argument that al-Qaeda can simply manufacture new leadership on a continuous basis isn’t a particularly good argument.
The reality is that the situation in Iraq is hardly a “failure”. The Iraqis are becoming more and more invested in the political process. The Iraqi police and military are becoming increasingly capable and by next year there will be over 270,000 Iraqi troops patrolling the country. The central government has been cracking down on sectarian violence, and many areas of Iraq are relatively peaceful.
The only way we can lose in Iraq is if we choose to do so – and the media seems to have already made that choice. Yet every poll has shown a majority of Americans rejecting withdrawal without victory. To allow al-Qaeda another safe harbor in the middle of the Arab world would be a suicidal mistake. Those who advocate such a policy deserve deep and vitriolic criticism. Failure in Iraq is not an option, and we must continue to build up Iraq until it can stand against terrorism on its own and continue to take the fight to the enemy.