Recently there has been much debate on the talk shows about whether or not the media is slanting the news out of Iraq. The President and others have been blasting the media (except for Fox) for only showing the bad news.
I believe that press coverage in Iraq is definitely too narrow. But too negative? I don't think so. If you are looking for good news stories in a war zone, you are looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place. It is like looking for virgins at the Playboy mansion--you might find a few, but they're certainly not the majority. If you want good news stories, go to Disneyland. Not Iraq.
NBC's Richard Engel offered his take from Iraq, saying "The situation on the ground is worse than the images we project on television." Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham had a heated exchange with David Gregory on "The Today Show" about the topic. Later, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann fired back at Ingraham on "Countdown" with this segment.
So who is right?
I thought I'd try something new: I asked a soldier on the ground what he thinks about this debate. The guy I asked is a very trusted old friend of mine--an infantryman serving in Ramadi right now who supported the initial invasion of Iraq 100%. To protect him, I will call him "The Cardinal." I know that many of the critics are going to say I made this guy up--that he is a fictional person. I assure you that he is not. And when he gets back from Iraq, he will be more than willing to reveal himself to all my readers and prove it. Now this is just one soldier's perspective. But it is a perspective that is infinitely more credible and personally invested than Laura Ingraham--or anyone else I have seen attacking the press lately.
So, I asked "The Cardinal" one simple question: "What do you say when people say the media doesn't tell enough good news stories out of Iraq?"
"I never hear that because we all here know the good news stories are bullshit and do not really affect the mission in any way. It's like this thing we keep saying here about all the new people we've recruited for the iraqi police. It leaves out the fact that my platoon was in a 40 minute gun fight with the iraqi police. So you recruited more of them ... awesome! I am sure that will make everything better. Also, they don't do ANYTHING. They don't even leave their building, and that is not an exaggeration. They don't. So what good is a billion-man police force that doesn't do anything? Also, they get almost no training. They tried to stand up some kind of mentoring initiative here using the guardsmen that are civilian cops, but it so far has fallen through. They will get set up to be killed, as is already suspected of the THREE SVBIEDs that have hit their station. Inside jobs, all. During our fight with them, we picked up the police chief (who was riding in a car that was shooting at a coalition vehicle -- an M1A1. You know how that story ends) and he was with a guy (who it turned out was his nephew) who had this radical islamic terrorist literature on him. It would be a joke if it weren't costing our lives.
"the iraqi army is making progress and we're handing over more and more to them everyday." Complete bullshit. What's the good news in the fact that all their logistics, medical, engineering, staff function, etc. is being done by us? ALL OF IT. And PS, they're not being trained on any of the other shit, either, except a broken medical training program.
You can clearly see by reading the news how much it matters that X number of people have power now. The bottom line is, the overwhelming majority of people live in fear. We can do NOTHING to help them. We don't have anywhere near the manpower, and our actions are too severely restricted. Good thing 2500 people died for this.
What are the good news stories? I would love to hear them. Spare me the heart warming tales of a single family or school or neighborhood that was helped. Operation Iraqi Freedom is, at this point, an abject failure. This is the most dangerous place on earth and it's getting worse, not better.
Also, you have to consider that our definition of good news is not the iraqi definition of good news. These people are not americans. Culturally, they do not respect or appreciate the same things we do. "Our neighborhood has power now! It's about time, infidels. What about the water?" "Hey, thanks for the medicine for our clinic! I'm still totally supporting the insurgency, but at least i can provide them better medical care now." Giving them shit does not win their allegiance. They don't think, "wow, I was wrong about americans." It just gives them shit.
The "we don't hear good news from Iraq" mindset is one that is totally ignorant of Iraqi culture. There is no good news. There's a bunch of people getting handed shit, and it doesn't change a single thing."