Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Reporting on Iraq

The wartime reporting of the mainstream media (MSM) is sadly disappointing – no, it’s egregiously atrocious. We can all recall the hysterical exaggerations of certain events over the past two years, but what bothers me is the more subtle everyday reporting that aims to strike under the radar.

The usual reporting generally lists American casualties and stops there. These are clearly first in importance, but what is missing is the full story. In wartime reporting, one expects to be informed about the battle: its objective, the challenges, the valor of our troops, the cost to the enemy, ground gained or lost, etc. All of this is eliminated. There are a few rare exceptions: Ralph Peters, a columnist and Michael Yon on the Internet. This information, however, should be in the news articles. The MSM’s omission is not accidental. Merely reporting the deaths and not the war sends one message: these men and women are dying for no reason.

The coverage of the enemy is completely different. After every terrorist attack, news coverage generally includes the enemy’s propaganda – generally a statement of the enemy’s purported reason. These statements have a purpose: they intend to add humiliation (you brought it on yourself), demoralization (we will do it again), etc. By relaying the enemy’s propaganda as fact the writers of the MSM, as useful idiots, become an accomplice after the fact. The humiliation is a crucial part of the attack. However, their main purpose is to send a message: the enemy has a purpose and reason.

Subtle as they are, these dual messages – our guys are dying for no reason, the enemy has a reason – slowly undercuts the publics spirit.

The second failure is that of the commentators. There are a few exceptions but again the typical commentator raises doubt about our efforts. Let’s get this straight: we’ve gone beyond the need to neutralize Saddam’s threat to ourselves and our allies – we’ve undertaken an extremely ambitious task of nation-building. There should be no doubt about our generosity. If there are doubts it should be about the Iraqi people: are they worthy of our efforts?

January’s election, as I noted long ago, is a sign of hope. And the Iraqi people welcome our help. Currently, Iraq has been invaded by a foreign force – jihadists from through out the Arab world led by a Jordanian, al Zarqawi, who just today has “declared war against Shi’ites in all of Iraq” (from Reuters.) Clearly he has lost hope of winning the hearts and minds of the vast majority of Iraqis. The Sunni Muslims, who boycotted the last election, are urging registration for the next election on the constitution – a sign that they have resigned themselves to the process to some degree. It’s hard to know how much progress will be made, but it is up to the Iraqi people in the end.

There is, however, one area of self-doubt that is warranted. The war will never be lost over there. The performance of our troops is awe inspiring. It is over here, at home, that I worry about. Can the American people and our media match that spirit by supporting them to the fullest? I believe most of us can. But the efforts of some in key positions in the media, the churches, the universities, and political partisans are a cause for concern.


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