Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

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On reporting the 'good news' from Iraq

The Star's Antonia Zerbisias holds forth on the fact that most of the “good news” on Iraq is coming from those who haven't set foot there:

Read on:

The other night on ABC News Nightline, Ted Koppel asked National Public Radio war correspondent Anne Garrels, who has been in Iraq throughout the war, “When you hear people in this country, Anne, say, look, the media is only giving the negative side of what's going on there, why don't they ever show the good side, what do you tell 'em?”

“I tell them that there isn't much good to show,” she replied, describing how even military commanders have only bad news to share.

Two weeks ago on CNN, Time's Michael Ware, who has been covering Iraq for two years, gave an alarming account of being trapped in his Baghdad compound, which is regularly bombed and encircled by “kidnap teams.”

He reported that the U.S. military has “lost control” and that Americans are “the midwives of the next generation of jihad, of the next Al Qaeda.”

At the end of the exchange, anchor Aaron Brown warned, “(O)ther people see the situation there differently than Michael. We talk to them as well.”

Zerbisias mentioned a Washington Times article by Helle Dale: Biased coverage in Iraq:

 Those who have the opportunity to hear the accounts of Americans serving in Iraq often come away with a completely different impression. Many readers of this newspaper who have relatives and friends serving in Iraq know that they hear differently from them. This point was recently brought up by Ambassador Edward Rowney in a Council on Foreign Relations discussion with former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski, who is an ardent critic of the war. Mr. Brezinski's response was to dismiss first-hand accounts as mere anecdotal evidence.

Dale wrote:

Admittedly the security situation is dire, but look at these figures. In October, the number of Iraqis killed was 775 from acts of war and murder; American troops suffered 63 casualties and 691 wounded. These are too high, but at a time of a major military offensive against insurgents, those numbers are not gigantic.

I'd love to know where Dale — a deputy director of the Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute for International Studies — got those numbers.

After all, the U.S. military has said it isn't in the “body counting” business when it comes to Iraqis, especially civilians.

One reason U.S. casualties aren't higher are because of their overwhelming use of firepower. Think you see a muzzle flash from a building's window? Call in an air strike! Call in artillery fire! Call in a tank! Blast it!

And if it's a family trying to start a cooking fire, well, war's hell.

One commander said it was tough to assess enemy casualties in Fallujah during last month's offensive because of this target liquidation technique.

CBS's 60 Minutes also did a piece last month on how the U.S. is under-reporting its casualties from Iraq.

For some light-hearted reading on how great things are in Iraq, check out this NYT story — Two CIA reports offer warning on Iraq's path:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 – A classified cable sent by the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Baghdad has warned that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and may not rebound any time soon, according to government officials.

The cable, sent late last month as the officer ended a yearlong tour, presented a bleak assessment on matters of politics, economics and security, the officials said. They said its basic conclusions had been echoed in briefings presented by a senior C.I.A. official who recently visited Iraq.

The officials described the two assessments as having been “mixed,” saying that they did describe Iraq as having made important progress, particularly in terms of its political process, and credited Iraqis with being resilient.

But over all, the officials described the station chief's cable in particular as an unvarnished assessment of the difficulties ahead in Iraq. They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy.

Together, the appraisals, which follow several other such warnings from officials in Washington and in the field, were much more pessimistic than the public picture being offered by the Bush administration before the elections scheduled for Iraq next month, the officials said. The cable was sent to C.I.A. headquarters after American forces completed what military commanders have described as a significant victory, with the retaking of Falluja, a principal base of the Iraqi insurgency, in mid-November.

Fri, December 10 2004 » Main Page