Friday, January 12, 2007

Why Hide the Good News?

Our Marines and soldiers along with an increasing number of willing Iraqi’s continue to accomplish great things we don’t hear about on the evening newscasts. These successes deserve recognition. Their accomplishments deserve at least as much air time as any of the setbacks in Iraq.

But, the lack of thorough and objective, and at times accurate, coverage of events in Iraq continues.

Lieutenant General James Mattis recently described a conversation with a Lieutenant in Haditha, site of the alleged war crimes incident against Iraqi civilians. His comments, during a North County Times interview, are illustrative of the way “news” is obtained from Iraq.

Over the last few months we’ve been presented with many news stories that were supposedly from Haditha about the allegations and upcoming trials of the Marines involved in that incident. But the Lieutenant pointed out to the General that during this same time frame “…there has not been a reporter in Haditha in my last two and a half months here.”

So how can that be? No reporters in Haditha, but yet we get plenty of news stories from Haditha?

I’m guessing the Lieutenant and the General probably have doubts about the validity and accuracy of those stories. I know I do.

The use of “stringers,” Iraqi civilians paid to find out the latest and greatest in town and then return the information to a reporter, has become common practice for our press to obtain what are then relayed to us as hard news stories. News we’re supposed to swallow as truthful and objective.

It’s akin to heading to the local cafe for morning coffee to find out what’s happening in town. Anyone who’s been baptized by the morning coffee crowd knows the accuracy of the facts spun there.

Yet, this is the kind of news we’re supposed to depend on and from which our politicians obviously make decisions. But we ignore news and facts from our Generals and military correspondents.

We’re supposed to trust, as objective and factual, the collection of that which may very well be town gossip and rumors from a guy who could have ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq and be relaying their propaganda? But we don’t publish information provided to us by military spokesmen like Major General William Caldwell or military correspondents like Gunnery Sergeant Mark Oliva?

I know Gunny Oliva. I met him when he was Sergeant Oliva. I trust him far more than I trust an anonymous Iraqi who relays information or the anonymous reporter the Iraqi relays it to. I’ll caveat that by saying I’d trust another Marine before I trusted just about anyone else though.

A December 31st, Multi-National Force - Iraq news story from Gunny Oliva showed us a picture of progress in Fallujah that has otherwise gone unreported.

Fallujah, once the home to a hornet’s nest of insurgents and terrorists, has instead become a more peaceful and growing city. It still has challenges, but its turn around is noteworthy. In fact, it has now become a safe haven for Sunni Iraqis who flee from the sectarian violence elsewhere.

Recruiting drives in Fallujah have produced hundreds of Sunni’s for the Iraqi Security Forces. The city has its own police force, a growing economy, and has become a “boomtown for construction.” I suspect that was needed after the two major battles there.

But none the less, the city is rebuilding, moving forward productively, and is doing well enough to allow its citizens to afford and demand “air conditioners, satellite TVs, freezers, and fridges” with a “First World appetite.” This of course leads to a need for updating an electrical grid which became antiquated under rule of the recently deceased Saddam Hussein. But that is being addressed as our forces work side by side with Iraqis toward a better future for Fallujah.

Elsewhere in Al Anbar province, as reported by Major General Caldwell on December 27, there were 1,115 recruits to the Iraqi Security Forces last month. That number is up from zero just eight months ago. Six hundred of them were from Ramadi alone, a city previously known for its high level of violence, but which is now turning a corner for the better.

The number of tips from Iraqis about criminal behavior and terrorist activity rose from about 4500 per month during January through September up to 7600 per month in October and November. It was on pace for 8700 tips in December. This is a good sign of a growing number of Iraqi citizens trying to make their country a better place. In turn, this type of activity by the Iraqis has accelerated some of our plans to turn over more of the leadership, policing, and security responsibilities to the Iraqi’s themselves.

Najaf, one of 9 provinces to average less than one attack per day, became the 3rd province to have its leadership, police, and Iraqi Security Forces assume responsibility for the province back on the 20th of December.

It’s these stories and hard facts which go unreported or unpublished by the national press. All we can do is to keep asking “why?” and for me to keep sharing them with you.

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