Big News from Iraq Gets Not So Big Attention

One might think that an 80-95% decrease in war related deaths in Iraq would be a pretty darn big news. One thinking that would be wrong. Today’s media evidently doesn’t think it is a huge deal. At least it is being reported. It is just not being shouted with the fanfare reserved for increases in violence in Iraq. As George Will put it recently in a “must read” column:

Mainstream media types tend to think that, while rising casualties from Iraq are legitimate news, falling casualties are not. But even so the word got out: The surge strategy was producing results. Anbar province, given up for lost in 2006, turned peaceful and cooperative in 2007. U.S. casualties and Iraqi civilian casualties were down. Brookings scholars Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, no fans of the administration’s conduct of the war, announced on July 30 (in the pages of The New York Times, no less) that this was “a war we might just win.”

Bob Owens pointed me to what Michael Yon has to say about it:

..No thinking person would look at last year’s weather reports to judge whether it will rain today, yet we do something similar with Iraq news. The situation in Iraq has drastically changed, but the inertia of bad news leaves many convinced that the mission has failed beyond recovery, that all Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, or are waiting for us to leave so they can crush their neighbors. This view allows our soldiers two possible roles: either “victim caught in the crossfire” or “referee between warring parties.” Neither, rightly, is tolerable to the American or British public.

Today I am in Iraq, back in a war of such strategic consequence that it will affect generations yet unborn–whether or not they want it to. Hiding under the covers will not work, because whether it is good news or bad, whether it is true or untrue, once information is widely circulated, it has such formidable inertia that public opinion seems impervious to the corrective balm of simple and clear facts…I came to Iraq in December 2004 specifically because friends in the military had been telling me about the disconnect between the situation on the ground and the media coverage about it. This is partly why I have remained focused enough on this problem to write about it dozens of times, beginning with an early dispatch about how many news reports “from” Iraq are generated . Later I described the expensive and exasperating embed process that makes long-term on-the-ground reporting next to impossible for most small or medium media outlets, and just plain impossible for most freelancers and independents…

Clearly, a majority of Americans believe the current set of outdated fallacies passed around mainstream media like watered down drinks at happy hour. Why wouldn’t they? The cloned copy they get comes from the same sources that list the specials at the local grocery store, and the hours and locations of polling places for town elections. These same news sources print obituaries and birth announcements, give play-by-play for local high school sports, and chronicle all the painful details of the latest celebrity to fall from grace. Yon is putting his money where his mouth is and is offering his dispatches free of charge. If you would like to see him continue to do the reporting he is doing from Iraq, please consider sending some money his way.

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