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Is the Cone of Silence on Iraq beginning to lift?
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yesterday I posted about Michael Yon’s latest. I included the usual lament about lack of mainstream media coverage, as I have other times I’ve posted one of his dispatches. I’ve been referring to it as the “cone of silence” for a while, calling back to the old Get Smart television series that most of our readers are probably too young to remember.

I’m certainly not the only one who has noticed a dearth of coverage. Just yesterday, Investor’s Business Daily said:
Which makes it all the more curious why major newspapers and network TV news programs can lead with a barrage of news out of Iraq when things there go bad, but can't seem to find the space or time when things turn good. As the bad news dries up, their interest in the good remains nil.

It takes people like Yon ... to tell us what's going on — not the highly paid prima donnas whose past reporting has made them so invested in defeat that they can no longer afford to tell us the truth.
However, this time one of our commenters, "glasnost", took me to task on the cone of silence assertion. His initial, and strongest, evidence consisted of three stories just yesterday in the New York Times.

I certainly appreciate having a commenter point out that a change in coverage might be in the works, especially one who is not generally in favor of the Iraq effort. I think he overstated the case by also asserting that the NYT has been doing just fine on reporting good news out of Iraq all along. To be honest, I think that’s a ludicrous assertion. It is true that they have placed some stories on positive trends in the past few months. However, his estimation of a “positive story” was rather expansive, I think, and you can judge that for yourself by checking the comments in that thread. There’s also the question of balance and placement. How many relentlessly negative stories are in there too? And which kind of stories get exposure and placement? Certainly Investor’s Business Daily hasn’t noticed much of a change, at least up through yesterday.

And of course, the NYT is not the whole mainstream media. Despite eroding viewers numbers, the broadcast networks' nightly newscasts are still the biggest source of daily news for Americans.

But three positive stores in one day at the Times made me wonder if there is a change in the works. Since I’ve busy at three back-to-back technical conferences the past two weeks, I did a bit of research to catch up. And I found this from the Media Research Center, posted this past Wednesday:
Three weeks after ABC's World News aired the first of three stories then and since about significant declines in violence and improving living conditions in Iraq, NBC Nightly News caught up Wednesday night as anchor Brian Williams acknowledged: “We are all hearing more and more these days about a significant drop in violence and deaths in Iraq, even though 2007 some time ago became the bloodiest year of the war, yet for U.S. forces these new stats show a different trend.”
Their basic assertion is that the broadcast news networks had been almost completely silent on positive news from Iraq up until about three weeks ago, when ABC became the first to shift. According to MRC, in the last week both CBS and NBC have done their first major positive stories.

The New York Times likes to believe it sets the tone on news coverage for the entire mainstream media, and I think there’s more than a little truth to that. Therefore, the fact that the Times has been doing some positive coverage is probably one of the underlying reasons that the broadcast networks are also started to do so.

I have not studied the Washington Post, USA Today, or other mainstream outlets to check out their very recent coverage; I simply don’t have the time for that kind of research right now (hint, hint to any of commenters who do have the time). But I’ll definitely be keeping an eye for changes in coverage. It may be that the cone of silence is lifting, and if so that’s a very good thing. It could have implications on our policy there and on the presidential election of 2008.

I hope it will also tone down the continual assertions that Iraq is an inevitable and irredeemable failure by some of our more strident anti-war commenters. The usual caveats apply; it could all turn around, political reconciliation is what’s important, etc. etc. But we should at least be able to dispense for a while with the “civil war” rhetoric and start looking at whether Iraq is forming a reasonably peaceful and stable society. I'd like to think that almost all of us believe that is a worthwhile goal.
 
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Congratulations on a thoughtful response to Glasnost’s comments. My own view is that the MSM Print has been reasonably accurate in its portrayal of the situation in Iraq. Iraq was non-stop awful for a long time, but during much of that time, war supporters complained non-stop that there were no good news stories about Iraq in the MSM. Well, there weren’t any good news stories. Now there are and they are being reported, generally, as such.

The larger point, I think, is that one hears Left blogs constantly complain that the MSM is in the tank for the Bush Administration at the very same time that Right blogs complain that the opposite is true. I don’t think either is true, and it really says more about what one wantsthe news to be than how the news is being reported. Except for some abject partisanship in the editorial pages — across the board, NYTimes, WSJ, WashPo — the MSM print has been pretty good in its Iraq coverage. TV is another matter altogether.

This, however, misses the mark:
It may be that the cone of silence is lifting, and if so that’s a very good thing. It could have implications on our policy there and on the presidential election of 2008. I hope it will also tone down the continual assertions that Iraq is an inevitable and irredeemable failure by some of our more strident anti-war commenters. The usual caveats apply; it could all turn around, political reconciliation is what’s important, etc. etc. But we should at least be able to dispense for a while with the "civil war" rhetoric and start looking at whether Iraq is forming a reasonably peaceful and stable society. I’d like to think that almost all of us believe that is a worthwhile goal.

Notwithstanding its much-appreciated tone of civility, that comment illustrates just why the complaint about MSM bias is a red herring. It assumes that if only the MSM presentation were more one way, or another, that would actuallly change the situation on the ground somehow. Or, at least (more likely), it would change the politics of Iraq here at home. It does not and it will not. The overwhelming majority of Americans want out of Iraq and that is not going to change, regardless of what the MSM says or doesn’t say about "progress" in Iraq (however defined). Most Americans think, like I do, that the U.S. should get out of Iraq. Contrary to Right-wing myth, that belief is based upon a clear-eyed view of what is best for America, not upon some malicious diet fed us by the MSM.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://dsthinkingloud.blogspot.com/
David Shaughnessy wrote:
It assumes that if only the MSM presentation were more one way, or another, that would actuallly change the situation on the ground somehow. Or, at least (more likely), it would change the politics of Iraq here at home. It does not and it will not....Contrary to Right-wing myth, that belief is based upon a clear-eyed view of what is best for America, not upon some malicious diet fed us by the MSM.
People make judgments based on the information available to them. For most people, the only information they have on Iraq comes from mainstream news sources. If the news is positive, they’ll likely have a positive outlook on the subject, and vice versa. If news coverage is predominantly negative (whether through spin, selective reporting, or actual fact) people will have a predominantly negative view on what’s being reported. Please, don’t try and insist that the news media doesn’t influence people’s opinions.
 
Written By: James O
URL: http://
James O:

Indeed I did say what you quoted. I also said this, which you ellipsed away:
The overwhelming majority of Americans want out of Iraq and that is not going to change, regardless of what the MSM says or doesn’t say about "progress" in Iraq (however defined). Most Americans think, like I do, that the U.S. should get out of Iraq.
True enough that people come to judgments based upon a combination of factors: inherent bias, information soruces, peer pressure, partisan interest, etc. So, yes, the MSM surely does provide information that most people use in their decisionmaking calculus regarding Iraq. And although most Americans by now regularly discount much of what they hear from the MSM, or aggregate that info over time and distill the gist of it, no doubt what the MSM reports has some bearing on popular opinion. IMO, most Americans have concluded that we should leave Iraq based, not upon immediate conditions on the ground in Iraq (whether we are winning or making progress), but on a more fundamental assessment that: 1) our presence in Iraq is counterproductive to American global interests; and 2) whatever the incremental gains may be (and however detailed the MSM reports that), Iraq is not worth the cost to the U.S. Those fundamental judgments — quite sound in my view — are beyond the reach of Iraq feel-good or feel-bad stories.
 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
calling back to the old Get Smart television series that most of our readers are probably too young to remember.
Hey now, I’m not that old, and it was on when I was young.

You know, on Nick at Nite. :)
 
Written By: Kevin R
URL: http://
Well, there weren’t any good news stories.
A disproven myth... disproven in fact on this very website over and over.
Did you miss it? I’d suggest looking around a bit more.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Hey now, I’m not that old, and it was on when I was young.

You know, on Nick at Nite. :)
Heh. I didn’t know it was on Nick at Nite. So a whole new generation understands "Sorry about that, Chief." and "Missed it by *that* much."

These days, I’m afraid our spy agencies remind me more of Maxwell Smart than James Bond.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
From IBD: "Perhaps most touching, according to a report from Michael Yon, who deserves to be the first blogger to win a Pulitzer Prize, Muslims are asking Iraqi Christians to return to help build Iraq."

I’m torn. Yon would confer unfair legitimacy to the Prize.
 
Written By: Gary
URL: http://
In the face of overwhelming evidence, the MSM is changing its tune. Of course, the current status of Iraq isn’t the issue. It was the claims of a military quagmire supported by what was the status of Iraq at that time which were the real problem.

There was never any concession to the possibility we may achieve success on any level.

Now that we’re making gains on the security portion, the Iraqi situation as a whole is no longer a ’quagmire’. But instead we’re subdividing the Iraqi situation so we can discard where we’ve made progress and focus on where we’ve made little or have been stalled.

There’s limits to what can be done with the truth. So it’s caused a change of tact in how its spun. The goal is the same.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
IMO, most Americans have concluded that we should leave Iraq based, not upon immediate conditions on the ground in Iraq (whether we are winning or making progress), but on a more fundamental assessment that: 1) our presence in Iraq is counterproductive to American global interests; and 2) whatever the incremental gains may be (and however detailed the MSM reports that), Iraq is not worth the cost to the U.S. Those fundamental judgments — quite sound in my view — are beyond the reach of Iraq feel-good or feel-bad stories.
I’m glad you qualified it with an "IMO", because I think you’re wrong on every one of these points.

First, I think most of the dissatisfaction with Iraq, except for those who were anti-war from the beginning, was driven by the relentlessly bad news. I think good news will have a pretty dramatic effect on it. We’ll see.

I don’t think Americans have the perception that being there is counterproductive to our global interests. It is certainly true that there is a core anti-war contingent that thinks that, but I’ve seen zero evidence such a feeling is widespread. The region is of paramount importance because of oil and terrorism, particularly the spectre of nuclear terrorism, and I think people recognize that. Engaging there has certainly not increased the danger domestically in any way anyone can measure, since we’ve had virtually zip terrorist activity here since we went into Iraq.

The cost matter is more open to debate, I suppose, but I think what Americans don’t want is waste. When the public perception was that Iraq wasn’t making any progress, then of course it’s easy to think that it’s not worth it. But if progress is shown, then that attitude shifts quickly. I strongly disagree that Americans think it’s not the worth the cost regardless of the outcome, and again I think there is no evidence for that opinion.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
IMO, most Americans have concluded that we should leave Iraq based, not upon immediate conditions on the ground in Iraq (whether we are winning or making progress), but on a more fundamental assessment that: 1) our presence in Iraq is counterproductive to American global interests; and 2) whatever the incremental gains may be (and however detailed the MSM reports that), Iraq is not worth the cost to the U.S. Those fundamental judgments — quite sound in my view — are beyond the reach of Iraq feel-good or feel-bad stories.
I’m glad you qualified it with an "IMO", because I think you’re wrong on every one of these points.

First, I think most of the dissatisfaction with Iraq, except for those who were anti-war from the beginning, was driven by the relentlessly bad news. I think good news will have a pretty dramatic effect on it. We’ll see.

I don’t think Americans have the perception that being there is counterproductive to our global interests. It is certainly true that there is a core anti-war contingent that thinks that, but I’ve seen zero evidence such a feeling is widespread. The region is of paramount importance because of oil and terrorism, particularly the spectre of nuclear terrorism, and I think people recognize that. Engaging there has certainly not increased the danger domestically in any way anyone can measure, since we’ve had virtually zip terrorist activity here since we went into Iraq.

The cost matter is more open to debate, I suppose, but I think what Americans don’t want is waste. When the public perception was that Iraq wasn’t making any progress, then of course it’s easy to think that it’s not worth it. But if progress is shown, then that attitude shifts quickly. I strongly disagree that Americans think it’s not the worth the cost regardless of the outcome, and again I think there is no evidence for that opinion.
Fair enough. My riposte:
First, I think most of the dissatisfaction with Iraq, except for those who were anti-war from the beginning, was driven by the relentlessly bad news. I think good news will have a pretty dramatic effect on it. We’ll see.
The "relentlessly bad news" about Iraq was relentlessly bad because, well, things were relentlessly bad. No serious person contests that. Americans sized it all up, beginning and ending I believe, with the fact that we entered Iraq under erroneous assumptions (best case), or knowingly/recklessly false information (my own view). Either way, Americans realized soon after the invasion that it was a gigantic mistake. Certainly, the occupation events — Iraq falling apart, Ameericans getting killed — reinforced people’s opinion that the whole thing was a terrible mistake. But those opinions are now set. Whatever happens now will not change that fundamental point: Americans largely beleive that going into Iraq was wrong and that getting out is right. I don’t think one can legitimately parse time by saying, yes but now things are going better. Too late. As you say, however, we’ll find out soon enough whether public opinion shiftssignificantly now that the Iraq news is "better."
I don’t think Americans have the perception that being there is counterproductive to our global interests. It is certainly true that there is a core anti-war contingent that thinks that, but I’ve seen zero evidence such a feeling is widespread. The region is of paramount importance because of oil and terrorism, particularly the spectre of nuclear terrorism, and I think people recognize that. Engaging there has certainly not increased the danger domestically in any way anyone can measure, since we’ve had virtually zip terrorist activity here since we went into Iraq.
I disagree. I think Americans realize at a gut level — which is where these decisions are made — that the Iraq enterprise has made the U.S. less safe because it has: 1) diverted attention from where it ought to be; 2) increased enmity against the U.S. worldwide, and espeically in the Muslim world which, whether we like it or not, will undoubtedly be the key to containing and defeating Islamofacism. This is not at all inconsistent with the quite-correct assertion that the ME is a critical region.
The cost matter is more open to debate, I suppose, but I think what Americans don’t want is waste. When the public perception was that Iraq wasn’t making any progress, then of course it’s easy to think that it’s not worth it. But if progress is shown, then that attitude shifts quickly. I strongly disagree that Americans think it’s not the worth the cost regardless of the outcome, and again I think there is no evidence for that opinion.
But the point is this: What you call "progress" in Iraq is largely irrelevant to whether our presence in Iraq serves our vital interests. I beleive that and I think the vast majority of Ameericans do, too. The waste merely compounds the dissension. (BTW: The reason why there is such inordinate waste in Iraq — even allowing for the vicissitudes inherent in the effort — is that, since Americans are opposed to the war generally, the Bush Administration feels tremendous pressure to squelch bad news of all kinds. Therefore, the BA cannot demand Iraqi accountablility or otherwise admit that billions of American dollars are being wasted (by anyone’s measure) there. Hence the belief that the Propaganda Surge would change American opinion.) You agree with the BA that American opinion will fundamentally shift now that there is "progress" reported. I disagree. As you said, we’ll know imminently which of us is correct.

Thanks for the dsiscussion.

 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
Kevin Drum had a post yesterday in which he linked to three stories regarding the progress in Iraq.

Here is an excerpt:
The surge, obviously, will be coming to an end over the next few months. So what about the other three factors? Is local level progress enough to eventually produce some kind of national reconciliation? Three recent pieces offer a pessimistic assessment. First, Thomas Ricks in the Washington Post:
Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq.

....All the U.S. military officials interviewed said their most pressing concern is that Sunnis will sour if the Iraqi government doesn’t begin to reciprocate their peace overtures. "The Sunnis have shown great patience," said Campbell. "You don’t want the Sunnis that are working with you . . . to go back to the dark side." The Army officer who requested anonymity said that if the Iraqi government doesn’t reach out, then for former Sunni insurgents "it’s game on — they’re back to attacking again."
Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker:
Sheikh Zaidan al-Awad, a prominent Sunni tribal leader from Anbar....said that Anbar’s Sunni tribes no longer had any need to exact blood vengeance on U.S. forces. "We’ve already taken our revenge," he said. "We’re the ones who’ve made them crawl on their stomachs, and now we’re the ones to pick them up." He added, "Once Anbar is settled, we must take control of Baghdad, and we will." There would have to be a lot more fighting before the capital was taken back from the Shiites, he said. "The Anbaris will take charge of the purge. What the whole world failed to do in Anbar, we have done overnight. Baghdad will be a lot easier."

Many of the players in Iraq seemed, like Zaidan, to be positioning themselves for the next battle. While the Shiites issued warnings about the Sunnis’ intentions, nearly all the talk among the Americans was of the Mahdi Army and its reputed sponsor, Iran, which Petraeus accused of waging a "proxy war" in Iraq; there were dismissive references to Al Qaeda as a spent force.
Marc Lynch:
Unless the local-level deals are consolidated into a national arrangement, the security gains will easily be blown away like so much tumbleweed when the atmosphere goes sour. Maliki now describes those calling for national reconciliation as conspirators and as selfish politicians making unreasonable demands for their own self-interest. Backers of the bottom-up approach increasingly seem to be accepting this convenient frame, since it justifies ignoring the point of greatest failure. After all those months where Maliki was vilified for refusing to move on national reconciliation, he now finds Americans far more receptive to essentially the same arguments: don’t worry about the "failure" of national reconciliation since it isn’t important or desirable. And so he is moving ahead without the troublesome Sunni politicians, taking advantage of the space created by a moment of relative security to...further marginalize his Sunni "partners."
This is, and has remained, the fundamental problem in Iraq, namely, that therte is no incentive for those in positions of leadership in Iraq to seek any kind of reconciliation. Indeed, as Lynch points out, increasing "security" - read ethnic cleansing - provides the Shia dominated government with an perverse incentive and opportunity to further marginalize the Sunni minority. After all, assuming the Sunnis have been pacified, or at least tamed by the Americans, why give them a nickel?

The fundamental problem for those who continue to believe that American troops to remain in Iraq in an effort to socially re-engineer the country is that they have not provided anything amounting to a even plausible gameplan regarding how the process of national reconciliation is supposed to happen. Exactly why should the Shia government accomodate the Sunni minority? Why should Kurds broker a deal with the Sunni Arabs regarding Kirkuk?

Drum concludes:
Neither the Shiites nor the Sunnis have so far demonstrated any serious desire to compromise on the key issues of national governance. Instead, they’re just using the surge as a way of catching their breath and readying themselves for the battle to come. When it does, whose side will we be on?
Precisely. So what would get the Shia government to move? Maybe a deadline that says American troops will leave Iraq unless the Shia get their act together. But that ain’t gonna happen; the GOP is clearly deadset against putting any pressure on the Shia government, or at least 41 GOP Senators and Bush are.

So this is where things stand. No national reconciliation. No political progress. Nothing.

The only hope is a that a Dem nominee gets elected President and the Dems get a fillibuster proof majority in the Senate. Until then, the GOP will continue to back the Maliki government, which is not interested in reconciliation. It’s really that simple.

To those who believe we should continue to stay in Iraq, please explain how the national reconciliation is supposed to happen.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
These days, I’m afraid our spy agencies remind me more of Maxwell Smart than James Bond.
But Max had agent 99.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
That’s funny. The day before your first post McQ, I read a generally positive BBC news article titled ’Is Iraq Getting better?’ I went back to their website just now to get the link and found it had moved to the Middle East page. There was the positive story, but the other Iraq stories were about: Iraqi Police finding an old mass grave, US forces accused of accidentally killing pro-coalition militia, that the ’Blackwater killing broke the rules’, a bomb kills ’three near Green Zone’ (which originally—misleadingly—said ’in the Green Zone’).

Just found the juxtaposition interesting...
 
Written By: J
URL: http://
What you call "progress" in Iraq is largely irrelevant to whether our presence in Iraq serves our vital interests
Incorrect. What serves Iraq, and keeps them out of the realm of Radical Islam, serves America, and the world.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
David S: "war supporters complained non-stop that there were no good news stories about Iraq in the MSM. Well, there weren’t any good news stories. Now there are and they are being reported, generally, as such."
There weren’t any ’good news stories’? Um, exactly what time period are you talking about here? What is your basis for this belief? And with what perspective do you make this self-assured assertion? Have you ever been to this country and seen anything you’ve read about first hand? If your answer is ’no’, then it seems to me that your only source of information would be the media, and therefore you would have little room to debate the very authenticity of that media objectively.

The Sunni Awakening is a massive leap forward in the Iraq fight. Do you honestly believe this phenomenon happened over night? You think it first happened a month ago when the media started reporting it—probably when third or fourth hand word of mouth trickled into the news bureaus’ hermetic preserves inside the Green Zone. The Anbar awakening was happening least as early at the beginning of this year and you didn’t hear so much as a whimper about it from the mainstream media. In Diyala for at least the last six months AQIZ has been getting its ass handed to it as the population has rallied and former enemies ’chieu hoied’ to our side. As for the Shi’ite insurgents, the Mahdi Army has been getting stomped so bad that their moral and spiritual leader al Sadr fled to Iran and called for an unconditional ceasefire (going so far even to forbid defensive actions) with coalition forces. Massive caches of IED components are getting discovered, IED networks are getting dismantled, the local populace has been coming forward aiding coalition forces in fighting the enemy or standing up local self defense forces to eject them themselves. Former hotbeds of violence like Tall Afar, Fallujah, and Ramadi have been pacified — and the only time you ever hear of these places in the news again is when the odd bit of bad news comes out of them. The Iraqi Army has taken the lead in conducting operations across the country, and continues to strengthen in military competency and professionalism. There has never been a ’civil war’ here, no matter how many times the media and leftist politicians screamed it was alternately either underway or inevitable. Soldiers in my unit are bored to death, and wish we were in Afghanistan (or one of the relatively small areas here) where fighting remains to be done.

My point is: success stories and signs of positive progress have always been here, even when things looked bleak. Nothing has happened overnight, and to suggest so would be injustice to our military and the Iraqi people—they are not so incompetent or capricious, respectively.
"Left blogs constantly complain that the MSM is in the tank for the Bush Administration at the very same time"
I personally have never heard this assertion, other than from people suffering from chronic BDS... Unless you take a rather unscientific ’sample’ exclusively of Fox News for your assessment, it seems so laughable on its face, that I don’t see how anyone reasonable could argue it. Of course, I don’t read left blogs too much anyway, and I certainly don’t accuse some of them of being reasonable.
"Except for some abject partisanship in the editorial pages — across the board, NYTimes, WSJ, WashPo — the MSM print has been pretty good in its Iraq coverage. TV is another matter altogether."
I agree with you somewhat on this David, differing just by a matter of degree. I think the print media (NYT, WaPo, Economist) has been able to maintain some credibility, whereas other media have seen theirs evaporate completely. However, I would not say that the NYT or WaPo aren’t partisan and biased to the left, or the WSJ to the right.
"...The complaint about MSM bias is a red herring. It assumes that if only the MSM presentation were more one way, or another, that would actuallly change the situation on the ground somehow."
The Army has in recent years become increasingly obsessed with what they call ’Information Operations’ (IO), despite still being clueless about how to deal with them. Perception can be reality, and this can be especially important in counter-insurgency. The US and western media has been, I think for political capital and journalistic ’glory’, sold our effort in Iraq down the river (and is increasingly doing the same in Afghanistan—that is, if they even bother to find the time to report on it). They are at best an ambivalent third party who think themselves ’above’ such outmoded concepts of patriotism or the moral right of liberty, and at worst a veritable fourth column (some of them unwitting, some willing).

Let me pose another question: What caused our withdrawal from Vietnam? Somalia? Was it casualties? In World War I we lost 116,000 soldiers in less than sixteen months, fighting an anachronistic and dynastic European conflict—a war which we joined due to dubious justification.
"The overwhelming majority of Americans want out of Iraq and that is not going to change, regardless of what the MSM says or doesn’t say about "progress" in Iraq (however defined). Most Americans think, like I do, that the U.S. should get out of Iraq. Contrary to Right-wing myth, that belief is based upon a clear-eyed view of what is best for America, not upon some malicious diet fed us by the MSM. "
Funny, then, that we have 160,000 Americans in Iraq, every single one of whom either volunteered to go, or re-enlisted to return here once again (some for the third or fourth time). And that, when the State Department said it may have to force tours to Iraq, that only a small handful (dozens) of officers were vociferously opposed—compared with literally hundreds who had already volunteered to fill vacant positions in Iraq. The active component of the military has consistently met and exceeded its recruitment and re-enlistment goals throughout the entire Iraq conflict, and the National Guard and Reserve, who have been having a harder time doing so, missed it by just 1.4% and 0.5% respectively for FY06. And that was when the war was ’going horribly’ with "no good news stories" whatsoever, according to the media.

What are your sources for this overwhelming popular desire for withdrawal? Is it the media, using its own cherry-picked data to prove its point?

Consider for a moment, that if the media has indeed been presenting a constant distorted ’doom and gloom’ presentation of Iraq, how would the American people have a ’clear eyed’ view of the situation?

And why, as late as November 2006, did the ’anti-war’ Democratic Party only receive a 5.4% increase in its share of Congress if the American people are so strongly for withdrawal?
"we should leave Iraq based, not upon immediate conditions on the ground in Iraq (whether we are winning or making progress), but on a more fundamental assessment that: 1) our presence in Iraq is counterproductive to American global interests; and 2) whatever the incremental gains may be (and however detailed the MSM reports that), Iraq is not worth the cost to the U.S. Those fundamental judgments — quite sound in my view — are beyond the reach of Iraq feel-good or feel-bad stories."
You are unequivocally wrong on both accounts, but it is a moot point in this argument. The war is news, so if our media is supposedly unpartisan, fair, and unbiased, why then has it not been presenting an accurate picture of the ground truth here in Iraq?
 
Written By: J
URL: http://
Thanks for the long comment, J. Before the current mini-spate of good news, I believed things were much as you described them, but I had no direct experience to back it up.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
J:

Thank you your thoughtful comment. First off, thanks for everything. I’ll just make a few comments in response and then wish you well:
My point is: success stories and signs of positive progress have always been here, even when things looked bleak. Nothing has happened overnight, and to suggest so would be injustice to our military and the Iraqi people—they are not so incompetent or capricious, respectively.
You say that "success stories and signs of positive progress have always been here" but then you point out only things that are happening now or in the immediate past. Those positive developments are being reported by the MSM. What more is to be done about it?
injustice to our military and the Iraqi people—they are not so incompetent or capricious, respectively
Absolutely not. The problem is with the American civilian leadership. Entirely. They are "incompetent and capricious" both. In spades.
The US and western media has been, I think for political capital and journalistic ’glory’, sold our effort in Iraq down the river (and is increasingly doing the same in Afghanistan—that is, if they even bother to find the time to report on it). They are at best an ambivalent third party who think themselves ’above’ such outmoded concepts of patriotism or the moral right of liberty, and at worst a veritable fourth column (some of them unwitting, some willing).
That is an utterly unsupported assertion. Moreover, the press is not supposed to cheerlead for wars. Before. After. Or during. The function of the press is to gadfly, to press for answers, to question and to doubt. Why? To avoid "incompetent and capricious" decisionmaking by authorities. To get information and pass it along so the collective wisdom of the American people people to bear on national decisonmaking. That is the proper role for the media in a democracy. If anyhting, the MSM been entirely too pliant for far too long. Our current troubles, I think, are the testament.
Funny, then, that we have 160,000 Americans in Iraq, every single one of whom either volunteered to go, or re-enlisted to return here once again (some for the third or fourth time). And that, when the State Department said it may have to force tours to Iraq, that only a small handful (dozens) of officers were vociferously opposed—compared with literally hundreds who had already volunteered to fill vacant positions in Iraq. The active component of the military has consistently met and exceeded its recruitment and re-enlistment goals throughout the entire Iraq conflict, and the National Guard and Reserve, who have been having a harder time doing so, missed it by just 1.4% and 0.5% respectively for FY06
Yes, they are American soldiers and that’s what American soldiers do. The military goes where the civilian leadership tells it to go and does what the civilain leadership tells it to do. My complaint is with the civilian leadership, not the military. Certainly not the soliders.
What are your sources for this overwhelming popular desire for withdrawal?
The last elections and an unrelenting series of public opinion polls.
Soldiers in my unit are bored to death, and wish we were in Afghanistan
I agree 100%. That is where our enemies are. Stay safe if you get there.

 
Written By: David Shaughnessy
URL: http://
David, thanks for the response and plowing through my long screed.
"You say that "success stories and signs of positive progress have always been here" but then you point out only things that are happening now or in the immediate past. Those positive developments are being reported by the MSM. What more is to be done about it?"
I point out recent events because that is the experience I can speak from directly. I can also say that things have been improving steadily since I’ve been here and that I don’t think that that was accurately reflected in the media until very recently (less than a month). I know for a fact that there has been positive news, especially throughout the past year.

Sadly, I also believe that the media will continue to play up violence in a misguided attempt to ’maintain’ balance if they continue with positive stories. Either that, or they’ll go back to passing blurbs of casualty roll-ups between Brittney Spears coverage or whatever other flavor of the week.
"...The press is not supposed to cheerlead for wars. Before. After. Or during. The function of the press is to gadfly, to press for answers, to question and to doubt. "
The role of the journalist is not to "press for answers" or "gadfly". That they are some sort of moral authority to which people are obligated to answer is a function they have arrogantly invented for themselves. I believe the press should skeptically and objectively report on facts, and give the public enough credit to deduce their own conclusions. Did I ever advocate press "cheerleading" for the Iraq war? They do have a responsibility, however, first as Americans to not give comfort or aid to our enemies, and second as journalists to accurately and objectively report facts. The fact is that, often times by the media failing at the latter that they allow the former. Our enemy knows very well how to manipulate an unwary press. For instance: British drawdown in Iraq to increase forces in Afghanistan was incorrectly claimed by insurgents as a military victory. To exacerbate the situation, the media continued to report on virtually non-existent insurgent activities in Basra.
"Yes, they are American soldiers and that’s what American soldiers do. The military goes where the civilian leadership tells it to go and does what the civilain leadership tells it to do. My complaint is with the civilian leadership, not the military. Certainly not the soliders."
You missed the point. American soldiers are apolitical, but they are also volunteers. No one is still fulfilling a contractual obligation (enlistment or commission) from before spring 2003 (the invasion). That means every single individual who is deployed to Iraq volunteered fully knowing that they would be coming here (or somewhat less likely, to Afghanistan). Many of these men (and women) are on their third or fourth (even fifth) combat tour. Many have joined the military since the invasion fully knowing where they would be headed. That is a testament to a belief in the fight here.
"Soldiers in my unit are bored to death, and wish we were in Afghanistan
I agree 100%
I doubt it. We believe in this fight, and want to go where the fighting is, to be part of the main effort. If that is in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, so be it. Right now, Iraq is relatively calm—a testament to continuing success here. A long difficult job remains to be done here, but foreign internal defense, follow-and-support missions, force protection are not the roles that infantrymen prefer.
"Stay safe"
Thanks.
 
Written By: J
URL: http://
I hope it will also tone down the continual assertions that Iraq is an inevitable and irredeemable failure by some of our more strident anti-war commenters. The usual caveats apply; it could all turn around, political reconciliation is what’s important, etc. etc. But we should at least be able to dispense for a while with the "civil war" rhetoric and start looking at whether Iraq is forming a reasonably peaceful and stable society. I’d like to think that almost all of us believe that is a worthwhile goal.
Of course you hope that. But you, like the rest of the wingnuts who think that the United States should be in the business of re-engineering and re-ordering Iraqi society, always say that. And like most of the wingnuts who hope that, you have no grasp of the magnitude of the problem. None.

Bush didn’t know the difference between the Shia and the Sunni before the war, and my guess is that you didn’t either, Billy.

C’mon, Billy - tell us your plan as to how political reconciliation is to be achieved in Iraq. Give us the details. I want details.

My guess is that you have no clue. Most wingers don’t. Asking a wingnut from the American south about how things are to proceed in Iraq is like asking a caveman about how to get to the moon.

Wingnuts such as yourself Billy love to criticize, bitch, moan, and whine about how unfair the media are covering the "war" in Iraq. It’s all you can do, because they have no clue about solutions in Iraq. Indeed, most wingnuts don’t know the first thing about anything outside Dixie.

So tell us, Billy, what’s the plan.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
So tell us, Billy, what’s the plan.
And your plan is to just bail out of Iraq? That’s it?

The "surge" was planned for one purpose - to bring security to the region for the express purpose of allowing for political reconcilliation.

Funny how, before the surge even began, you were calling it a failure! And now that that the success of the surge is such that no even you can continue the "surege" has failed bullsh*t screed anymore, you transfer your rant to the lack of political progress.

The surge is still an on-giing process and political progress, like the surge, must have some time to formulate. But, no , you start some BS rant about "wingnut from the American south" when you don’t have a single clue what you are talking about.
So tell us, Billy, what’s the plan.
I will throw that one back at you. What’s your plan - Cut & Run or Bail Out or what? What does a libtard like yourself know of anythng beyond diddling with yourself.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
What’s your plan - Cut & Run or Bail Out or what?
Oh, it’s nothing so complex as that. He doesn’t really have a plan so much as a guiding philosophy, which is this: "If George Bush does it, it’s a failure." Bush could announce that he was withdrawing every single troop tomorrow, and mk would decry the ensuing chaos as evidence of Bush’s failure. On the other hand, Iraq could turn into Costa Rica, but if happened during Bush’s term, it would still be a failure.

That’s why it’s pointless to argue with him about Iraq. It doesn’t matter what plan you put forth. If George Bush supports any part of it, it’s a failure by axiomatic certainty, as far as mk is concerned. And he’ll call you a Bushbot or some such if you don’t agree with him 100%.

Of course, he’s taking his cues here from folks like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They are both exactly the same way. If Bush does it, it’s wrong. If does he exactly what they want, it’s still wrong.

If anyone opposed a Democratic president that reflexively, as a few did against Clinton, mk would lambast them as brain dead. He doesn’t realize it works the other way too.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
SShiell, don’t try reasoning with mkultra. You’ve got a better chance at teaching parenting skills to Britney Spears.
 
Written By: Steverino
URL: http://
I guess .5 of a mythology is better than 1.0 of it.

The IBD doesn’t demonstrate anything, Billy. I could fill a trash can with conservatives complaining about war reporting. Taking On the Evil Liberal Mainstream Media is an article of faith, a meal ticket, and a self-defining ideology all in one for the Conservative Movement. Facts are optional.

The fact that the 600 attacks last week is the lowest since whenever it was is all over my screen, everywhere you can find it, but I haven’t heard much about any of those 600 attacks. The goal of the conservative movement is to eliminate - entirely - news coverage about negative events in war. Any coverage whatsoever of negative events is enough to make one a target.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
But still, we have the return of the Copperheads.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
hope it will also tone down the continual assertions that Iraq is an inevitable and irredeemable failure by some of our more strident anti-war commenters.

Depends on what you mean. An ireedemable failure in terms of, Iraq must always be a hel*hole forever and ever and ever? That’s irrational. You name a scene of terrible carnage: it eventually improves. Cambodia, Congo, Lebanon, whatever.

I don’t think Iraq will ever fully recover while American troops are on the streets in force. They are a magnet for every ass*ole in the region. There were 600 attacks in this Greatest Week In Two Years last week. The borders are impossible to seal and weapons are plentiful. The toxic regional environment and hostile neighbors guarantees that we are a disruptive force to one extent or another. There will be attacks on us at one level of frequency or another until we leave.

None of that precludes things getting better for Iraqis, and I’m sure that more troops fighting smarter helped that occur. There’s a floor on how normal things can get, though. I don’t know where it is, but it’s somewhere less than all the way normal. Except in Kurdistan - where the locals are an oppressed regional minority that really needs us around - we have no business being there. But I don’t begrudge anyone who feels good about us having cleaned up our mess to some extent before we left. They can even call it a tactical victory if it gets them to sleep at night.

Now, is Iraq an ireedemable failure in a strategic sense and in terms of the GWOT? Absolutely. Starting uneccessary wars that create avoidable anti-government insurgencies that give Al-Queda a wide-open door to establish a base area, and then being forced to slowly strangle that base area again at a huge cost in lives and treasure, and eventually climb back to, at best, 70% of the status quo before our invasion - that’s a strategic debacle. We’ve scared every Arab ruler and most of the citizenry away from democracy for at least another decade.

When I say 70% of the status quo, what I mean is that it will be a long time until Iraq is as free of terrorism and Sunni religious fanatics as it was before we invaded.

I’d love to see someone disagree intelligently with this assessment, or list the GWOT benefits that we have somehow obtained here. Usually people go right to the "psychological victory over Al-Queida", as if maniacs, fanatics and martyrs are prone to acknowledging their own defeats.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://

 
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