Excerpt Of The Day: The Media’s Errant Civil War Watch In Iraq (W/Bonus Excerpts)

by John Hawkins | March 6, 2006 7:02 am

“The press have been insisting Iraq is teetering on the brink of civil war for three years and yet, despite the urgings of CNN and the BBC, those layabout Iraqis stubbornly refuse to get on with it. They’re happy to teeter for another three years, no matter how many “experts” stamp their foot and pout their lips and say “I want my civil war now.” The New York Times ran a headline after the big bombing: “More Clashes Shake Iraq; Political Talks Are In Ruins.” The “political talks” resumed the day after publication. The “ruins” were rebuilt after 48 hours.” — Mark Steyn[1]

“The top U.S. commander in Iraq yesterday declared an end to a 10-day wave of sectarian violence that killed an estimated 350 civilians, asserting that many reports of violence were “exaggerated.”

“It appears that the crisis has passed,” said Army Gen. George Casey, giving a detailed public report card.

…He also said the number of violent incidents turned out to be lower than press and security forces reported in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the revered Shi’ite Askariya mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad. Gen. Casey said that in a reported 30 attacks on mosques, only two were severely damaged. Of eight mosques that were reported damaged, inspections showed only one had damage — a broken window.

“The overall levels of violence did not increase substantially as a result of the bombing,” he said in a statement that seems at odds with the 10 days of television footage and commentary. “It took us a few days to sort our way through what we considered in a lot of cases to be exaggerated reports.”

…Despite the sectarian violence, the number of suicide bombers in Iraqi in February stood at 17, about half the total in January. Last summer, there were about 60 per month.” — The Washington Times[2]

“I’M trying. I’ve been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I’m looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can’t find it.

Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view’s clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn’t give me the right skills.

And riding around with the U.S. Army, looking at things first-hand, is certainly a technique to which The New York Times wouldn’t stoop in such an hour of crisis.

Let me tell you what I saw anyway. Rolling with the “instant Infantry” gunners of the 1st Platoon of Bravo Battery, 4-320 Field Artillery, I saw children and teenagers in a Shia slum jumping up and down and cheering our troops as they drove by. Cheering our troops.

…So why were we told that Iraq was irreversibly in the throes of civil war when it wasn’t remotely true? I think the answers are straightforward. First, of course, some parties in the West are anxious to believe the worst about Iraq. They’ve staked their reputations on Iraq’s failure.

But there’s no way we can let irresponsible journalists off the hook – or their parent organizations. Many journalists are, indeed, brave and conscientious; yet some in Baghdad – working for “prestigious” publications – aren’t out on the city streets the way they pretend to be.

They’re safe in their enclaves, protected by hired guns, complaining that it’s too dangerous out on the streets. They’re only in Baghdad for the byline, and they might as well let their Iraqi employees phone it in to the States. Whenever you see a column filed from Baghdad by a semi-celeb journalist with a “contribution” by a local Iraqi, it means this: The Iraqi went out and got the story, while the journalist stayed in his or her room.

And the Iraqi stringers have cracked the code: The Americans don’t pay for good news. So they exaggerate the bad.

And some of them have agendas of their own.

A few days ago, a wild claim that the Baghdad morgue held 1,300 bodies was treated as Gospel truth. Yet Iraqis exaggerate madly and often have partisan interests. Did any Western reporter go to that morgue and count the bodies – a rough count would have done it – before telling the world the news?

I doubt it.” — Ralph Peters[3]

  1. Mark Steyn: http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn/cst-edt-steyn051.html
  2. The Washington Times: http://www.washtimes.com/national/20060303-114405-5545r.htm
  3. Ralph Peters: http://www.nypost.com//postopinion/opedcolumnists/64677.htm

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