Exclusive To Right Wing News: Embed Matt Sanchez Reports From Fallujah

If the press is the eyes, ears and voice of a nation, we in the United States, are currently deaf, dumb and blind. Like most Americans, I wasn’t sure about the reporting coming from Iraq, but after spending much time in the Green Zone before transitioning to Fallujah, I realize the press out here is about as credible as an unsolicited e-mail from your bank requesting a social security number to update their records. There’s a semblance of legitimacy, but if you enter your personal data, you’re going to get ripped off.

Last week, I was witness to one of those media con jobs. The 5/10 Marine civil affair unit out of Camp Lejeune, works with the local police and Iraqi army. It’s a tough job, lots of danger, but the word across the board is that the strategy of getting the Iraqis to stand up and defend themselves is working here in Fallujah. Officers have referred to the Anbar Awakening with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I interviewed bored Marine infantry men, many on their second tour, who told me they were in less danger because the Fallujan police and Iraqi Army were picking up the slack, responding to tips from locals and responding to attacks. In fact, that day, the police was so effective they even prevented a suicide bomber from entering the building. We heard the boom, and as if on cue, RPG and small arms fire. The Marines of the 2/6 infantry unit grinned as they pulled on their equipment and took positions, but in reality, the Iraqi police had prevented a major suicide attack. There was, however, one victim–the suicide bomber.

So, how did the death of a sole suicide bomber become the Wall Street Journal headline of “Suicide Bombing in Fallujah Leaves 25 Dead, 50 Wounded”? To be fair, NPR, CBS, Sky News, and CNN all parroted the same numbers, as they rushed to report something–anything! The answer is a 20-minute helicopter away in Baghdad. Where the majority of “reporting” is done from the Green Zone.

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In a country where really mean looking barbed wire is more common than palm trees, the Green Zone could pass for a tourist resort. There are monuments, big buildings and, contrary to previous newspaper articles, plenty of ice cream. Reporters are comfortable and tend not to leave the fortified walls. The Green Zone probably reminds many members of the media of the elite university campuses they attended and how edgy it was to go slumming in the surrounding high crime neighborhoods. So, the members of the press rely on “stringers” for information, and if those stringers are the same people who purchase vests for aspiring martyrs to wear it doesn’t seem to matter. To borrow their own words about boots, they just don’t have enough eyes on the ground. And why should they? Joe Klein can send his articles for Time Magazine from the comfort of the Manhattan office, besides, there are plenty of other problems they can pick at. Back in the Green Zone, one reporter complained that the water at the American ambassador’s press conference wasn’t cold enough and that this was a metaphor for how bad the war in Iraq was going.

There are currently only a handful of media embeds outside of Baghdad. A press that earns its bacon by “keeping them honest” wouldn’t dare take a look in the mirror, but you should question whatever reflections on this conflict you read in print or see on TV. For coverage, the media has outsourced credibility for the flashy “Breaking News” headline. So far during my stay, the number one criticism I’ve heard from the troops in Iraq is that the press represents them poorly. The irony is that the press does an even poorer job representing itself.

Matt Sanchez is the recipient of the Jeanne Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom and is currently embedded in Iraq where he is doing the radio programs “In their Own Words” and “Hometown Heroes”. You can follow his experiences at http://www.matt-sanchez.com/.

Update #1: Martha Zoller interviewed Matt Sanchez, in part about this article. You can listen to it here.

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