Memo To The Pentagon: The Press Isn’t Your Friend Or, Alternately, The WAPO’s Hit Piece On Iraqi Military Training

Someone has got to clue the Pentagon in on the fact that the press is not their friend, that the press is going to smear, undercut, and generally put a negative spin on every single thing that they do.

You’d think the Pentagon would understand this, but they keep sending reporters out with the troops and almost nothing good has come of that practice since the actual invasion of Iraq, when the embedded reporters actually gave the troops fair and balanced coverage.

The reality is that if something good happens or soldiers act heroically, it’s treated as a non-story by the press and it’s usually buried or not reported at all. Meanwhile, anything that can be used to put soldiers in a bad light is going to be trumpeted by the media.

Just look at a story currently on the net version of the WAPO’s front page called “Building Iraq’s Army: Mission Improbable.”

The whole piece is designed to convince the WAPO’s readers that the Iraqis are hopeless losers who’ll never be able to defend their own country. In order to do this, the reporters coax snarky quips out of a few Iraqi and American soldiers that portray the Iraqis as total, blithering incompetents. Here are a couple of quotations that’ll give you a good idea of what the article is like:

“I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period,” said 1st Lt. Kenrick Cato, 34, of Long Island, N.Y., the executive officer of McGovern’s company, who sold his share in a database firm to join the military full time after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won’t be ready before I leave. And I know I’ll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don’t think they’ll be ready then.”

“We don’t want to take responsibility; we don’t want it,” said Amar Mana, 27, an Iraqi private…

Then in order to convince the readers that all hope is lost, the WAPO notes an incident that occurred last month with two dozen or so soldiers from the unit and focuses on a disaster that happened way back in December:

“Charlie Company collapsed at 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 5. A gray Chevrolet Caprice packed with explosives detonated among a crowd of Iraqi soldiers during a shift change. Among the five dead was Capt. Mohammed Jassim Rumayidh, the company commander. His death prompted all but 30 of the company’s 250 soldiers to quit; many took their weapons with them.”

An unbiased observer might not consider that particular event to be very relevant given that:

“The bombing coincided with the arrival of a battalion of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. The unit began rebuilding the Iraqi company from scratch. The Americans initially sent a small group of soldiers to work with the Iraqis.”

So, if this incident happened 6 months ago and the unit is now comprised of the 30 guys who hung in there and all new guys, then why treat it like it’s such an important event? Because the reporters want to portray the Iraqis as yellow-bellied cowards who’ll never be able to stand on their own two feet. What rubbish!

Moving on, after the quote from Lt. Cato above, essentially saying that the brass are out of their minds if they think they can train these Iraqi idiots, the WAPO does include this:

Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, which oversees an area of north-central Iraq that includes Baiji and is the size of West Virginia, called the Iraqi forces “improved and improving.” He acknowledged that the Iraqis suffered from a lack of equipment and manpower but predicted that, at least in his area of operation, the U.S. military would meet its goal of having battalion-level units operating independently by the fall.

“I can tell you, making assessments, I think we’re on target,” he said in an interview.

U.S. officers said the Iraqis had been particularly instrumental in obtaining intelligence that led to the detention of several suspected insurgent leaders in the region. They said it was unfair to evaluate the Iraqi forces by U.S. standards.

“We’re not trying to make the 82nd Airborne here,” Taluto said.

Overall, the number of Iraqi military and police trained and equipped is more than 169,000, according to the U.S. military, which has also said there are 107 operational military and special police battalions. As of last month, however, U.S. and Iraqi commanders had rated only three battalions capable of operating independently.

That excerpt, along with one less than glowing sentence from platoon sergeant Rick McGovern (“McGovern added that the Iraqis had ‘come a long way in a very short period of time’ and predicted they would ultimately succeed.”) is what passes for “balance” in a 2700 word hit piece.

Of course, if the WAPO were really concerned about balance and informing their readers instead of “gotcha” journalism, they might have looked into a few other issues in the piece. For example: Does the Iraqi government seem to believe the Iraqis are trainable? Were there any Iraqis in that unit who thought they could succeed? How about the American soldiers: were there any of them who thought the Iraqis would be ready in time? There are plenty of other effective Arab police forces, so what makes the Iraqis different, if they are different? If the troops aren’t going to be ready by the fall, when are they going to be ready? Surely the answer isn’t, “never,” right? There are Iraqi “battalions capable of operating independently,” so why is it hard to believe more can’t be trained? How about letting the readers know how many Iraqi battalions it will take to deal with the insurgency?

We don’t get the answers to those sort of questions because the reporters were too busy posting the juicy quotes they managed to pry out of hot, stressed Iraqi and American soldiers out in the field who made the mistake of trusting WAPO reporters.

Regardless of what the WAPO and the rest of their anti-war, anti-Bush buddies in the MSM have to say, we will train the Iraqis to handle their own security, they will take over, the American casualties will drop tremendously, and large numbers of our troops will come home. All of that will start to occur this year, probably right on schedule, just like the Iraqi elections.

Then, probably by the summer of 2006, if not earlier, most of our troops in Iraq today will have come home, American casualties will slow to a trickle as they have in Afghanistan, the Iraqis will police their own nation, and the soldiers left in the country will spend their time in American military bases to make sure none of Iraq’s neighbors get any funny ideas.

When it all happens, expect it to all be shrugged off by the WAPO and the rest of the MSM as they find some more mud to throw at all the usual suspects…

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