IF – Then:

Conservative commentators often complain that MSM doesn’t report the “good news” from Iraq.  And that is certainly true.  But military bloggers have a larger complaint: namely, MSM doesn’t report the war.

To MSM, attacks on coalition positions are news.  But the stabilization of neighborhoods, cities, and whole provinces is not news.  Insurgent operations are news.  But coalition operations are not news, or at least are not broadcast news.  Political failures in Baghdad are news.  Political successes, in Baghdad or the provinces, are not.  Dead MNF troops are news.  Dead insurgents… who cares?

When a serviceman gets back from the front and flips on the networks, his main thought isn’t “Where’s the good news?”

It’s “Where’s the war?”

Examples:  If… Then…

1) If kidnappings are news, then thwarted kidnappings are news.
 The March 11 New York Times headlines a story “Christian Worker Kidnapped in Iraq Last Year Is Found Slain.”  The story describes the grisly fate of Tom Fox, one of four members of the “Christian Peacemaker Teams” taken hostage by a group calling itself “the Swords of the Righteousness Brigades.”

 Tom Fox

Fair enough.  That’s news.

But on April 13, Task Force Band of Brothers, acting on actionable intelligence from an Iraqi national, captured a kidnapper at a control point near Takrit, and freed five Iraqi hostages, four of them children.

Where’s the headline?

2) If cutbacks in Iraqi oil production are news, then increases in Iraqi oil production are news.

The New York Times series “The State of Iraq: an Update” (March 19, 2006) reports that oil production declined from 2.1 million barrels per day in Feb., 2005 to 1.8 million barrels per day in Feb. 2006; also, that household fuel availability declined from 84% of estimated need to 55% of estimated need.

Fair enough.  That’s news.

But the latest Iraq Index from Brookings (April 17, 2006) reports that April output is running at 2.14 million barrels per day. Available diesel fuel over that period has increased from 10.1 million liters per day in February to 15.1 in April. Over the same two months, available gasoline has increased from 12.2 million liters per day to 20.0 million.  And available fuel as a percent of estimated need has risen from 55% in February to 75% in April.

Where’s the headline?

3) If dead coalition soldiers are news, then dead insurgents are news.
Some recent headlines read:
AP April 11: 3 U.S. soldiers killed north of Baghdad, 4th near Balad
AP April 14: Marines suffer 2 dead, 22 wounded in Iraq
NY Times April 15th: 2 Marines Die in Anbar
AP April 16:  U.S. Military reports death of three Marines in Anbar province
 But who saw the following stories? – all available on the homepage of the Multi-National Force-Iraq: http://www.mnf-iraq.com
April 9: Terrorists killed by their own device
April 10: Insurgent killed, four suspects captured near Kirkuk
April 13: Bin Laden associate killed in Iraq
April 14: Insurgent killed; Four Suspects Captured
April 16: Two Terrorists killed in Kirkuk
April 16: Five terrorists killed in Yusifiyah, five detained.

If the tactical successes of the insurgency are news, so are tactical successes of the MNF.

4) If political deadlocks are news, then political breakthroughs are also news.
There is a protracted struggle over a cabinet list for an Iraqi unity government.  This delay is caused chiefly by the rivalry of the two primary Shi’ite parties, the DAWA and SCIRI.  This squabble generates daily headlines, as it should. 

But that’s not the only political activity going on in Iraq.  The Iraqi interim government is organizing accelerated democratic elections in Anbar province, the single most violent governate in Iraq, as part of its ongoing program to integrate Sunni tribal chiefs into the political process. 

And on April 11th, commanders of the American and Iraqi forces hosted a meeting of 15 local sheiks – 10 Sunnis and 5 Shi’ites – at Bour, north of Baghdad, to discuss ground rules for a cessation of sectarian hostilities.  Among the measures discussed was a restriction on weapons outside the home, and a mutual commitment to root out terrorist agent provocateurs.  A schedule of bi-monthly regional council meetings was established, to maintain ongoing communications between the tribes.  Security was discussed for reconstruction projects, including electrical power and a health clinic.
A war cannot be reported without a description of operations.  A war cannot be reported without reference to geography. A war cannot be reported without due consideration of the political strategy it serves.

The MSM – particularly the broadcast venues – report this war as though our enemies held the monopoly on operations, geography, and political strategy.

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