All describe the bizarro-world contrast between what most Americans seem to think is happening in Iraq versus what is really happening in Iraq. Knowing this disconnect exists and experiencing it directly are two separate matters. It’s like the difference between holding the remote control during the telecast of a volcanic eruption on some distant island (and then flipping the channel), versus running for survival from a wretch of molten lava that just engulfed your car.
I was at home in the United States just one day before the magnitude hit me like vertigo: America seems to be under a glass dome which allows few hard facts from the field to filter in unless they are attached to a string of false assumptions. Considering that my trip home coincided with General Petraeus’ testimony before the US Congress, when media interest in the war was (I’m told) unusually concentrated, it’s a wonder my eardrums didn’t burst on the trip back to Iraq. In places like Singapore, Indonesia, and Britain people hardly seemed to notice that success is being achieved in Iraq, while in the United States, Britney was competing for airtime with O.J. in one of the saddest sideshows on Earth.
Anyone who has been in Iraq for longer than a few months, visited a handful of provinces, and spoken with a good number of Iraqis, likely would acknowledge that the reality here is complex and dynamic. But in the last six months it also has been increasingly hopeful, despite what the pessimistic dogma dome allows Americans and British to believe.
That pessimistic dogma dome descended from the WaPo today in a bleak story about Iraq today:
BAGHDAD, Oct. 26 Their line of tan Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles creeps through another Baghdad afternoon. At this pace, an excruciating slowness, they strain to see everything, hoping the next manhole cover, the next rusted barrel, does not hide another bomb. A few bullets pass overhead, but they don’t worry much about those.
“I hate this road,” someone says over the radio.
They stop, look around. The streets of Sadiyah are deserted again. To the right, power lines slump down into the dirt. To the left, what was a soccer field is now a pasture of trash, combusting and smoking in the sun. Packs of skinny wild dogs trot past walls painted with slogans of sectarian hate.
A bomb crater blocks one lane, so they cross to the other side, where houses are blackened by fire, shops crumbled into bricks. The remains of a car bomb serve as hideous public art. Sgt. Victor Alarcon’s Humvee rolls into a vast pool of knee-high brown sewage water — the soldiers call it Lake Havasu, after the Arizona spring-break party spot — that seeps in the doors of the vehicle and wets his boots…
Soldiers bitching (wow, now thats a story) and the whole place falling apart about sums up the story. They acknowledge absolutely NO positives that have been coming out of Iraq.
What positives you ask?
Glad you asked. How about:
- Sectarian deaths down 70% in Baghdad
- Car bombings down by 65% over last year
- Attacks on civilians down 59%
- Attacks on Iraqi forces down 62%
- Attacks against journalists down 70%
General Odierno’s briefing three days ago describes much more. (9:30 minute mark)
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2007 — A movement toward peace that began in mostly Sunni areas of Iraq now is moving into Shiite areas as well, a senior commander said in Baghdad today.
“Bound together by the desire for peace and prosperity, the Iraqi people are overcoming differences to provide a better future for their children,” said Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Multinational Corps Iraq commander.
In a news briefing, Odierno and Iraqi army Lt. Gen. Abud Qanbar said they are upbeat about the security situation in the Iraqi capital. Both said the shift of Iraqis to supporting the coalition and government is continuing. The shift began in the Sunni”dominated Anbar province, but now is spreading to Baghdad, Odierno said.
“All sectors of Baghdad have witnessed a decrease in terrorist activities compared to the beginning of Operation Fardh al Qanoon,” Qanbar, the commander of the Baghdad Operations Command, said. “This has brought life to normal in many parts of Baghdad.”
Overall violence in Baghdad is down 80 percent over the same period in 2006, Qanbar said. Overall terrorist attacks are down 59 percent, and assassinations are down 72 percent. The Iraqi general said the holy month of Ramadan, which ended Oct. 12, was much different this year.
Odierno agreed. “Iraqis celebrated Eid al Fitr (the feast ending Ramadan) last week in their parks, restaurants and streets,” he said. “During last year’s Eid, this was not the case. The security improvements made this possible. Attack levels continue their downward trend that began in June and are now at their lowest level since January 2006.”
The general said that improvised-explosive-device attacks, extremists preferred method of terror, are down more than 60 percent in the past four months, and bombs that do go off are less lethal.
Iraqi citizens tell Odierno they see and feel a difference. “Whenever I travel around Baghdad, Iraqis tell me how much safer they feel in their neighborhoods” he said.
Hell, those who run cemeteries in Iraq are feeling the pinch themselves:
At what’s believed to be the world’s largest cemetery, where Shiite Muslims aspire to be buried and millions already have been, business isn’t good.
A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery here by at least one-third in the past six months, and that’s cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds.
None of this is reported by the WaPo because it doesn’t sell the message they have been trying to convey for years. That Iraq is hopeless, Bush was wrong, and we need to run like cowards NOW!
Just look at the stories done by the author of this WaPo piece, Josh Partlow:
- Iraqi Police Tied to Attack on U.S. Base (October 21, 2007)
- Iraqis Decry U.S. Airstrike That Killed Civilians (October 13, 2007)
- U.N. Report on Iraq Details An ‘Ever-Deepening’ Crisis (October 12, 2007)
- Guards Kill Two Women In Iraq (October 10, 2007)
- Top Iraqis Pull Back From Key U.S. Goal (October 8, 2007)
- Sadr’s Militia Blamed for Deadly Shiite-on-Shiite Melee (October 7, 2007)
- U.S. Airstrike on Village in Diyala Kills at Least 25 (October 6, 2007)
- U.S. Aims To Lure Insurgents With ‘Bait’ (September 24, 2007)
- Perceptions of Progress Since Buildup Vary Widely (September 12, 2007)
Their argument used to be that the surge was doomed to fail. Now that it most obviously has not failed they instead ignore all the progress made and write whole articles on anything bad they see. Which on its face is fine and part of reporting the news, but honest reporting would include the good also. Take Northern Iraq for example:
Since assuming responsibility of northern Iraq in September 2006, Task Force Lightning reconstruction has reported beginning 1,433 projects valued at $101.4 million and completed 1,119 projects valued at $37.4 million. The projects include supporting over 100 humanitarian assistance projects costing $4.1 million and reconstruction of major crimes courts.
In Diyala, completed projects included a water filtration system in Buhriz and a library in Muqdadiyah.
For the Nineveh province, the division renovated a business center, purchased water trucks in Ba’aj, and completed several other projects. In the works, Task Force Lightning is improving the consistency of fuel distribution throughout the province by assisting with the Ministry of Oils allocations.
For Mosul, MND-N is helping plan Mosul Dam contingencies, and continues to support reconstruction of the Mosul Major Crimes Court.
Salah ah Din projects include major crimes court construction, as well as rebuilding the provincial television station.
Lots of projects and progress being made no? Wouldn’t know it if you got your news from the MSM. How about the fact that the Iraqi army has now assumed full control over a important Baghdad hospital:
With the help of the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, a group of Iraqi
Soldiers have been training since July to run the Radwaniyah clinic on
Victory Base Complex to provide medical care and humanitarian
assistance to Iraqis. The Iraqi Army assumed responsibility of the
clinic during a handover ceremony Oct. 20.
Iraqi Army Brig.
Gen. Falih Faris, garrison commander, Iraqi Ground Forces Command, was
present to accept the duties on behalf of the IA’s command and
Falih said he is proud of the medics who
have been participating in the transition. He feels they are ready to
serve the citizens of Iraq.
“Since July, three days a week,
we have seen 25 to 35 patients a day from nearby locations,” he said.
“It has been successful in all measures.”
the start of the transition, IA doctors and medics have been running
the clinic, which is part of the Civil MilitaryOperations Center, with
the assistance and advice of the 358th CA Bde., said Dr. Ahalm Turki,
bilingual bicultural advisor, 358th CA Bde. The clinic has become
crucial to surrounding Baghdad neighborhoods for clothing, medical
supplies, medicine and general health care.
“The local area
depends on this clinic, not just for medical care, but humanitarian
assistance,” she said. “It is a very positive change.”
Again, from our MSM…crickets.
Schools being renovated….crickets:
When students at the Yarmook Girl’s School in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood returned from summer vacation last month, they found that their school had received an extreme makeover thanks to the government of Iraq and the U.S. Army.
U.S. Soldiers and Iraqi National Police visited the recently renovated school Oct. 22, to see the improvements and hand out backpacks and soccer balls to the students.
The renovations to the school totaled $200,000 of improvements, including a new roof, a new lighting system, repairs to cracks in the pavement and stairs, and a paint job, said Glen Allen, Va., native Capt. Alex Carter, a U.S. Army Civil Affairs team chief who helped oversee the project.
Nine other schools in Sadr City also have been renovated over the past few months, as part of the same program that refurbished the Yarmook Girl’s School, Carter said. The school improvement program was made possible by cooperation among the Ministry of Education, the local neighborhood councils, school officials, the Iraqi National Police, and the U.S. Army’s 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which operates in the Sadr City area, he said.
Providing economic training to Iraqi’s to enable them to become more self sufficent….crickets:
One such program carried out by the EPRT [Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams] working with Spartan Brigade [4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division] had immediate impact on Iraqi farmers in the mostly rural provinces where Garrett and his Soldiers patrol.
“We were providing seed, farm equipment and other things to help our farmers maintain their farms,” Garrett explained. “What the EPRT has done for us is to take these agricultural unions, push them more towards a business-like approach. Now they are buying their own seed, they are setting prices for their produce, they are buying farm equipment that they can maintain and rent out to other farmers.”
By enabling small groups of Iraqi citizens to become self-sufficient, Garret said, EPRT members form a crucial link in a chain that reaches from tiny agricultural communities all the way up to the capital of Baghdad.
“One of the purposes of the EPRT was to increase capacity at the local level and then try to link the local to the provincial levels of government,” Garrett explained. “And then the provincial reconstruction teams, which are located throughout Iraq, had the mission of linking the provincial levels of government with the local level and national levels of government.”
While Garrett and his team had facilitated economic development programs like a small business training class taught by an Iraqi professional, he said EPRT members have kicked off many other imperative initiatives such as micro-grants for Iraqi entrepreneurs.
“What they’ve done is taken it to the next level,” Garrett said. “The EPRT has been very, very important to us, and they’ve made a very big difference in terms of our ability to make progress in the governance and economic lines of operations.”
These kind of stories took me 5 minutes to find. None of them being reported on by the MSM of course, instead by those over there doing the job.
But hey, a story about soldiers bitching (which any of you who have ever been in the military know full well is part of life in the military….we all bitched) is more sexy I suppose.