Friday, May 11, 2007

Why is the press reporting the Iraq War so negatively?

Borzou Daragahi, the former L.A. Times Baghdad Bureau Chief, gives his view to Editor and Publisher:
-- On charges that the press is too negative on Iraq:

Well, I would just say, show me those goods.

For example, is infant mortality going down? Is the number of attacks on U.S. and coalition forces going down?
Are the number of Iraqis who are fleeing the country declining? Is there an increase in employment? So, let’s see the facts.

Is there a decrease in the number of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians being killed day to day? If there is, we’ve reported it. I mean, if there has been – and we put it prominently on page one.

I remember when the recent Baghdad security plan first went into effect, and there was a dramatic decline in the number of sectarian death squad executions, that was on the front page of the “Los Angeles Times.”

So, I think that the people who say that criticism should at least read our product first.
When asked what he thought of the war when it started:
I think that in the beginning, I was conflicted as to whether I was – because I had the Kurdish perspective up there, you know. And you don’t fully adopt the perspective of the people that you’re covering. You can’t do that as a journalist. But you’re at least sympathetic to it.

And from the Kurdish point of view, they were very much in favor of the war. They very much viewed it as a liberation. And that was rather infectious.

And so, I can’t say that I was like completely against the invasion. I took a neutral, wait-and-see attitude....

Sort of what it’s turned into in the eyes of many people in the Middle East is a war of imperial conquest gone bad, done poorly. At least the Romans granted their captives citizenship and brought them into the fold and brought stability to the lands that they conquered.

And I think, in the Arab world – and this is a really disastrous thing, they basically view this is as, you know, the Americans came in and they destroyed an Arab country. And I don’t think they’ll ever forgive us for that.
The real question for Americans is whether the continued expenditure of American lives and treasure has any chance of succeeding. Why won't the "surge" work?

"Because there is not - even according to General Petraeus' own guidebook for fighting counterinsurgencies, they're not using soldiers, they're not using enough troops to accomplish their goals...But also, more fundamentally, I don't think that they can do this militarily. I don't think the fundamental problems in Iraq right now are military problems."
Obviously I am publishing this because he is saying what I already think is true. But he isn't saying it to please me. He is saying this because his reporting has led him to believe it. The People who disagree with him do not have similar reports from relatively disinterested reporters to back up their disagreements. They make assertions without facts or reporting to back up those assertions.

The failure in Iraq is in some ways similar to the failure in Viet Nam. first, the American military has been trained, equipped and staffed to fight a war against other armies. In both Viet Nam and in Iraq they have been sent in to conduct an occupation and counterinsurgency operations. Our leaders in both cases called it a war, but it mostly wasn't in viet Nam and it isn't today.

In both cases, our military has adapted as well as it could. But an occupation and counterinsurgency is more political than military. Our American leaders failed to recognize this, and failed completely to conduct the necessary political activities that could lead to success.

They also failed to conduct the management activities required. There is today no real political conception of what it means for America to "win" in Iraq. Without such an idea, an image of what success would look like as it were, there is little or nothing that the large groups of people we have placed in Iraq to work to succeed.

A strategy is a desired end-state together with the resources and coordination needed to achieve that end-state. The desired end-state is known to be political in nature, and is similarly known to be unachievable through purely military means. Worse, the desired end-state requires the good-will and efforts of the people of Iraq and more broadly of the Arabic people. That good-will was lost by 2004, and by now cannot be regained in less than a generation at a minimum.

So to answer the question with which I titled this article, the Press has been reporting the Iraq War negatively because there is little or no possible positive outcome. There may be positive things happening in Iraq and the Middle East but they are irrelevant to any form of success that America could hang its hat on before leaving.

So all we will see is negative reporting, until somehow we get the positive news that our troops are leaving the killing sands of the Middle East desert. The answer is just that simple.

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