As General David Petraeus prepares to announce — consistent with the Bush company line — that The Great Surge is going just swimmingly, two diametrically opposed media storylines are appearing: one grows out of the type of lazy “reporting” that consists of little more than taking dictation from US political and military leaders; the second, of course, comes from reporters who actually do the hard and expensive work of independently checking out the government’s claims.
Not surprisingly, the first approach tends to produce a much rosier picture of progress in Iraq than the second.
(Laziness, incidentally, doesn’t necessarily refer to the motivations of a particular journalist. Often it’s a matter of resources, as corporate bean counters continuously squeeze media outlets for cost savings.)
Well, as it happens, the Gods of Blogging have been kind to me today, providing excellent, and more or less contemporaneous, examples of each approach.
From this base in insurgent country south of Baghdad, there are no doubts that the U.S. decision to pour 30,000 additional troops into the fight has had an effect.
Before the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade arrived in mid-June, the area around Patrol Base Murray was known as the Triangle of Death — a safe haven for al-Qaida in Iraq to ambush Shiites, launch mortar and rocket attacks into the Green Zone and rig car bombs, suicide vests and other weapons for use in the capital.
Today, commanders point to the sharp drop in Baghdad attacks — down in August to a quarter of what they had been, according to the top commander Gen. David Petraeus — as evidence of their effectiveness.
But just as we’re getting ready to celebrate The Great Surge’s phenomenal success, the LA Times checks in with a very different appraisal:
The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has increased, not decreased, according to the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration and Iraq’s Ministry for Displacement and Migration.
Military officials say sectarian killings in Baghdad are down more than 51% and attacks on civilians and security forces across Iraq have decreased. But this has not translated into a substantial drop in civilian deaths as insurgents take their lethal trade to more remote regions. Last month, as many as 400 people were killed in a bombing in a village near the Syrian border, the worst bombing since the war began in March 2003. In July, 150 people were reported killed in a village about 100 miles north of Baghdad.
And in a sign that tamping down Sunni-Shiite violence is no guarantee of stability, a feud between rival Shiite Muslim militias has killed scores of Iraqis in recent months. Last week, at least 52 people died in militia clashes in the Shiite holy city of Karbala.
At best, analysts, military officers and ordinary Iraqis portray the country as in a holding pattern, dependent on U.S. troops to keep the lid on violence.
What’s tragic about this, of course, is that the dictation takers greatly outnumber the true reporters. And that being true, the end result, when you have an administration dedicated to selling fairytales, is that most of the time they get away with their fabrications, maybe not forever, but long enough to get what they want.
And that’s a bloody shame.