That’s what the press is doing in Iraq, according to this superb piece by Lt. Col. Tim Ryan at Blackfive. You should read it all, but here are a few excerpts:
I just read yet another distorted and grossly exaggerated story from a major news organization about the “failures” in the war in Iraq. Print and video journalists are covering only a small fraction of the events in Iraq and more often than not, the events they cover are only the bad ones. Many of the journalists making public assessments about the progress of the war in Iraq are unqualified to do so, given their training and experience. The inaccurate picture they paint has distorted the world view of the daily realities in Iraq. The result is a further erosion of international public support for the United States’ efforts there, and a strengthening of the insurgents’ resolve and recruiting efforts while weakening our own. Through their incomplete, uninformed and unbalanced reporting, many members of the media covering the war in Iraq are aiding and abetting the enemy.
Much of the problem is about perspective, putting things in scale and balance. From where I sit in my command post at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, things are not all bad right now. In fact, they are going quite well. We are not under attack by the enemy; on the contrary, we are taking the fight to him daily and have him on the ropes. In the distance, I can hear the repeated impacts of heavy artillery and five hundred-pound bombs hitting their targets in the city. The occasional tank main gun report and the staccato rhythm of a Marine Corps LAV or Army Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s 25-millimeter cannon provide the bass line for a symphony of destruction. Right now, as elements from all four services complete the absolute annihilation of the insurgent forces remaining in Fallujah, the area around the former stronghold is more peaceful than it has been for more than a year. The number of attacks in the greater Al Anbar Province is down by at least 70-80% from late October — before Operation Al Fajar began. The enemy in this area is completely defeated, but not completely gone. Final eradication of the pockets of insurgents will take some time, as it always does, but the fact remains that the central geographic stronghold of the insurgents is now under friendly control. That sounds a lot like success to me. Given all of this, why don’t the papers lead with “Coalition Crushes Remaining Pockets of Insurgents” or “Enemy Forces Resort to Suicide Bombings of Civilians”? This would paint a far more accurate picture of the enemy’s predicament over here. Instead, headlines focus almost exclusively on our hardships.
The scene is repeated all too often: an attack takes place in Baghdad and the morning sounds are punctuated by a large explosion and a rising cloud of smoke. Sirens wail in the distance and photographers dash to the scene a few miles away. Within the hour, stern-faced reporters confidently stare into the camera while standing on the balcony of their tenth-floor Baghdad hotel room, their back to the city and a distant smoke plume rising behind them. More mayhem in Gotham City they intone, and just in time for the morning news. There is a transparent reason why the majority of car bombings and other major events take place before noon Baghdad-time; any later and the event would miss the start of the morning news cycle on the U.S. east coast. These terrorists aren’t stupid; they know just what to do to scare the masses and when to do it. An important key to their plan is manipulation of the news media. But, at least the reporters in Iraq are gathering information and filing their stories, regardless of whether or the stories are in perspective. Much worse are the “talking heads” who sit in studios or offices back home and pontificate about how badly things are going when they never have been to Iraq and only occasionally leave Manhattan.
On the whole, I think Col. Ryan is too kind to the American press. I think that the press’s undermining of our war effort is, in many instances, deliberate. It appears to me that many, if not most, American reporters, editors and news executives want to make it impossible for America ever to fight a war. To further this goal, I think they use their reporting to undermine our effort in Iraq. The idea is that if we are defeated in Iraq, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for us to fight another war anywhere for a generation. Is this assessment too harsh? I don’t think so.