Why Are Casualties the Only Story?

Thomas Sowell has an excellent column on the subject of media bias as it relates to the Iraq war:

If a battle ends with Americans killing a hundred guerrillas and terrorists, while sustaining 10 fatalities, that is an American victory. But not in the mainstream media. The headline is more likely to read: “Ten More Americans Killed in Iraq.”
This kind of journalism can turn victory into defeat. Kept up long enough, it can even end up with real defeat, when support for the war collapses at home and abroad.
One of the biggest American victories during World War II was called “the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” because American fighter pilots shot down more than 340 Japanese planes over the Mariana Islands while losing just 30 American planes. But what if our current reporting practices had been used back then? The story, as printed and broadcast, could have been: “Today, 18 American pilots were killed and five more severely wounded as the Japanese blasted more than two dozen American planes out of the sky.” A steady diet of that kind of one-sided reporting and our whole war effort against Japan might have collapsed.
Whether the one-sided reporting of the war in Vietnam was a factor in the American defeat there used to be a matter of controversy. But in recent years, high officials of the Communist government of Vietnam have admitted that they lost the war on the battlefields but won it in the U.S. media and on the streets of America, where political pressures from the anti-war movement threw away the victory for which thousands of American lives had been sacrificed.
Too many in the media today regard the reporting of the Vietnam War as one of their greatest triumphs. It certainly showed the power of the media – but also its irresponsibility. Some in the media today seem determined to recapture those glory days by the way they report on events in the Iraq war.

Sowell is right, but he leaves one important issue unaddressed. Why is it that the mainstream media can justify their relentless negativity and their single-minded focus on American casualties? After all, journalists are well aware that terrorists are being killed too, and that much progress is being made on various fronts.
But these things do not deter the MSM, for a very simple reason: with very few exceptions, they do not respect the mission in Iraq. They take it as an article of faith that the war was a mistake; that the purported absence of WMDs in Iraq (not true, but close enough for the purpose) means that there can be no good justification for the conflict; and that all casualties are, therefore, a waste.
If you really believe that the Iraq war is being fought for nothing, and is not an integral part of the war on terror, then this logic is compelling. There is nothing to report but mounting casualties. Defeating the enemy is immaterial–indeed, in many quarters it is an article of faith that our presence in Iraq creates enemies rather than destroying them–and any progress being made in rebuilding infrastructure, opening schools, etc., is chimerical. I think that helps to explain why most MSM outlets are so oblivious to repeated complaints that they aren’t telling the whole story.
UPDATE: Many readers wrote in to say I should change the link to Townhall, which doesn’t require registration; I’ve done that. Somehow I missed the column on Townhall when I first looked there.

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