Katherine Kersten’s Star Tribune column today addresses the Crawford media circus and provides a biting critique of the media’s war coverage: “The big picture in Iraq tells quite a different story.” This column seems almost to respond to Austin Bay’s invitation to Power Line readers to advance the analysis of the media’s pitiful performance. Kersten writes:
The Crawford campout is a quintessential media event. Its purpose is to gain attention for a small group of people, far out of proportion to their numbers or their knowledge of conditions in Iraq. While protesters win headlines, soldiers with on-the-ground experience have no forum to express their strong support for our cause there.
The major media’s love affair with the Crawford protest is no surprise. It’s consistent with the focus on body counts and funerals we’ve come to expect: “Troop Carrier Flips; Four Dead,”Roadside Bomb Kills Two.” The media rarely give us the context we need to understand the fighting that produces these casualties — the purpose and outcome of the missions the lost soldiers were engaged in. When that information is given, it’s often buried in articles that focus on death.
Without this big picture, any war would appear a meaningless disaster. What if Americans had seen the casualty lists from Omaha Beach or Okinawa — hills of sand — without hearing about the objectives for which those bloody battles were fought?
To evaluate the war in Iraq, like any war, we need to understand what our troops are attempting and achieving, as well as how many of them are being killed. Take the 14 Marines who died in Haditha in early August in a much-publicized roadside bombing. Army Lt. Colonel Steve Boylan, a military spokesman I contacted in Baghdad, explained that they were laying the groundwork for Operation Quick Strike: a campaign to destroy the insurgency by depriving it of its bases and shutting down its “rat lines” — infiltration routes running from the Syrian border to the heart of Iraq.
The Marines’ mission was to undercut the insurgents’ freedom of movement, and thus — among other things — to increase security for the Iraqis’ constitutional process.
Perhaps the major media’s biggest shortcoming is its apparent lack of interest in the extraordinary rebuilding of Iraq. Last week, the New York Times — no friend of American policy there — ran an article titled “Editors Ponder How to Present a Broad Picture of Iraq.” The article noted that reporters in Iraq rarely explain the bigger picture beyond the daily death tolls, and it acknowledged the public perception that the media isn’t giving us the full story on positive developments there.
Here’s a glimpse of that bigger picture: According to government and policy organization sources, Iraq today has a vibrant free press, with roughly 170 independent newspapers and magazines, up from zero under Saddam Hussein. Thousands of schools have been constructed or refurbished, and more than 200 water treatment projects are underway or have been completed.
In Fallujah, Mosul and Najaf, the scene of brutal fighting last year, the American military is building schools and clinics, extending power lines and laying water and sewage pipes.
Thanks to those efforts, the Iraqi people will soon vote in a historic constitutional referendum. Sunni leaders, who boycotted the January 2005 elections, are urging their people to join the electoral process. But even heartening news like this, which does get media attention, is often drowned out in the public mind by reports of periodic American casualties.
In a conversation this morning, Kathy adds that her previous “good news” column on Grace Church (“In Iraq, Grace takes amazing hold”) prompted a torrent of email messages, many from Power Line readers, that contributed to today’s column and may provide the material for yet another. This brilliant column concludes:
Our major media have a duty to give us the big picture on Iraq. This — not the tears of Crawford — is what we owe fallen soldiers and their courageous comrades.