What the Washington Post doesn’t want its readers to know

Violent deaths in Iraq in August were less than of one-third of what they were in July, USA Today reports. But the Washington Post doesn’t want its readers to know this. Rather, the Post wants to focus only on statistics that paint a picture of unmitigated disaster. How else to explain this highly one-sided and glaringly incomplete story by Ann Scott Tyson?

Tyson uses the release of a Pentagon report on events of the past three months to tell her misleading tale. That report shows that this period was the most violent in two years. Tyson gloats that the report is “consistent with what news media have reported for months,” adding that the Pentagon now is acknowledging “trends that are widely believed to be driving the country toward full-scale civil war.”

These opening paragraphs are so slanted it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that, contrary to what Tyson suggests, the Pentagon has been completely candid about the upsurge in violence. It was that upsurge in Baghdad, of course, that caused the Pentagon, with some fanfare, to significantly increase the U.S. presence there. And it was the increased presence that, in all likelihood, led to the significant decrease in violence in August — the one that Tyson inexcusably conceals from her readers.

Moreover, while Tyson claims it’s “widely believed” that Iraq is “headed for full-scale civil war,” nothing in the body of her story supports that assertion. The Pentagon report says that “conditions that could lead to civil war exist in Iraq,” which is what Gen. Abizaid told Congress recently. And, though, Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings provides Tyson with a few choice anti-administration quotes (“reality is catching up with Rumsfeld” and “there is no smoke screen to hide behind”), O’Hanlon apparently didn’t say that Iraq is headed for full-scale civil war. And he’s the only person outside the administration quoted in Tyson’s piece.

Except, that is, for the Re[i]ed boys, Senators Harry and Jack, who chime in at the end of the piece. Harry is content to make his usual reference to “failed Republican policies.” Jack, who unlike Harry is a good faith critic of administration policy and not just a partisan hack, states that “we will not abandon our brave troops, nor can we afford to abandon Iraq,” and he attacks the administration for not providing “the real resources, in terms of both military and civilian advisers, nor real dollars to reconstruct and help Iraq emerge from this period of instability.”

Does this mean that Reed favors a larger U.S. military presence in Iraq? Not really — although he has opposed withdrawal pursuant to a timetable, his past statements make it clear that he’s not for ramping up our presence either.

Reed is not to blame for lacking all the answers. But we can surely blame Tyson and her editor for not fairly reporting the facts on the ground.

UPDATE: The Washington Post was hardly the only news organization to trumpet the three-months data while ignoring the August trend. Listening to NRP on the drive home from work, I heard basically the same thing.

Daffyd ab Hugh has a good round-up of coverage of the Pentagon Report, and why that report is not nearly as gloomy as the MSM made it appear.


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