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Posts Tagged ‘iraq’

Congratulations, Iraqis!

Posted by Richard on March 8, 2010

Hearty congratulations to the brave people of Iraq! Once again, they risked life and limb to flock to the polling stations. Al Qaeda promised to disrupt the election, and there were indeed a number of violent attacks. But the people of Iraq were determined to choose their own government and could not be deterred even by threat of death:

It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq's national elections. Bombs and missiles, al Qaeda threats and war fatigue failed to deter millions of Iraqis of all sects and regions from exercising a right that is rare in the Arab world. Even the U.N.'s man in Baghdad called the vote "a triumph."

On Sunday, 61% of eligible voters came out in Anbar Province, a former extremist stronghold that includes the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi. In the last national elections five years ago, 3,375 people—or 2%—voted in Anbar. The other Sunni-dominated provinces that boycotted in 2005 saw similar numbers: over 70% turnout in Diyala and Salaheddin and 67% in Nineveh, all higher than the national average of 62%. American Presidential elections rarely have such turnout.

Al Qaeda as well as Sunni and Shiiite extremist groups were defeated militarily by the surge, and this election continues the trend toward settling disputes through politics, not bombs. The remaining terrorists, far weaker and organized in smaller cells, tried hard to deter voting. Thirty-eight people died in various mortar, rocket and bomb attacks on election day. But the attackers had trouble getting near voting stations, and security in Baghdad and elsewhere was good and Iraqis brushed off these threats.

The election result itself is up for grabs and won't be known for several days. Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki needs to build a new coalition with skeptical Shiite and Kurd parties. Though Shiite himself, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi attracted Sunni votes to his nationalist secular block. The Kurdish coalition may split.

But the very uncertainty about the results is a sign of democracy's advance, and the drama won't go unnoticed in a Middle East where the victories are always landslides for the ruling party. The contrast with Iran's stolen 2009 vote couldn't be more dramatic, and even Al-Jazeera ran special coverage around the clock.

With the help and protection of coalition forces led by the U.S., Iraqis first voted in free elections a little over five years ago. On December 15, 2005, Iraq became the first constitutional republic in the Arab world, a truly momentous event that will hopefully lead to profound changes in that region in the future.

Yesterday, they reaffirmed their commitment to a democratic form of government. My hat's off to the people of Iraq for the courage and commitment they've shown and to the United States Armed Forces for making this possible. 

And to George W. Bush for believing that democracy and freedom are transformative

Iraqi woman with purple finger and tear in her eye

(Photo is from 2005. See this post.)

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Outrageous revisionism

Posted by Richard on February 12, 2010

In an exercise of historical revisionism that takes my breath away, on the Larry King show Wednesday night, Vice President Joe Biden took credit for the victory in Iraq (emphasis by The Weekly Standard):

I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer.

You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government. I spent — I’ve been there 17 times now. I go about every two months — three months. I know every one of the major players in all the segments of that society.

It’s impressed me. I’ve been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences.

Unbe-frickin-lievable. This is the administration whose mantra is "we inherited that."

Upon returning from Iraq in 2007, Biden told Tim Russert

There was a big disconnect between the truth of the matter and the reality. I mean, the truth of the matter is that, that the-America's-this administration's policy and the surge are a failure, and that the surge, which was supposed to stop sectarian violence and-long enough to give political reconciliation, there's been no political reconciliation. …

… 

The fact of the matter is that there is—that this idea of these security gains we’ve made have had no impact on the underlying sectarian dynamic.  None.  None whatsoever…  And can anybody envision a central government made up of Sunni, Shia and Kurds that’s going to gain the trust and respect of 27 million Iraqis?  It’s not going to happen. 

There’ve been some tactical gains, but they have no ultimate bearing, at this point, on the prospect of there being a political settlement in Iraq that would allow American troops to come home without leaving chaos behind…  The central problem is a sectarian war.  If every jihadist in Iraq was killed tomorrow, we’d still have a major civil war killing thousands—wounding thousands of Americans and killing hundreds of Americans just since the surge began.  

It took less than a minute to find the above and scores of others about Obama, Biden, and associates insisting in 2007 that "Iraq is lost" and opposing the surge that ultimately won the war. Here are some examples from this post

“I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed the war in 2003. I opposed it in 2004, and 2005 and 2006. I introduced the plan in January to remove all of our combat brigades out of Iraq by next March. And I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now – not tomorrow, not the next day, not six months from now, but now.”
–Barack Obama, September 12 2007

“It’s time to turn the corner in my view, gentlemen. We should stop the surge and start bringing our troops home. We should end a political strategy in Iraq that cannot succeed and begin one that can.”
–Joe Biden, September 11 2007


Petraeus’ report, and the notion that the surge was working, was attacked throughout the day by a Murderer’s Row of Democrats: Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel and the Democrat presidential ticket of 2008, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Harry Reid also led the charge to the rear for the Democrats, beginning in April.

“Now, I believe myself that the secretary of State, the secretary of Defense – and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows – that this war is lost and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.”
–Harry Reid, April 19, 2007 press conference.

Despite the Democrats' denials, declarations of defeat, and determination to derail the Petraeus plan, the surge worked and we won the war in Iraq. 

And now this poltroon and his pals are prepared to pat themselves on the back for their "great achievements" in Iraq? Mr. Vice President, have you no shame, sir?

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30,000

Posted by Richard on December 6, 2009

Was Obama channeling Bush at West Point? Jon Stewart compares surges then and now, and presidents then and now. Enjoy:

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OIF anniversary

Posted by Richard on March 20, 2009

Today is the sixth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Iraq hasn't been much in the news or on our minds lately, but Families United wants us to remember on this day:

It is a day to celebrate the bravery of our troops and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect this nation and expand freedom to the oppressed.  Our men and women in uniform have fought tirelessly to make Iraq a nation that is free, stable and an ally in the War on Terrorism. 
 
It is because of our military that Iraq is beginning to heal and reach out to the world in ways many never believed possible.  It is because of our military that Iraqis are able to live, work, improve their lives and participate in their government free from fear and tyranny.  Hundreds of thousands of our brave troops have helped create the potential for a free nation in the heart of the Middle East.  Many of them have been there two, three, and even four times. 
 
America’s Military families know the sacrifice and dedication that our troops make every day to protect our country.   They experience it in the pride of a homecoming and the absence felt by an empty chair at the dinner table.  This anniversary is a day to honor their courage, pray for the fallen and reflect on the millions of lives now lived better because of our military men and women
.

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Thanksgiving greetings from Iraq

Posted by Richard on November 28, 2008

Bill at Castle Argghh! reported on his Thanksgiving Day in Iraq (don't mind the acronyms and jargon; that's typical military-speak) and passed along a message from the locals:

I stopped to chat with two of the Kurdish kaydets in Class 70. One's best bud is a Sunni and the other has a pal who's Shi'a.

As I was walking to the DFAC, I stopped to exchange pleasantries with a couple of the Turkish Ell-Tees who are here as Liaison Officers — the pilots of the Iraqi 3rd Squadron had invited them to be their guests at lunch.

Walking into the DFAC, I yakked with some troops from the Kurdish Army who'd been invited to have lunch by the MITT working one of the outlying FOBs. The whole group sat with a couple of the Nigerian construction workers operating the cranes that hoist the steel sheeting that a local builder is using to erect the new IqAF Flight School complex.

Every Iraqi soldier I saw this morning wished me a Happy Thanksgiving.

I'd like to pass those wishes along to you guys..

You know, that's heartening on so many levels.

BTW, Castle Argghh! is a fellow member of the Army team raising funds for Project Valour-IT. Have you clicked the banner in the left sidebar and donated a few bucks to this wonderful cause yet? The Army team has extended its lead over Navy to $10,000 now, so we're home free. But the severely wounded soldiers waiting for this technology assistance to aid them with their recovery and independence still need more help.

If you'd rather donate via another service team or directly, that's OK too. But please give. You can donate directly here

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Bridge of hope

Posted by Richard on November 12, 2008

Courtesy of Reuters (!), here's the feel-good story of the week from Iraq:

The Bridge of the Imams connects the Adhamiya and Kadhimiya neighborhoods of Baghdad, named for mediaeval Sunni and Shi'ite holy men whose landmark shrines on opposite sides of the Tigris are surrounded by homes of members of the separate communities.

It had been closed since 2005 when rumors of a suicide bombing panicked thousands of Shi'ites crossing the bridge for a pilgrimage to the Kadhimiya shrine. About one thousand people died in that stampede, clogging the river below with corpses.

But on Tuesday Sunni children from Adhamiya raced to see their Shi'ite friends in Kadhimiya. Women from the two communities met up on the bridge, kissing and hugging each other with joy.

"When the faces met, the lips smiled, hands shook, bodies hugged, the tears flowed out of joy. This is the Iraqi citizen," said Sheikh Ahmed al-Samaraie, head of Iraq's Sunni Endowment, which runs Sunni religious offices and mosques in Iraq.

A banner across the bridge read: "The bridge of love and reconciliation between the people of Adhamiya and Kadhimiya."

Officials said the event was a sign that the sectarian hatred that fueled years of violence in Iraq is ebbing away. The number of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops killed last month was the lowest monthly toll since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"This day is a remarkable day, a day of a great Iraq. The day of meeting, love, brotherhood, affinity … The day we proved to the whole world that we are one nation," Sayyid Salih al-Haidari, Samaraie's Shi'ite counterpart said in a speech. Delegations accompanying the two officials then went to pray together at a nearby mosque.

That's worth a tear of joy or two, don't you think?

HT: Instapundit, who observed that "Now that the election's over, we may get more of those!"

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Fallujah fake

Posted by Richard on August 8, 2008

Remember the KFC restaurant in Fallujah that I posted about last month? Apparently, it's a trademark ripoff, not a genuine Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. Not surprising, really — and it doesn't change the positive nature of the news. See my update of the original post.

 

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McCain makes difference on Iraq clear

Posted by Richard on July 26, 2008

Sen. John McCain was in Denver today, addressing a national convention of Hispanic veterans before heading to Aspen to meet with the Dalai Lama. He outlined the history of the surge and subsequent success in Iraq, contrasting his own statements with those of Sen. Obama. I planned to post excerpts of his remarks, along with some comments of mine. But the big chunk (with a couple of ellipses) posted at Power Line is such a great read (and needs no commentary) that I'm reproducing the whole thing here.

I'm not a fan of this man, and about every three or four days, he says or does something that exasperates, annoys, or disgusts me. But this is outstanding — just outstanding (emphasis added):

Senator Obama and I also faced a decision, which amounted to a real-time test for a future commander-in-chief. America passed that test. I believe my judgment passed that test. And I believe Senator Obama's failed.

We both knew the politically safe choice was to support some form of retreat. All the polls said the "surge" was unpopular. Many pundits, experts and policymakers opposed it and advocated withdrawing our troops and accepting the consequences. I chose to support the new counterinsurgency strategy backed by additional troops — which I had advocated since 2003, after my first trip to Iraq. Many observers said my position would end my hopes of becoming president. I said I would rather lose a campaign than see America lose a war. My choice was not smart politics. It didn't test well in focus groups. It ignored all the polls. It also didn't matter. The country I love had one final chance to succeed in Iraq. The new strategy was it. So I supported it. Today, the effects of the new strategy are obvious. The surge has succeeded, and we are, at long last, finally winning this war.

Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn't just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better.

And as our troops took the fight to the enemy, Senator Obama tried to cut off funding for them. He was one of only 14 senators to vote against the emergency funding in May 2007 that supported our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. …

Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: "My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now." His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn't have been more wrong.

By November 2007, the success of the surge was becoming apparent. Attacks on Coalition forces had dropped almost 60 percent from pre-surge levels. American casualties had fallen by more than half. Iraqi civilian deaths had fallen by more than two-thirds. But Senator Obama ignored the new and encouraging reality. "Not only have we not seen improvements," he said, "but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there."

If Senator Obama had prevailed, American forces would have had to retreat under fire. The Iraqi Army would have collapsed. Civilian casualties would have increased dramatically. Al Qaeda would have killed the Sunni sheikhs who had begun to cooperate with us, and the "Sunni Awakening" would have been strangled at birth. Al Qaeda fighters would have safe havens, from where they could train Iraqis and foreigners, and turn Iraq into a base for launching attacks on Americans elsewhere. Civil war, genocide and wider conflict would have been likely.

Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. …

Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth.

Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting the success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he had always predicted it. … In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory.

Senator Obama said this week that even knowing what he knows today that he still would have opposed the surge. In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a Commander in Chief making that choice.

"I would rather lose a campaign than see America lose a war" is a line I hope to see repeated thousands of times in the next three months. Despite all his many — many! — flaws, this is something McCain gets right, and the contrast with Obama couldn't be starker. Bravo!

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Original or extra crispy in Fallujah

Posted by Richard on July 20, 2008

See update below. 

About 2½ years ago, in a post about how well things were going in Iraqi Kurdistan, I posted a picture of the McDonald's that had opened up in Suleimaniyah, and said, "I can't think of a more hopeful, positive sign than that."

But that was Kurdistan, where things have been peaceful all along, foreign investment has been pouring in, and the economy has been booming. For a long time, things didn't go so well in other parts of Iraq. Like, for instance Fallujah.

But that was then, and this is now — they're serving up wings in Fallujah:

Fallujah KFCOnly a short time ago the city of Fallujah served as stronghold for insurgents. Daily skirmishes, improvised explosive device detonations and public unease made operating a business in the city very difficult.

Today, with improved security throughout the region, the low price of 4,000 dinar, or $3.50, will purchase a full meal at the recently established Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Hey Al Dubat area of the city.

The KFC is the first to open for business in the city. Before improved conditions in the city, insurgents threatened business owners, demanding money to support acts of terrorism.

“I remember when I was here last in July 2004 and things were much different than they are now,” said Sgt. Steve J. Arnoux, a 25-year-old vehicle commander from Browning, Mont. “When we would go out on convoys in the city, the attitude was a lot different. It seemed like we were just waiting to get ambushed. Now we stop at KFC.”

Damn, that makes me feel good. 

HT: LGF

UPDATE (8/8): According to TPMMuckraker, this isn't a legitimate Yum! Foods (owner of KFC) franchise, just some enterprising Iraqis' attempt to capitalize on the brand identity by ripping off the trademark. But, hey, it still speaks well of the situation in Iraq (if not of the ethics of the entrepreneurs involved). The image of Col. Sanders and the KFC name are valuable and marketable in what was once a hotbed of violently anti-American, anti-Western sentiments. That's a good thing — except maybe for Yum! Foods. Maybe they should negotiate with the owners about making it a real franchise?

(Hat tip for the update goes to LGF, too. Bloggers are better about corrections than the MSM.) 

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How the troops celebrated in Iraq

Posted by Richard on July 4, 2008

Speaking of patriotism, our troops in harm's way know the meaning of true patriotism and the significance of Independence Day. Bob Krumm has a marvelous report and video of an Independence Day ceremony in Iraq:

BAGHDAD – How are you spending your 4th of July holiday? While most Americans probably slept, 1,215 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines raised their right hands and committed to a combined 5,500 years of additional service during the largest reenlistment ceremony in the history of the American military. Beneath a large American flag which dwarfed even the enormous chandelier that Saddam Hussein had built for the Al Faw Palace, members of all services, representing all 50 states took the oath administered by Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.

Among those in attendance were service members from the more than two dozen Allies serving with MNF-I. Along with their American counterparts, each appeared in awe of the sacrifice of these incredible men and women. Each of the reenlistees knows full well the costs of war, and yet, they chose to stand with their units, their mission, and each other. It was as humbling an experience as I have ever witnessed. On this 4th of July, while you celebrate around grills and coolers all across America, keep in mind the 1,215 who allow us that privilege.

Thanks to Bob for a great Independence Day present (and to Instapundit for the pointer).

I'll be quite surprised if this story makes it onto any of the broadcast networks' evening newscasts. Here's Bob's video (1:23):

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Dems oppose increasing Iraq’s oil output, too

Posted by Richard on July 2, 2008

Democrats in Congress, who seem to believe they can wave a magic wand and convert the country to solar planes and trains and wind-powered cars and trucks, don't just oppose more domestic oil production. And they don't just want to micromanage and regulate every aspect of the U.S. energy industry. Democrats in Congress are now working to limit Iraq's oil output and dictate Iraq's energy policies! From Investor's Business Daily:

Baghdad has invited foreign oil firms to bid on contracts to increase production in eight lagging oil fields.

Thanks to our liberation of that country, which cost the U.S. and Iraq so much in lives and resources, Baghdad is now able to begin to make full use of its oil reserves of as much as 112.5 billion barrels — after Saudi Arabia, the largest petroleum deposit in the world.

But Iraq needs private companies because they have the kind of know-how and resources the country needs to rebuild its energy infrastructure and revive oil production after suffering under Saddam Hussein for so long. Baghdad's goal is to improve output from the current 2.5 million barrels a day to 4.5 million barrels by 2013.

Last week, Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Claire McCaskill of Missouri sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling on her to get the Iraqi government "to refrain from signing contracts with multinational oil companies" because Iraq "currently does not have in place a revenue sharing law" to divide the proceeds between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

According to the three Senate Democrats, allowing the Iraqi government to enlist foreign help to maximize its oil production "would simply add more fuel to Iraq's civil war."

Of course, there is no civil war in Iraq today because President Bush refused to listen to the likes of Schumer, Kerry and McCaskill, who wanted the U.S. to resign itself to what some called "defeat with dignity."

The three also complained of it being uncertain that oil revenue-funded "reconstruction efforts would be targeted equitably to all the major ethnic groups in Iraq." What do these liberal Democrats want, an Iraqi version of their own failed affirmative action laws?

How wondrous to behold: High-ranking Democratic senators, who on so many occasions have condemned the president for interfering in Iraq, now insisting that Washington dictate to a freely elected government what its policy will be regarding its people's most valuable domestic resource. Apparently, Democrats aren't satisfied trying to wreck the U.S. energy industry; they want to wreck Iraq's, too.

Most senators and representatives are spending this Independence Day week in their home states and districts, meeting constituents, attending parades, etc. If you get the chance to meet your Congresscritter, ask him or her to support increased oil production in both the U.S. and Iraq (signing Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's pledge would be a good start). Or call their local office and convey the "Drill Here, Drill Now" message to the staff there. 

And speaking of "Drill Here, Drill Now," over 1.2 million people have signed the petition. Have you? Sign up at AmericanSolutions.com, and contribute $10 or more to get this cool bumper sticker: 

 Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.

Resolve to do something this holiday weekend to push for a more rational energy policy that will allow additional supplies to be brought to market. To help you get motivated, here's Newt Gingrich's 3½-minute YouTube video, "3 Ways to Lower Gas Prices," which over 1.4 million people have already watched:

 

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Another Gitmo alum collected his 72 virgins

Posted by Richard on June 28, 2008

According to Bill Roggio, a new al Qaeda jihad video features a former Gitmo detainee who killed 13 in a suicide truck bomb attack in Mosul. The Kuwaiti jihadist was presumably one of those released from Gitmo because he was judged low-risk or there was insufficient evidence against him. Now, there's more evidence and his risk level can be retroactively raised:

Al Qaeda in Iraq, through its puppet organization the Islamic State of Iraq, released its latest propaganda video on June 23. The video contains a montage of attacks throughout Iraq, and features two Kuwaiti al Qaeda operatives who conducted strikes in Mosul. One of the operatives was released from the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Islamic State of Iraq used footage taken at Combat Outpost Inman by this reporter in Mosul in March of this year.

The 38-minute-long video, titled "The Islamic State is Meant to Stay," was produced by Al Furqan, al Qaeda's media arm in Iraq. Al Furqan has released few videos over the past six weeks said Nibras Kazimi, a Visiting Scholar at the Hudson Institute, at his website, Talisman Gate.

Two Kuwaiti al Qaeda operatives who conducted suicide attacks were featured at the end of the video. Abu Omar al Kuwaiti, also known as Badr Mishel Gama’an al Harbi, and Abu Juheiman al Kuwaiti, also known as Abdullah Salih al Ajmi, are both shown on the video, along with their attacks in Mosul, said Kazimi.

Harbi, who claimed to be a "veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan," conducted a suicide car bomb attack on a police station in Mosul on April 26, 2008.

Ajmi was released from Guantanamo Bay and was searching for "a way to reconnect with the jihad." He claimed he was tortured while at Guantanamo Bay.

Ajmi "is seemingly responsible for an earlier truck bombing at the Iraqi Army HQ in the Harmat neighborhood of Mosul on March 23, 2008," said Kazimi. The attack occurred at Combat Outpost Inman, an Iraqi Army base that served as the headquarters for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division.

I'm sure the 42 wounded Iraqi soldiers and the surviving families of the 13 dead wish the U.S. had used stricter standards in determining who could safely be released from Gitmo. 

I guess we Americans should be grateful that Ajmi wasn't released on bond in New Jersey. 

(And don't you dare suggest that Ajmi was harmless before, but was "radicalized" by his treatment at Gitmo. I will smack you. And then point out that he wanted to "reconnect with the jihad.") 

(HT: LGF

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We need an army of Yons

Posted by Richard on June 25, 2008

Charlie Foxtrot, commenting from Afghanistan, is amazed (as I was) at the change in mainstream media coverage of Iraq (emphasis in original):

Powerline and Danger Room are right to point out the amazing numbers:

"According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been “massively scaled back this year.” Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007."

However no one I have seen yet (though my reading time is limited here in Afghanistan) has noted the real smoking gun, found in the quote from a CBS news bigwig:

"Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS News, said the news division does not get reports from Iraq on television “with enough frequency to justify keeping a very, very large bureau in Baghdad.” He said CBS correspondents can “get in there very quickly when a story merits it.”

Oh I see. So we finally have an admission of guilt on the bias front.

CBS news has now admitted that good news from a war zone does not merit coverage. Death, carnage, mis-doings of individual soldiers, and lack of good planning all drown out positive stories when they happen at the same time. But when those negatives all dry up and disappear, and the positive stories are left standing alone, the "journalists" lose interest and can't "justify" sticking around to do their jobs. If you can't justify a bureau because not enough reports from Iraq get on television….then put more reports from Iraq on television! This magically wasn't a problem a year ago. There were plenty of stories then. Gee, if we could only figure out what has changed during that time…..

Sad. Shameful. Disappointing.

In deference to Glenn Reynolds, we don't need and "Army of Davids". We desperately need an "Army of Yons", and "Army of Roggios", and an "Army of Tottens"….

Yep, that's about right. I've helped support all three of the above. Please join me. Or at least read what they have to say and then decide.

(HT: Doug Ross)

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Another Haditha case dismissed

Posted by Richard on June 17, 2008

The government is now 0-for-7 on prosecuting the eight Haditha Marines:

In a move that prompted tears of joy from courtroom spectators, Military Judge Colonel Steven Folsom, USMC, this morning dismissed all charges against LtCol Jeffrey Chessani on the grounds of unlawful command influence. His opinion from the bench lasted an hour, and prosecutors were given 72 hours in which to notify him if they planned to appeal.

The charges were dismissed without prejudice.

Chessani was charged with dereliction of duty and orders violations for allegedly failing to investigate and report the "Haditha massacre" of November 19, 2005. He was the highest ranking officer to be charged in the well-publicized incident and would have faced dismissal from the service, loss of all retirement benefits and three years in prison had he been convicted.

LtCol Chessani's official 2006 Combat Fitness Report declared him "a superb leader, who knows his men, knows the enemy, knows his business," and recommended him for promotion.The reviewing Major General added, LtCol Chessani has "unlimited potential and value to the Marine Corps," and also recommended him for promotion.

The deaths of 24 Iraqis in the house-to-house, room-by-room battle created a firestorm of criticism both at home and abroad, including comments from Rep. John Murtha who claimed at the time that the Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." Yet news that seven of eight original defendants have either been acquitted or have had the charges against them dropped has received scant attention.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center that was representing Chessani, said, "We are all grateful for the judge's ruling today. He truly was the "last sentinel" to guard against unlawful command influence." He added, "Tragically, our own government eliminated one of its most effective combat commanders. The insurgents are laughing in their caves."

Only one defendant, squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, remains. Wuterich, who faces voluntary manslaughter charges, has pled not guilty.

I'm betting that Wuterich will be acquitted or the charges will be dismissed. Maybe after that happens, John Murtha, Dennis Kucinich, Madeline Albright, Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, CBS, etc., will apologize to these men.

But I won't bet on those apologies. 

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Sadr City — a journalist responds

Posted by Richard on June 15, 2008

My brief post about Sadr City on Friday drew a long comment from Fox News reporter Anita McNaught, who has been reporting from there recently. Since it's an important report from on the ground in Iraq that might be missed as a comment, and since I have (as usual) some things to say in response, I'm posting it here, along with my reply. Here is her comment:

You know.. sometimes I get really exasperated with bloggers who feed off limited intakes of media reports and construct their own realities off the basis of how they interpret something like a photograph.

First of all, your assertion that 'mainstream media' has not been in Sadr City is flat wrong.

I am a reporter with Fox News. I have already filed 2 reports from Sadr City examining the situation there – one at the end of May and the other in early June. We were the first TV crew to embed with the Iraqi Army and go beyond the US-controlled area to see what was going on there.

I have just got back from another 4 days in Sadr City, and am about to put together 3 more stories on the issues there.

The person with the camera on the left of that photo is, I believe, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was arriving as we left in early June.

This picture was shot in the US-controlled area of Sadr City. This part of the densely packed conurbation of more than 2 million people represents only about a quarter of the total area, and less than a quarter of its population. It is the most affluent part of the city, and a place where the Mehdi army extorted local businesses for million of dollars in cash every month in a violent protection racket. It has a population of business people whose priority is to get their businesses up and running as soon as possible.

Any kind of new military force maintaining a semblance of order allows them to do that.

Let me tell you what the situation is like there. Parts of the area (as you could see) are a complete bombed-out mess.. The US military are doing what they can about this, with compensation payments and grants of cash. Although Mehdi Army fighters probably caused most of the damage you are looking at, the locals still blame the US for the bulk of it.. because after all, if the US had not gone after them, their shops would still be standing.

And the security cordon the US has put up is causing many local complaints because they say it's keeping customers out.

This is perverse, and probably from an outsider's point of view unfair.. but it's the reality.

Are people happy to see the US military? Yes – up to a point. Kids are ALWAYS happy to see soldiers these days. The soldiers love them. They play ball with them, and give them lollipops, and ruffle their hair.. Kids steal their pens and ask them for money and footballs. They both kid around with each other. That's been the case in Iraq from the outset. Do their parents feel the same way? Who knows? People in Iraq survive by being nice to the person with the most power at any given moment in time.

So what about the Jaish Al Mehdi?

We spent a lot of time on the street, over the course of 4 trips in, talking to locals about how they felt. And most of them are far too scared about the ongoing presence of J.A.M. fighters to even tell you. JAM spies are everywhere, even in the US-controlled districts.

We can't go anywhere as reporters without 20-plus soldiers armed to the teeth and extremely vigilant. Twice last week the military escort to the US State Department working in Sadr City with local politicians was fired on by snipers. We dare not take off our helmets or body armour.

There was a place I wanted to go to film – in the US-controlled area of Sadr City – yesterday but was not allowed to because it was deemed too great a risk to me and my crew.

And there's the rest of Sadr City where the US isn't 'allowed' to go because of the terms of the Iranian-negotiated truce.. and where the Iraqi Army have not ventured either, except for token forays to say: "We're here! – (sort of)".

Has JAM been dealt to? Has it received the 'fatal blow'? No way. It's accepted universally that they are going to try to stage some kind of a come-back.. that they are waiting for a lessening of vigilance or a reduction of troop presence on either the US or Iraqi side, or both, to raise their heads again and try to re-establish control.

The only thing that will keep them at bay is if the local population stop backing them. But for decades, the Sadr Movement has been the only consistent support the people of Sadr City have had. With good reason, they don't trust anyone else. And the militia men are the 'devil they know'.

The media here is not 'hiding' a 'victory' from the US public. Things have in places all over Iraq demonstrably improved from how they were a year ago. But in many of those places it's on a knife edge. That knife edge COULD be a 'turning point'. I hope history will show it's a turning point.

But for any responsible journalist who sees what it's like on the ground, there are simply too many variables – very nasty variables – at play here.

There are plenty of conspiracy theories out there about what's 'really' happening in Iraq. But there is not some kind of 'liberal plot' to deny US citizens the facts.

It's a lovely photo. Like any photo, it doesn't tell the whole story.

First off,  Anita, thank you very, very much for sharing your on-the-spot perspective with me and my modest readership. I really appreciate it.

I admit I often paint with a broad brush. "Spouting off" — especially late at night after adult beverages — frequently leads to that. And of course, all generalizations are wrong. 🙂 I should have said there haven't been many reports instead of any. Your name sounded familiar, so I did a quick search and found a transcript of your June 10 story on Brit Hume's show. I'm sorry I missed that. Gen. Qureshi and Maj. Rider sound like interesting people, and it's a good story.

Frankly, I don't watch Fox News as much as I probably should. Maybe my timing is just bad, but most of the time when I tune in, it's either the latest missing coed, another murdered spouse, this week's Trial of the Century, or Democratic and Republican spinmeisters talking over the top of each other and quickly getting on my nerves.

I read the local papers and watch the local late news, and their Iraq coverage is mostly wire service reports. Online, I look at the NYTimes, WaPo, FoxNews, MSNBC, etc. But again, except for the first two, most of the stories are from AP, AFP, and Reuters (and most of those rely in part or in whole on local stringers whose objectivity and objectives are very much in question). In general, I don't see nuanced, balanced assessments. But I do see far, far, far fewer reports than in the past when the situation in Iraq was worse.

Case in point: In late March and early April, I saw a constant flood of stories about Operation Knight's Charge, and they were unrelentingly negative — "Basra Assault Exposed U.S., Iraqi Limits," "Assault on Basra Backfires," "Defeated Maliki Accepts Cease-Fire," "Sadr digs in as Basra attack falters," "Maliki Blinks," and my favorite, Time magazine's analysis of "How Moqtada al-Sadr Won in Basra." I don't remember even one of those stories (which generally built up al-Sadr and how he "stood up to" Maliki and the U.S.) mentioning that Mookie was in hiding in Iran the whole time.

To get a different perspective (and analyses that are much more knowledgable about military matters), I read Strategy Page, The Long War Journal, IraqStatusReport, etc. Dafydd and Sachi at Big Lizards (shield your eyes; the banner is blinding) performed yeoman service with a series of in-depth analyses (on March 27, March 28 , March 29, March 30, March 31, April 2, April 9, and a wrap-up on April 30) of the Basra and Sadr City operations, the negative MSM reports, and the very different assessments from alternative sources like Bill Roggio. Looking back now, it's clear that Dafydd and the sources on which he relied had the story far more correct from the beginning than, in particular, the AP and NYTimes.

As it became increasingly clear that the Maliki government and U.S. were achieving important political as well as military goals, that al-Sadr was being seriously weakened and marginalized, and that Operation Knight's Charge was not the defeat and embarrassment that media reports had prematurely declared, I saw fewer and fewer stories about how it was going. And the AP, as Dafydd pointed out in his April 30 post, decided that the best way to characterize the successes of April was to emphasize an increase in U.S. casualties.

Now, some of the lack of interest in success may be the natural tendency of the media to focus on disasters, tragedies, etc. And please understand that my criticism is not directed at you and your fellow journalists in Iraq. I realize that you're almost certainly correct to point out that this hasn't been an unqualified or final "victory." And I realize that reporters there are continuing to risk their lives and file stories all the time, but that the decisions about what to print or broadcast are in the hands of their editors and producers. I only see what passes through the filters, and only a fraction of that.

Nevertheless, the pattern of trumpeting bad news and downplaying or ignoring good news seems very clear to me (and very consistent over time). So I'll continue following the work of independent journalists like Michael Yon, Bill Ardolino, and Bill Roggio. They've been there too, they have military experience that informs their reporting, and they've been fair and balanced, as best I can tell — quite critical of our efforts when that's how they saw it. When their version of events contradicts that of some Iraqi AP stringers with unknown backgrounds and agendas (some of whom have clearly filed bogus stories and photos in the past), I know who I'm more inclined to trust.

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