Saturday, March 24, 2007

Iraq: Reality and Rhetoric

On the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, President Bush asked for patience. The House responded petulantly. It narrowly passed an Iraqi timetable, widely expanding the number of civilian generals on the order of 535, President Bush responded with dismay:

'The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq. They set rigid restrictions that will require an army of lawyers to interpret. They set an arbitrary date for withdrawal without regard for conditions on the ground. And they tacked on billions for pet projects that have nothing to do with winning the war on terror. This bill has too much pork, too many conditions and an artificial timetable for withdrawal.

Amid the real challenges in Iraq, we're beginning to see some signs of progress. Yet, to score political points, the Democratic majority in the House has shown it is willing to undermine the gains our troops are making on the ground.'

However, one cannot simply blame the Democrats, especially if they simply listen to mainstream media reports of the war. Take this report from NPR yesterday: Baghdad Murder Rate Rises Anew, with Bombings

The first glaring error is the headline, which the story itself does next to nothing to justify.

Robert Siegel begins the story with:

It’s been just over five weeks since the new Baghdad security plan has begun. US military officials are cautiously optimistic about it, saying the numbers show that it is working. Even so, there was a suicide bombing today in the heavily fortified heart of the city today, and it injured a top government official.

The report goes on to describe a number of attacks that sent people to the hospital yesterday, with no mention of actual fatalities. Therefore, "Even so, there was a suicide bombing" is proof that the surge is not working. To what standard is progress held to? Dozens of daily deaths have been commonplace in Iraq, but a day without multiple casualties is not cause for even mild optimism?

Inexplicably, the reporter on the ground in Iraq, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro goes on to say:
Despite the positive indicators of reduced violence reported, reality often gets in the way of rhetoric here.
Yet, no positive indicators are mentioned, neither is the "rhetoric" she refers to. The lack of horrible suicide bombings and multiple fatalities, was dismissed early on, because "Even so, there was a suicide bombing."

Moments later, this snippet is casually dropped in:
Yesterday, coalition forces killed a terrorist who was trying to blow up a roadside bomb.
We should not be optimistic, though, because "Even so, there was a suicide bombing." The coup de gras comes at the end, however, when the reporter coaxes a minute of sorrowful dialogue from a morgue worker about the number of deaths, only the finish nonchalantly by saying:
For Baghdad, the morgue worker says the body count is far less than before the surge began.
With reports on Iraq such as these, is it any wonder our Congress is largely misinformed?

Meanwhile, there are other headlines that more accurately drive home the point with reality rather than rhetoric.

Tim Walberg, a Republican legislator from Michigan, stated this week that most of war-torn Iraq is about as dangerous as some neighborhoods in Detroit or Chicago.

The first term Congressman who grew up in Chicago made the comment to support the Bush administration's claim that progress is being made in a war the President says can be won.

"Well, in fact, in many places Iraq is as safe and cared for as Detroit or Harvey, Ill., or some other places that have trouble with armed violence that takes place on occasion," Walberg told the press.

Surely the end of the war is not in sight, yet neither is the lull in violence an anomaly. Can the drop in violence and troop surge simply be a coincidence? Perhaps Americans, politicians, and the media in general are simply too pampered. We are spoiled, accustomed to getting our way immediately without having to wait. Unfortunately, war is not so convenient.
Because the president's political opponents choose rhetoric over reality, we cannot see the forest for the trees.

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