Thursday, August 28, 2003


A look at why you have a queasy feeling in your stomach about Iraq, when in fact things are not all that bad.
It was big news that the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq after the conclusion of major combat operations has surpassed the number killed during the war itself. In fact, however, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the VFW convention, the war produced "fewer casualties and less destruction than probably any war in history." The media, especially cable news organizations, are focusing on daily attacks on U.S. soldiers. "Each setback in Iraq is repeated and repeated and repeated," Rumsfeld said, "as if it were 10 or 20 setbacks."

Conditioned by the media’s gloom-and-doom reporting, the latest Newsweek poll finds that just 13 percent say U.S. efforts to establish security and rebuild Iraq have gone very well since May 1, when combat officially ended. On Meet the Press, host Tim Russert said, "It couldn’t be more serious." He suggested that the situation was deteriorating so quickly that the U.S. may have to bring back the military draft. On the CBS Evening News, anchor John Roberts said the conflict had "no end in sight."

The media refuse to emphasize that there are already more than 50,000 Iraqis under arms that are working in coordination with the U.S. They include 35,000 in the Iraqi police forces, 2,300 in a civil-defense corps, and 17,000 security guards hired to defend infrastructure...

Any loss is tragic. However, the number of U.S. troops dead from the war in Iraq is just slightly more than the number of Americans who died from West Nile Virus last year...

The Iraq comparison with Vietnam may be valid when analyzing media coverage. American Legion Magazine has published an article by Jim Bohannon, the talk show host who served in Vietnam in 1967-68 with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. He writes that the communist strategy of "winning away from the battlefield worked—an especially fortunate circumstance for the communist cause, since they never came close to winning on the battlefield against U.S. forces." Bohannon cites coverage of the Tet offensive, when a U.S. military victory was depicted as a success by the communists. He says American reporters "exaggerated the power and popularity of the Viet Cong" and provided the American people "gloomy media depictions" about progress of the war. Bohannon concludes, "No matter how one feels about the war, few can deny that the enemy would have approved of the coverage."

Bohannon notes that former CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite wrote with apparent pride in his own memoirs that, "The daily coverage of the Vietnamese battlefield helped convince the American public that the carnage was not worth the candle." One has to consider that the gloom and doom coverage of the Iraq war is also designed to force a U.S. withdrawal and another American humiliation. At the very least, liberal Democrats carping about Iraq hope to wound President Bush politically and force him to turn the country over to the United Nations.

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