Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Media and the War

Great post from Austin Bay about the disparity between mainstream news reporting of events in Iraq and the experience of troops on the ground, of which Bay was one just this year. He also links to lots of other posts and articles on the subject, as well as providing some important background not often mentioned in the American press.

For starters, the vast majority of violence is coming from the minority Sunni population and the imported terrorists who have allied with them. In the larger Arab Muslim world, the Sunnis are the majority branch of Islam; the Shia are the decided minority. But in Iraq the situation was reversed. Shias are the large majority and the Sunnis are the minority.

But the Sunnis were allied with Saddam Hussein and his secular Baathist Party. They enjoyed, during his tenure, a degree of control and power and privilege far out of proportion to their numbers.

The Iraqi War dumped them from their place and they are angry. They've been able to get support from the dictatorships and the wealthy oil barons of the surrounding Sunni-majority nations. Look at maps of terror attacks there and you'll see they are largely confined to the Sunni areas of Iraq.

The Kurdish-controlled area to the north, next to Turkey, has no troubles at all from the terrorists. In fact, they have a stable, functioning society in spite of Saddam's depredations from before the War. Remember, he gas-attacked that area in the 90s with the WMDs he doesn't have. And yet they have achieved what the rest of the country is struggling for.

As Bay correctly notes, the American press has a tough time reporting on process events (change from here to there), and especially tends to focus on spectacular events that can be isolated through reporting.

The brunt of the terror targets is overwhelmingly Iraqis, not American troops. The terrorists are attacking schools, hospitals, police stations, public roads and the markets (shopping centers for the Arab world). Their point is not to remove Americans as much as it is to make Iraqis sick of our presence, even though we are doing good. Even the anti-America Arab press is realising this.

The attacks are decreasing in number. We are achieving what we set out to do: topple Saddam; rebuild the government, police and army; recreate public stability after war conditions; rebuild the economy and infrastructure after a war. This is happening. We will shortly reach a point where the country is as safe as places like Egypt, Pakistan or Israel.

And Muslim Arabs will have another example of democratically elected representative government providing opportunity for the average man or woman not available in richer autocratically controlled nations that surround it.

As Bay also notes, there is a strong streak of blaming outsiders for their own problems. With the example of a new Iraq, they won't be able to do that. With our continued support and attention, we can help the Arabs to modernise their societies, to reform their cultures. This is all to the good.

On This Week With George Puf'n'Stuf Joe Klein made the excellent point that the debate has changed from how to prosecute this war to how to end it. Remember back in late 2003 how the anti-War Left was talking about how we didn't have enough soldiers to do the job? How we needed more, more, more? Now, it's too many soldiers, except when it's not enough to do the job and then that's bad again.

George Will also noted the failure of the Bush Administration to bring the war home. He said there were no "domestic echoes" like war taxes, war-related policies, etc. That helps to isolate the War, to separate Americans from its importance and necessity. It allows opponents to exploit the "over there" syndrome.

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