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Monday, April 09, 2007

And now, good news from Iraq

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces there, also reported the recent capture of "more than the usual numbers" of weapons caches. One consisted of more than 120 improvised explosive devices, some of which were the "particularly lethal" anti-armor munitions being used against U.S. troops.

Perhaps you're wondering what a straight news story is doing here, in a commentary section. It's because there doesn't seem to be enough room in the media's straight news sections to report positive developments in the Iraq war. So, as a reader service, I am writing a news story involving the possible saving of at least 120 GIs' lives.

This story is based on a PBS interview of Petraeus by Jim Lehrer and reporting by Sharon Behn of The Washington Times. (Yes, I know that liberals consider the Times to be a hopelessly biased conservative rag, much as many conservatives consider The New York Times to be a hopelessly biased liberal rag.) For what I can tell, no one reported Petraeus' comments with this emphasis.

"There have been some encouraging indicators in Baghdad, in terms of a reduction in sectarian murders," he said. "There have been some families returning; there have certainly been revivals in the markets," which he called one of the main measures of progress. He particularly noted the return of "tens of thousands" of Iraqis to an enormous, vibrant, milelong market because of increased feelings of security. "... [T]here are soccer leagues out here. The national soccer team is on its practice fields. There are signs of normality in Baghdad, albeit, again, in a city that may have been hit by violence on that given day." He pointed to a "major development" in Anbar province, a place that "many were ready to write off as a lost cause."

"[A]ll of a sudden you have cities all the way from the border, Al Qaim through Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and Fallujah, where tribes have volunteered for the Iraqi security forces." He said it is a "stunning development and reflects the frustration that the Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar have had with Al Qaeda and what Al Qaeda has done to them, to their sheiks, their families, their young men and, frankly, to their businesses and livelihoods. It has really had a devastating effect. And they have said, 'No more,' and stood up and voted with themselves and with their young men."

Petraeus corrected Lehrer's misimpression that large numbers of troops had been pulled out of the countryside to protect Baghdad. Actually, coalition forces are taking on the enemy as they have migrated out of Baghdad, as expected, pursuing them to new fronts.

Asked about how he can see any "progress" in the doubling of deaths among Iraqi police, Petraeus said, "One thing it tells us is that Iraqi security forces, certainly, are on the front lines and are fighting and dying for their country. They are committed to this endeavor." Meanwhile, the Iraqi government, noting the success of recent raids on death squads, eased the Baghdad curfew to 10 p.m. The action came as some Iraqis hailed the improved security. One woman, Layla, noted that shops were beginning to reopen on the shell-pocked main street of her neighborhood, which once bustled with juice stands, coffee shops, hamburger restaurants and small kitchenware stores.

So, where's the bad news in the story? Just as so many stories don't report the good news, I'm leaving out the bad. It seems only fair when The New York Times, for example, reported Petraeus' comments deep in a story headlined: "Bush Acknowledges Americans Weary of Iraq War." And only briefly, missing the positive comments. In the news business, what's "normal" isn't usually reported because, by definition, it isn't news. Unless it is in a country that is supposedly in ever-deepening chaos. Then the rare appearance of normality, indeed, should be news. But the appearance of normality in Iraq doesn't get reported. Maybe that means that the media consider the increasing normality in Iraq the norm. Or maybe it's just bad reporting.


Anonymous said...

Six GI's have just had the worst Easter Sunday of their lives, thousands of Iraqi's have taken to the streets demanding that we end the occupation, and you are still telling us that everything is OK. You sound like Saddam Hussein's PR guy that kept saying that everything was OK. Keep up the good work Dennis - you sicken me.

Anonymous said...

Finally someone has dared to print the truth. I have heard it from numerous soldiers on their return -the good that is being done but the truth does not get votes. Please continue to write the good-my son recieved "the call" the day before his 21st birthday. He will be deployed in January.His comment"mom this is what I'm trained to do" May God watch over all our military and bring peace to allthe world.

Stephen Schade said...

Mr. Byrne:

The Iraq war has something in common with a domestic issue. No matter how many drug busts are made, the war on drugs never ends.

Anonymous said...


I'm still waiting to see a column of yours that couldn't have been written by Karl Rove. Does Rove pay you to write this trash? Does Rove write it for you?

Bradford said...

Journalism newsflash - the perspective of one source does not the truth make. Especially considering that one source is in a position to be very biased regarding the war in Iraq. How on earth can you justify writiing an article that only uses the opinion of one person? If you only talk to the big bad wolf after watching goldilocks, you tend to get a different spin on the whole story, Dennis.

Anonymous said...

The Chicago Tribune has reported in the same week as your column that the Pentagon wil be extending the stays of soldiers in Irag past standard deployment. Last Monday, on the anniversary of the toppling of Saddam's statue, the Iraqi people came out to demand America leave the country. Let's not forget the Tribune headlines on Thursday regarding the bombing of the Iraqi parliament, which indicates a huge breach of security. Glad you were there to let everyone know that things are actually getting better.

Dennis Byrne said...

Time for a reading lesson for some of my readers: I did not say that “everything was OK.” Nor did I suggest, as one correspondent privately wrote, that it’s safe enough to vacation in Baghdad with my kids. Nor did I imply that one source makes the truth, or pretend that the general was an objective source.

In fact, my point was quite the opposite: that the legacy media, such as the New York Times, rarely quotes the “other side,” such as the general, and when it does, it buries his remarks and picks out a remark that can fail to represent the thrust of what he was saying.

In journalism, the standard practice is supposed to be something called presenting both sides of the story, which appears—in my more than my 35 years in the business—to be an ethic that has been shipped off to the hospice.

chrisknitz said...

Dennis, why can these people not see the news stories for what they are? One sided. There is a report that the Iraqi "people" came out to protest America's involvement. Was there verification of who these "people" were. How many had Iraqi citizenship? How many were part of the Bathist Regime? How many were truly interested in a free Iraq? I know the problems of Iraq are there, but there is also good, and we do not see enough of those kinds of stories from the mainstream media. I am continually amazed at how people take what they hear on TV as fact without looking into it. Like the Global Warming issue. Thanks for your Hollywood Hypocrisy story.