There never seems to be a shortage of bad news coming out of Iraq, and the deaths of eight American soldiers Monday merely add to a cacophony of stories about terrorist bombings and lives damaged or lost in a war half a world away.
These stories, once a continual barrage, are more sporadic in recent months, but their tone and subject matter rarely deviate from a template, where only the dates, numbers, and names change.
And yet, violence is down significantly in Iraq, and there is news other than the drone of death. It simply goes unreported.
Michael Totten is one of a rare breed; a western reporter in Iraq that does not report for a wire service or news agency. He survives on direct reader contributions to fund his travels and reporting. His recent reports from Al Farris and Fallujah are anything but combat stories, speaking more of the tedium of uneventful patrolling and the tedious process of rebuilding that the wire services tend to ignore.
Make no mistake: some parts of Iraq are still very much a war zone, and American forces still fight. But there is far more to the experience of American forces in Iraq than the dreary recounting of casualties enumerated after infrequently successful enemy attacks.
Far more frequent are the mostly unreported stories of Americans and Iraqis defeating terrorist cells, one by one. Another independent reader-supported journalist on the ground in Iraq, Michael Yon, recounts the bravery of one such group of American pilots in his most recent dispatch from Mosul, the city where al Qaeda in Mesopotamia intends to make its “last stand.”
Guitar Heroes chronicles the bravery of a group of American soldiers, Kiowa helicopter pilots that often engage terrorist cells at near rooftop level, at ranges so close that pilots engage the insurgents below them with rifles instead of rockets. You won’t read many stories such as these in the New York Times or USA Today. More than willing to publish one story after another alleging how our military and our soldiers are being broken, these national media outlets seem loath to print the stories of heroism and success being written by American and Iraqi patriots.
These same media organizations devoted thousands of column inches to an anti-war radical in August of 2005 for the simple act of sitting on a ditchbank in Crawford, Texas to protest the war. The coverage these news organizations afforded Cindy Sheehan has rarely been afforded supporters of the war, even those that have a far more informed firsthand opinion that most anti-war activists lack.
A startling case of “stories ignored” is happening right now, but you are unlikely to read about it.
Dennis McCool is 60 years old, the veteran company commander of Charlie Company, 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Airborne in Vietnam who served his nation from 1965 to 1985. He volunteered to serve his country yet again, and was stationed in Iraq from December of 2006 to December of 2007.
Marc Breslow, 56, served in four combat zones during his 26 years of service, and retired in 2000. He was recalled for a final military tour with Multi-National Force Iraq HQ in 2006.
Carl Heerup is a bit younger at 51, and graduated from ROTC at UC-Berkley, and served in the regular Army and Reserves between 1977 and 2003. He feels that the United States never should have invaded Iraq, and yet he “un-retired” to spend 2006 in Iraq because he feels we have a legal and moral obligation to win the war we started.
These men formed the core of a group called Resolve to Win that began on March 1 a nearly 400-mile march from the North Carolina/South Carolina border to Washington DC. They plan to conquer 25 miles a day, arriving at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on March 16, in advance support of General David Petraeus, who will be reporting to Congress in early April.
This is a not a “pro-war” march. Major Heerup, in fact, says pointedly that in his opinion, deciding to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. None of these men could be described as “pro-war.”
The reason is to show support for the Troops and the Mission of the Troops. The purpose is to demonstrate resolve to do a difficult task and to create a dialogue about our National “Will to Win”. We firmly believe that you can not support the Troops without supporting the Mission which the Troops are asked to give their lives for. The Troops are resolved to win and over 3900 brave men and women have sacrificed their lives for America and for victory. Sacrificing your life demonstrates the greatest possible sacrifice and resolve. The march will cover over 400 miles, but if it were not incredibly challenging, it would mean nothing.
To honor the resolve and sacrifice of those who have died here, we must “Resolve to Win” in Iraq. To protect our way of life and insure that our children do not have to re-engage this enemy in 5 or 10 years, we must “Resolve to Win”, here and now.
They are now more than halfway through their journey, but you haven’t read about them on A1 of the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, or Newsweek, despite undertaking a task far more compelling than the Texas ditch-sitting that so enthralled these media giants for days at a time less than two years ago.
If you have read about these men or their self-selected mission, you must have stumbled across the Dunn Daily Record, the Fayetteville Observer, or other local newspapers and television and radio stations along the route.
There is a messy, often contradictory reality of life in wartime and there are tremendous difficulties in covering such conflicts objectively. With rare exceptions, the professional media has embraced the far easier route of storytelling, excising and excusing those stories that run counter to the collective narrative of how the war should be going they’ve developed over five years.
The national media has decided on their preferred storyline of an inevitable defeat, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the mundane process of rebuilding reported by Totten is ignored, the bravery revealed by Yon bypassed, and the efforts of McCool, Breslow, and Heerup sniffed at, and then quickly and quietly discarded.
It is no wonder that an American public saturated under such a media onslaught holds views of the war quite contrary to those who are actually in Iraq.
Overwhelmingly our troops are fighting to win because they view it as a war not only worth winning, but actively being won.
One can only imagine how different our national perception of the war may be if our media took the same approach.
Bob Owens blogs at Confederate Yankee.