Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good News From Iraq? There Must be Something Wrong Here

A half-dozen items from the last 24 hours of news about Iraq jumped out at me. Being a recovering high school teacher, I found myself writing a pop quiz about them.

Which item does not belong in this list?
  1. "Details of Iraq pact reveal US debacle"
    Asia Times Online (Hong Kong) (October 24, 2008)
  2. "Two-Year Anniversary of the Only Missing Iraq War Soldier "
    Newsweek (October 23, 2008)
  3. "Bill Hemmer Visits Baghdad Park Once Used to Launch Terror Attacks"
    FOXNews (October 23, 2008)
  4. "Widows testify in case of Iraq officer killings"
    Associated Press (October 23, 2008)
  5. "Eleven killed as bomber targets Iraq minister's convoy"
    AFP (October 23, 2008)
  6. "Washington warns Baghdad about rejecting security deal"
    Minneapolis Star-Tribune (October 22, 2008)
Answer: C.

Review: News about Iraq is grim. In this list, we see articles about
  1. A US debacle involving an Iraq pact
  2. A sad story of an American soldier missing for two years in Iraq
  3. An account focusing on one park, illustrating how life in Baghdad, Iraq, is returning to normal
  4. The trial of American soldiers forced to kill their own officers
  5. Almost a dozen people killed in the ongoing violence in Iraq
  6. The American government trying to force Iraq into an unwanted agreement
Articles A, B, D, E, and F are normal news coverage of events in Iraq. They contain the correct sort of information:
  • American blunders
  • American losses
  • Fragged officers
  • Death tolls
  • American bullying
Article C, which deals with Iraqis playing soccer and having picnics where terrorists launched missiles recently, is clearly out of place.

Am I being unfair in my assessment of the 'correct' five articles? A little, perhaps. But pay attention to the news: isn't that what we're told, day after day? Accounts of rebuilt roads, repaired hospitals, and business returning to normal are few and far between.

Part of this is due to the nature of news. Traffic running smoothly isn't news; a ten-car pileup downtown is.

Even assuming that there's no preference for publishing articles demonstrating appalling cost and futility of America's failed policies in Iraq (the ones that replaced rocket launchers with soccer and picnics), I think it's important for readers to remember that shock, death, disaster, and body counts are what make it into print. For the most part.

One More Thing: A Change of Prayer

Here's another article that doesn't belong in 'news from Iraq:'
  • "U.S. Troops See Little Combat in Anbar Province, Once Iraq's Most Dangerous Area"
    FOXNEWS (October 23, 2008)
    • "HADITHA, Iraq — In one of the world's most heavily armed congregations, the prayers of U.S. Marines are changing. When the Navy chaplain in Haditha trades his Kevlar vest for a priest's alb, he hears less about surviving today's battle and more about the future.
    • ""Many of them are concerned with trying to maintain that sort of relationship with their wives or girlfriends; that comes up. The second thing is their future — a lot of them are at that age where they are trying to decide what they want to do" said Chaplain Paul Shaughnessy.
    • "There is time to think about that future now because the daily fighting is over in Anbar province, home of Fallujah, Ramadi and Haditha — what was once the most dangerous part of Iraq.
I suppose that's more of a human interest story: not news.

As I've said a few times now, when you read the news, please: think!

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.