Media Downplays Progress in Iraq

If there is one thing for which the mainstream media can be counted on, it is distraction from any positive news regarding the war in Iraq. Iraq’s constitutional referendum is no exception.

The mainstream media’s contempt for all things Iraq again became strikingly apparent to me on Sunday, when I watched a story on poppy growth and heroin production in Afghanistan on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

Where is the news here, CBS? Afghanistan has been the world’s leader of poppy production since before I was born. The piece forwarded allegations of corruption from suspiciously unnamed government officials and advisors, and reported that (gasp!) US military forces were ill-equipped to police poppy farmers. So what if President Bush’s Evil-War-of-False-Pretenses is progressing after all, his Justified Liberation of a Terrorist-led Nation is . . . uh . . .not going well enough, or something.

Buried at the end of the segment was the admission that, yes, the government has “stepped up” a “modest” poppy eradication program – and the number of acres of poppy dropped by 20 per cent this year.

Despite CBS’s seeming attempt to counteract undeniably positive news with shallow implications of bad news, the real story of the week comes from Iraq. According to the latest reports, about 10 million Iraqis, in the range of 60-63% of the population, voted in a referendum to approve a constitution. Not only is this an increase in voter turnout from the January 30 parliamentary elections, the increase is attributed largely to the previously alienated Sunni population. Successful security surrounding the elections was largely handled by Iraqi forces, not Americans. If the referendum passes, as is predicted, a new permanent government will be in place by December 31 – only three years and a few months since Saddam Hussein last won 100 per cent of the vote to office.

Sure, there is still much more progress to be made in Iraq, and the situation could always deteriorate. But the reality is that the situation hasn’t been deteriorating – it has been slowly and stubbornly improving. Iraqis are embracing the democratic process. They negotiated to create a more inclusive constitution in the critical weeks leading up to the vote. They are showing up to vote, both yes and no, in proportions rivaling American turnout for the 2004 presidential election. They are beginning to protect themselves against a shrinking insurgency.

Yet when reading many of the nation’s newspapers and watching network news, there is still an orchestrated sense of doom and gloom about Iraq. The constitution is too weak. There are cultural divides among Iraq’s people. There is the looming threat of a civil war. A New York Times editorial on Monday couldn’t even find a positive thought for the “flawed constitution,” instead choosing to criticize the imposition of “arbitrary calendar deadlines” by the Bush administration. Then again, this is no surprise, since the editors and op-ed contributors to the New York Times might be the most miserable people on the face of the earth.

In their fickle attempts to oppose the President and his administration, the media continually underestimates the Iraqi people. To me, this is the most disheartening part of coverage of the War in Iraq: as the enemy utilizes the international media and the Internet to carry out their propaganda war, the American media cannot even bring themselves to proportionately cover legitimate progress and positive outlooks for the war. The tragically misspoken Cindy Sheehan is portrayed as a hero, while the turnover of power to Iraqi security forces in Najaf, Karbala,and parts of Baghdad are quiet page-two stories.

Does anybody have any faith in the integrity of the Iraqi people? They aren’t stupid; they aren’t barbaric. We’re not trying to teach a pig to fly; we’re helping an oppressed group of people gain liberty and prosperity on their own terms. Iraqis enjoy watching their children blown up in the streets no more than Americans like seeing bodies carried home in flag-draped boxes. Amidst all the changing details, propaganda, confusion, threats of violence, and cultural differences, Iraqis are willing to take the laborious steps necessary on the road to becoming a free and prosperous nation.

It is time that everybody in the mainstream media halt their assaults: President Bush can’t be elected president again in 2008. The real issue at hand for the benefit of America and the world is finding ways to continue progress in Iraq. The ideological and geographical haven for Al-Qaeda in Iraq is slowly being eliminated. The Iraqi people have shown commitment to establishing democracy in the face of endless skepticism.

It is time to find some sort of balance in reporting the good and bad coming from Iraq – which most likely means CBS will have to do better than poppy production.