Between the high voter turn-out for elections, and the huge turn-out of people for recruiting drives, there is good news coming out of Iraq. I have no doubt that a good number of the people applying for the Iraqi Army do so because it's the best paying, honest work that can be found. Although I don't need the reminder, I do keep Dreadcow's observations about the military media machine in mind. The media is a huge beast encompassing everything from the major networks, to cable news, to national publications, to local papers, to blogs, to free indie jobs who support their publication through personal ads, and even Jon Stewart. One of the few things I've learned through my nearly 3 decades on this mortal coil is that women feel soft, smell good, and are pure evil. Another thing I've learned is that the truth and facts are out there. You just need to look at a couple places to find them.
A little over a week ago I'd kinda touched on the topic of what we see, and what's actually happening. In a war torn country, where suicide and IED attacks are common, 400 men lined up to try and join the army. That's a huge accomplishment and it's something that needs publicity beyond the USMC's website. Blackfive is the one who broke the story to me, and he gets as many visitors in a day as I have since I started. But it's still a drop in the bucket. In a just and fair world a story about 400 men appliying for the Army and 179 being accepted, would immediatly follow, or preceed a story about an attack against the recruits. Maybe to try and show the contrast. Maybe to show that, despite the dangers, people are willing to take the risk because they think it's worth. Hell, the reporter could even spin it as the poor, easily manipulated Iraqis being bought with filthy American dollars to further the interests of Halliburton and Bushco. But it receives no mention, and that is my frustration. Because I'm a "solution" oriented kinda guy, here's my suggestion, reporters feel free to use it as you wish.
"This week insurgents/terrorists/freedom fighters (choose whichever euphamism your paper/network/blog prefers, I'm flexible) attack an Iraqi Army base in Mosul, targeting Iraqis applying to join the Iraqi Army. 17 applicants were killed, another 30 were wounded. The wounded were taken to the US Army base at Tall Afar for treatment. Elsewhere in Iraq, 400 Iraqis applied to join the Iraqi Army, and 179 were accepted by recruiting officials in the western province of Al Anbar. Security for the mobile recruiting effort was provided by Marines of th 1st Bn, 7th Regt and the Iraqi Security Forces."
Maybe I'm just too stupid or naive, but that quick paragraphs seems, to me at least, to convey what happened, with a minimum of opinion. It provides both the good (lots of people wanting to join) and the bad (some of those that join are being targeted by insurgents). And that's all I ask for from my news, what happened. These events don't happen in a vacuum, but they're treated like they are. If all someone hears about is the attacks against Iraqi police and army recruits, how can someone not think "Why the hell do these people keep volunteering? They're always getting attacked and killed." Since the sheer volumne of people applying, and the fact that it's happening all across Iraq, never makes it to the mass media, that question goes unanswered.
Thursday I was talking with my newest enlistee, a HS senior named Mr. 2000. He asked me about Iraq and how long I thought we'd be there. I answered the way I usually do "Probably a while, hell, we're still in Germany and WWII has been over for 60 years." Anyways, we got to talking about how the war will end and I remarked that it's something that will just... stop. Sometime in the hopefully not too distant future the attacks will simply dry up. There's going to be no formal surrender, no turning in of weapons, all that will happen, and is happening, will the people get sick of it. Terrorists will be turned in. Some neighbor will call the cops because he knows the guy down the street as some old artillery shells in his basement. The insurgency will end with a whimper, not a bang. And it's something that will go unnoticed by the majority of Americans getting their news from the traditional media.
In his New Historical Baseball Abstrat Bill James talks about a change that happened in baseball in the early 80s. When he attened games back the James talked about how there were always loud, obnoxious drunks in the stands. Not happy, fun, buzzed people, but the sort of drunks who gives drunks a bad name. Then, and James noticed it for the first time at a game in 1984, it just stopped. Baseball developed a multi-layered plan of increasing security, decreasing vendors, restricting sales, and educating vendors on signs someone is drunk. The problem of drunks fighting, throwing things onto the field and at players, just dried up. "Something that odesn't happen isn't news," was James' take on the situation. It's my opinion that's what's going to happen in Iraq. It won't be a nice, neat downward slope, but the number, size, scope, and casualities caused will trend downward. There were a lot of unsecured munitions in Iraq, between Iraq-Iran leftovers, Gulf War leftovers, weapons caches stored by Saddam's regeime, and weapons imported from Iran, Syria, and any other bordering states that's a whole lot of supplies. But they are finite and can be controlled.
All the munitions in the world are useless without someone to use it. There are only so many people willing to strap an artillery shell to their chest and walk into a check point. Granted, you only need one, but finding that one will get harder and harder. Iraq isn't Palestine where a whole generation of people have been brought up believing in the rightousness of martyrdom. Saddam isn't paying the next of kin a bounty greater than they'd earn in a lifetime. You've got to be a very, very deep believer in a cause to willingly blow yourself up. Each successful, and unsuccesful, suicide bomber is one fewer person willing to fight. When insurgents do attack Soldiers, and increasingly when they attack the Iraqi Army, they die. Again, fewer people. Intelligence is starting to pay off in successful strikes against insurgent houses. In a raid where 50 people are swept up, 48 of the people could be nothing more than innocent bystanders, or foot soldiers. But those one or two leaders or technicians are very vaulable to have off the streets.
I remember reading about how the Israelis made it a point to target the Palestinian bombmakers. People willing to blow themselves up were a dime a dozen, but the people capable of making stable, quality bombs were few and far between. It seems that amateur, self-taught bombmakers are a very small group. Something about "Natural Selection" taking care of those who weren't any good. So removing one bombmaker via arrest or Stinger missile had the effect of reducing the number of attacks until a replacement could be found. Iran probably can't afford to export all of their terrorist expertise into a losing cause in their neighbor. As long as America can hold our resolve, and the Iraqis resist the peanut gallery cheering for their destruction, the attrition will work to our benefit.
In the end the war is going to be won or lost on the home fronts. Despite the hopes of some, it would take a very exceptional event to happen which would result in the military defeat of the US. Iraq's home front deals with the war every day. Even in the Kurdish north patrols have to be vigilant against intrusion from the insurgents to the South. Here in the US though there is no visible sign of conflict. The economy is good, people aren't unemployed, American Idol keeps polluting the airwaves, it's all quiet on the home front. Many are worried that it's too good. Unless you live near a base, or have family or close friends in the service, you're not affected by the war. Personally, I think a more responsible media would be able to educate and inform people that there is a war on, and do so in a manner that's neither propaganda or jingostic, or urging activly for our defeat. As it is right now the majority of our news sources do a poor job of educating, and are so afraid of appearing to be a "machine" of the government that they push themselves into being useful idiots for the insurgency. It's a lose-lose situation for everyone who we don't want to lose. The citizenry remains uninformed, and the media loses money because people go elsewhere. The only people winning are those we're fighting against. That's sub-optimal.
I don't want a "rah rah, kick em in the knee!" kind of media. Objective reporting of both sides would be nice. Leaving the International Zone and not relying on stringers providing stories straight from the insurgency would be nice as well. Maybe not accepting photographs and stories from people who seem a bit "too" connected to insurgents, or at least questioning their motivations as much as they question that of the administration. Maybe finally putting Helen Thomas out to pasture would be a good start.
I guess my point is, and if you've waited this long for it I apologize and thank you for enduring the pain (love ya mom!), there is good news that only gets reported by the military and by those that follow the military. The other 290 million Americans are left without that bit of knowledge. It's not a good situation.