58 Words.

June 2009


In the Tuesday May 26th edition of the Wall Street Journal Iraq was mentioned only once. Precisely fifty-eight words on page A13. Below the fold. Only five dozen words and a few inches of column space that day on Trade Minister Falah al-Sudani’s resignation amidst allegations of corruption. On the Journal’s front page, news of Pyongyang’s pomposity, an article on “The Culture of Bling” (lamenting that hard times have hobbled Hip-Hop artists’ ability to buy diamonds and gold), and a center-page expose on our own crack-down on corporate bribes, corruption and scandal. This front page layout confirmed what I already knew: the North Koreans are unpredictable, “The Culture of Bling” is ridiculous, and corruption in government is not limited to Baghdad. And just fifty-eight words on Iraq.

All of this struck me as interesting (and sad and shameful) because there is actually a wealth of good news to report from Iraq these days and the American public isn’t hearing these stories. Instead of “good news from the front”, the stories that received the ink and press real estate that day in the Journal (and every other paper of record for that matter) were features on American Idol, drug abuse in baseball, and another plunge on Wall Street.

These days, fifty-eight words on a corrupt Iraqi Trade Minister. Just 18 months ago, 5800 words on civil war, death, chaos, ethno-sectarian violence and the aimless Iraq war that would have no chance for victory. Pundits would daily pound soft fists on keyboards in passionate defense of why America would lose in Iraq. And at times they were right. We did enter the war with bad intelligence. The Bush Administration did choose to focus on WMD. The Pentagon did not predict the effects of a post-invasion peace, a disbanded army, home-grown violence or Al Qaeda infiltration. The State Department did not have the answer to the challenges of Kirkuk, the rough tides of ancient tribal politics, or introducing democracy to the non-secular Islamic masses. And the Bush Administration never seemed to deliver a clear message to the American public. Things were bad. They often are in war. But things got better…and the stories stopped.

What happened in Iraq since 2005 and why is no one writing about it?

What happened was a lot of things all at once. Al Qaeda over-played their hand, destroyed the Askariya Shrine, revealed a truly corrupt and bankrupt ethos, and alienated Sunni sympathizers; Sunni and Shiite battled each other in the streets of Baghdad, tired, and sought détente; SOCOM relentlessly pursued high value collaborators and enemy leadership; the Sons of Iraq patrolled their neighborhoods and pushed AQI to the seams, Marines and Soldiers walked the earth during the Surge; security tightened; violence dropped by 80%; the Iraqi army grew and was trained; local governments moved forward; the population eased; 300 new businesses started in the first half of 2008 alone; schools re-opened; oil revenue grew; refugees moved home and literally scores of other pivotal factors and turning points of personality, social condition, money-politics, tribal diplomacy, a lot of time, a little luck, and a inestimable degree of hard work and sacrifice by thousands upon thousands of U.S. servicemen and women, happened.

As for why no one is writing about Iraq these days, I see two reasons: 1.) Journalists aren’t historians and 2.) Integrity is lost in the main stream media.

To start, journalists are professionals trained in the art of capturing a single moment. They lack the historian’s eye trained to capture and make sense of a series of moments. Where the pundits, politicians and journalists have always found the chaos of war anomalous, historians have always understood it as the way of things. Historians understand that beneath the fabric of that chaos are the factors and conditions that will determine outcome, or in some cases, have determined outcome.

Historians will write their judgments of Iraq once they gain the perspective they require to complete their complex calculus. Journalists don’t have that kind of time. The Iraq story is less-violent, less-messy, and less-provocative than it was last year. It’s altogether less-interesting. And so they turn to more marketable stories of American Idol pageantry, Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, and greedy Wall Street tycoons drying off from their morning shower with piles of your 401k money.

And while this is all very frustrating, I get it. Totally understandable. Cash, violence, and live entertainment…what can I say, I’m a Marine, it sounds like a good night of liberty. But then there’s this lack of integrity thing, which is a little harder to stomach.

If journalism was in fact a business first, it would make sense to me that they write whatever it takes to sell papers (about things like drugs, violence and bankers showering with money, for example). But I don’t think journalism is about business first. I think journalism is about discovery first. It’s about honest and fair reporting. It’s about digging up stories, holding people accountable and other things I can’t remember.

I do remember what Bob Woodward told me when I met him back in 2003 as a Midshipman in Admiral Crowe’s National Security Studies class at Annapolis. He told me that a free press is the bedrock of any free nation and that journalists should aspire to be the watch dogs of this country. I also remember thinking he had a nicely cut grey suit, great hair and that he must have had plenty of pretty girls chase after him in his day.

But the steel-eyed and measured approach of an iconic Woodward is lost to a bumbling and soft new age. And what we have is a story in Iraq that isn’t over being lived, but finished being told. While it is true we are morally, fiscally, spiritually, politically (and really in all ways) exhausted with Iraq, there is still reporting to be done. Integrity includes “finish what you started,” “dance with the girl ya brung”, or any related measure of sound southern wisdom. Americans are still fighting this war. Still losing sons and daughters. We still have a great stake in how this story ends and deserve to hear how it unfolds.

And then I wonder if editors across the nation missed a chance to write 5800 words on the great progress in Iraq? Or if the Wall Street Journal got it right in what their fifty-eight words implied and only a few short years ago I would have never believed:

Today a member of the Government of Iraq (an internationally recognized government most said could never exist) broke the law (a law that was ratified by a democratically elected Iraqi Congress in an open election) and will be tried before his fellow citizens (with due process and the full rights of the accused) and if found guilty (in an independent Iraqi court), will be held accountable for his offense.

Now that I read it this way, fifty-eight words was just enough.

Posted by Alexander Martin in Foreign Policy
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  • Actually there are plenty of words being written about Iraq-you just have to know where to look for them.

    Today’s news market is all about niche’s. If you read those niche’s that discuss the Middle East, you can find plenty of discussions about Iraq and they are focused on two big issues:

    1) Will the US pull out per the SOFA?

    2) Will the Iraqi government really prove up to the challenge-or will it revert to crushing Sunni’s?

    I hope the answer is yes on 1) and I’d say the jury is out on 2).

  • Welcome to our newest blogger. Watch out Alex, this is a tough crowd!

    ASM, American. Captain Alexander Martin was born in the shadow of the first ever Rubik’s Cube World Championships, The Falkland’s War, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the death of Ayn Rand. (John Belushi also died.) He is most importantly the son of Jackie and Kurt and brother to Jack and Ashly. He is a sailing enthusiast and also enjoys day drinking. ASM is currently a Marine Force Reconnaissance platoon commander, and has also served as an Infantry and Reconnaissance platoon commander. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and blogs about “War & Women” at http://warandwomen.blogspot.com/. ASM lives in La Jolla, California, where he was raised.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Nicely put.

    Sherman had it right on reporters.

    Just my opinion. Exceptions may exist.

    Welcome aboard.

  • Byron

    Welcome, Captain! If things get a little rough, just yell out for URR and myself, we’ll come running 😉

    Your first post here is dead on the mark. What you missed saying was the fourth estate that spent the past 5 years telling us how badly this was going to turn out, surely doesn’t want to admit that just maybe they were wrong. So, to cover their expensively clad behinds, they just don’t report on anything good.

  • Dee Illuminati

    If it bleeds it leads. Sadly journalism isn’t what many of us would want it to be. There is a remarkable difference between say C-SPAN in the morning on the radio where more than one point of view is heard.

    Many people take little regard to the information or food that they consume. They might be able to relate the latest celebrity divorce detail and not be able to tell you the interest rate that is on their mortgage.

    That is why blogs that have a focus and have editors that genuinely create content that is original are valued, that is why people who sniff before they consume an idea might as an example read here.

    Irrespective of the point of view of an educated reader, the news media disapoints. I think that the future is blogs for that reason and that the ability to project a message consistently (and perhaps accurately or balanced) is why the new media format is essential.

    I have often wondered if I would not be better off happy to be actually entertained by WWF wrestling, to find hillarity in sitcom reruns and laugh tracks?

    In respect to the media.. I feel your pain

  • Andre from Sacto

    “What you missed saying was the fourth estate that spent the past 5 years telling us how badly this was going to turn out, surely doesn’t want to admit that just maybe they were wrong.”

    It did turn out badly. When it started going south you blamed the media for delivering the bad news. The media didn’t make your side look stupid, your side made your side look stupid.

    Try some of the coffee, it has accountability in it.

  • Byron

    Andre, so glad to hear the left coast speak! I expect that former President Bush (I’m sure you have a few pejoratives to mix in there) felt that accountability when he met a fair percentage of the families of those lost in action, and hand wrote (that’s by himself, in his own hand, you know, that ‘accountability’ thing) every other family.

    And by your standards, exactly how did it turn out badly?

  • Armitage

    This is a good post. Historians are starting, slowly, to look at this over the long view. It may well be that the ‘Long War’ saw the end of the beginning (but not the beginnng of the end) in Iraq with the defeat of Al Qaeda there. The defeat came through the universal discrediting of its ideology–we will not likely see another instance of a nation coming so close to coming under Al Qaeda’s sway. That doesn’t mean the war is over, or that it will all end well. But it does mean that we (the historians) will be forced to think very carefully about what it all means and what “success” means in this instance.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Very well put. Many, many things we were told (sometimes face to face by media types) were impossible, were pipe dreams, have come to pass. I was once asked, as the first question of a media interview in Ramadi, “How does it feel to fight in an illegal war?” Good, unbiased journalism.

    Perhaps Andre up there can help with exhuming the rest of the mass graves to find the half a million Iraqis still missing from the last decade of Saddam’s regime. Somehow I doubt it, though. Bet he will stay safe and protected while he criticizes.

  • Where you sit determines what you see. If you are an Iraqi-and part of the Malaki approved preferred customers, the war turned out pretty well. If you are one of the 4 million dispossesed in the “Iraqi brain drain” or the almost 1 million Iraqis that have been killed over the last six years-it probably did not did not turn out so well.

    If you are an American, who has had to watch the expenditure of precious American lives, over a trillion dollars of money that could have been used for better purposes-and as a weekend bonus metastized the disease of terrorism to at least 20- 25 other countries and pissed the rest of the region off at us-it has most definitely not ended well. All the wishful thinking in the world cannot eliminate the damage that the Iraq war did to our relations with the rest of the Middle East. It has prevented us from moving ahead with respect to a host of other challenges, and it has prevented the military from pursuing much needed re-capitalization to be prepared to compete in the multi-polar world that the War on Terror has helped to accelerate the arrival of.

    And at the end of the day, if we leave in 2011 as we are supposed to under the SOFA and Iraq simply votes or coups itself another strongman, which is quite likely given that the deals that Petraeus patched together are beginning to unwind slowly. Is it success if you merely return back to the point you started from? Different actors maybe-same script.

    The real winners? The nations that like Russia, China, Turkey, and India that sat this one out-so as to work on their own issues and so in turn will emerge from the current decade in a more competitive position, thanks to their major competitor being distracted in Iraq and Afghanistan for most of the first decade in the 21’st century.

    Finally, URR, the fact that some good may come from the presence of US forces in a location ( those mass graves you talk about) does not-in the end-still make it the right thing to have done in the long run. Unless in the same line you can explain to me how it was alright to intervene there-and not in the any one of ten other countries in the world where similar horrors continue unabated. We can’t do it all-and the choices we make have to be for ourselves.

    There is only one bench mark that can be used to judge “success” in Iraq: “Did it advance the long term interests of the US worldwide”? By that standard, the answer is unequivocally “NO”.

  • This is a strange historiographical assertion:

    “Where the pundits, politicians and journalists have always found the chaos of war anomalous, historians have always understood it as the way of things.”

    The notion that “war is the way of things” strikes me as somewhat strangely spun. War is a potential means of affecting an outcome, “politics by other means,” and fairly common, but I doubt you’ll find many historians who would say it is “the way of things.”

    I think most historians would say, perhaps along the lines of Hobbes–not a historian, but nonetheless–that a primary function of states is to erase so-called “private wars.” Some did this by means of public wars, which tended to become the basis of their economies though once the logistical limits of their time were reached, their economies began to peter out, and the basis of the state ended–as in Rome. But most, like Ancient Egypt, for example, spent most of their time in peace–and ensuring “the King’s peace,” though that is obviously an anachronistic way of describing how the peace was kept in the Old Kingdom. Either way, states that fail to put the kibosh on private wars fail period.

    This is one reason why the period immediately following the end of the Saddam administration is, and was, so perplexing to so many.

    Further, it is not clear to me, with oil being exported by the KRG without the say-so of Baghdad, and without the oil contractors being paid, with the Shi’a parties considering going back to a grand alliance, with Turkey refusing to allow enough water into Iraq for its agricultural sector to function, with a PM who wants to establish a praetorian guard, with a Grand Ayatollah who could legitimately claim that the IRI’s government is not legitimate, and a young militia leader studying to become another Grand Ayatollah capable of ruling on the Constitutionality of the IRI’s laws, with low oil prices forcing budget cuts but the alternative of high oil prices destroying the economies of the states that prop Baghdad up, that this period of relative quiet will continue for long–and especially if the US armed forces leave.

    But it is silly to beatify historians. Historians are–and always have been–about selling tree pulp, making their names and making a living, just like journalists. Indeed some of the most priceless source material is journalism.

    War is the way of things where states do not take root, and the the economic basis for keeping around such rare birds as historians does not exist.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Thanks for the lecture, and the word “unequivocal”.

    I have a couple of questions, though.

    Are the ‘four million dispossessed” and “nearly a million killed” counted by the same people who reported “thousands” of civilian deaths in Ramadi and Fallujah in the Spring of 2004?

    Even assuming accuracy of those figures, are you assigning equal blame to a military who tries (sometimes at great risk) to avoid civilian casualties and to an insurgency that deliberately targets the civilian population?

    The “metastatizing” of terrorism? Is that assuming that Islamic extremists such as AQ did not exist or were not active in places like Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia before March of 2003? If not, I would submit that there is a lack of understanding of the nature of these ideologically driven non-state actors.

    What is an interesting read is the diplomatic traffic between a young united States and those Mohammedan powers with whom we clashed at the beginning of the 19th Century. The tone and tenor of the Middle Easterners then was much as it is now. In fact, some could, with little editing, be Bin Laden’s own words. So, the idea that the Iraq war “damaged” US-Middle Eastern relations in any fundamental way, is highly doubtful.

    And you mention whether we should “make choices for ourselves” because we cannot do it all. Is preventing a major portion of the world’s oil supply from falling under the control of an Islamic terror organization not in our interests? It would certainly seem so in an industrial economy, both ours and our strategic partners’.

    I would submit that deliberate manipulation by the media is not a matter of what bench one sits on. When bad occurrences are emphasized, and others spun deliberately to be negative, facts are creatively expressed to create an implication that is not factual, when positive occurrences are deliberately ignored or overlooked, that is not journalism. To use openly hostile organizations and highly unreliable for their material (Al-Jazeera) and pass those off to the American public as American news sources is patently dishonest. Amid the shill cries of “Civil War” from NBC (a policy decision, as they admitted, and not due to any particular rigor of analysis), America has consistently gotten a slanted and prejudiced view of Iraq.

    My experiences with American reporters was not all negative, but I found the vast preponderance to be highly opinionated, largely anti-military, and some anti-American. There were exceptions. Pam Hess from UPI. Tony Perry from the LA Times. Both did exceptional work, and Miss Hess wrote some brilliant pieces. But most of the rest were startlingly ignorant of the background of the area they were in, and poorly informed of the events at hand. They talked a fair amount about Al-Sadr being a “beloved” figure, a “pied-piper of Iraq’s poor”. And were (perhaps willfully) ignorant of the fact that a great proportion of his “Medhi Army” was Iranian. And that the man was a long way from being “beloved” by anyone.

    You list Iraq as a distraction. And you list Afghanistan as a “distraction”, as well. Even though the Taliban openly supported the organization that attacked us. Are we to fight no wars ever? Even when our national security is threatened? In Iraq, the Kay report in the Fall of 2004 clearly stated that Hussein (theirs, not ours) had desires for nuclear and biological weapons. Would you have gone down the same path as we have of recent with Iran and NK? Could I draw the conclusion that we were “distracted” by fighting the Japanese in 1945 and allowed the Soviets to have half of Europe? because if you lived in Poland or Czechoslovakia, you certainly had “different actors, same script” in the post 1945 world. Does that mean we should have opted out of World War II? After all, fewer people died at Pearl Harbor than died in the WTC.

    Just some questions.

  • Byron

    Excellent points, URR. And the medias incredibly biased reporting of the war (it IS a war, dummy!) was the deciding factor for myself to hunt up other sources of information. That lead me to Blackfive, Major Pain, CDR Salamander, Lex, Armor Geddon, and many others. The most amazing thing about mil blogs is the manner in which they popped out right on the battlefield, and no purer truth can be had than what the shooter himself is seeing.

  • Natty Bowditch

    If we keep lowering expectations about Iraq–it’ll turn out to be a great success.

    Let’s review how far the goalposts have moved.

    We had to invade Iraq because of the imminent threat of WMD.

    Wait..no WMD? Well, we had to get rid of that brutal Saddam ’cause the people of Iraq were yearning for democracy and greet us as liberators.

    Well, maybe not so much liberators, but we dispatched Saddam. Nevermind we also dispatched about 5% of the Saddam-era population and almost 20% are displaced. The economy and infrastructure are on life support with no brain activity.

    Now, Iraq is a good news story? Sure it is if you keep lowering the expectations.

  • Byron

    Got one for you, my liberal friend; of the 5% fatality rate amongts Iraqi civilians, how many of them decided to pick up an AK and decide to do an on the spot Jihad thing? Or when a suicide sets his/her bomb off and it kills one American, but blows to bits 25 Iraqi’s? Just curious, never saw the break down.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    So Natty,

    It sounds as if you wandered through a thriving and peaceful Iraq in the Fall of 2002.

    But here is what you likely would have found had you looked very hard:

    A dilapidated and disintegrating infrastructure of 1950s Soviet-era equipment, with a hodge-podge of some newer equipment, none of which had been maintained.

    A malignant socialism that had taken Iraq from a position of economic power in the region to that of abject poverty since the late 1970s, intentionally making large segments of the populace entirely reliant upon the government for survival.

    A brutal and oppressive regime whose terror apparatus was modeled on the Third Reich. Effectively, I might add.

    A Baghdad-centric government that actively persecuted large portions of its population as a political tool. Illiteracy in Al Anbar estimated at 70-80%.

    A nation of 24 million people with an annual Ministry of Health budget in 2002 of $16 million. That’s almost $0.67 per person. Saddam’s son’s palace in Ramadi, by comparison, was estimated to have cost $9 million.

    I think you will find that Iraq’s economy has grown well past pre-war levels, and that power generation is well ahead of 2002. We repaired very little battle damage, but did spend a lot of time replacing or fixing the cobbled-together national infrastructure that had been so long ignored.

    And when you say we “dispatched” 5% of the population, are you positing that the US killed more than 1.2 million Iraqis? I mean, really. Unless you (like Skippy, above) blame the insurgent attacks against the civilian populace on Americans, as well.

    Show me the 1.2 million figure from a credible source. Otherwise, your comments (and viewpoint) fall into the realm of being slanted, emotionally-charged, and wildly fanciful, having little basis in reality.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    With Skippy and Natty, we will be told next that NOBODY is alive in Iraq.

    As a frame of reference, the reports of “thousands” of civilian deaths in the fighting in April of 2004 in Ramadi and also in Fallujah were false. We planned for a huge humanitarian problem before we went into Fallujah in April 04, but none materialized.

    Why? People got the hell out. Several Iraqis told us that people left to avoid the fighting, and would come back when it was safer.

    The insurgents were burying bodies in the soccer stadium on the eastern side of Ramadi, because they were all military-age men who were killed while engaged in combat. And a great deal of them weren’t Iraqi. But it was dutifully reported by the media that these were “civilian deaths”, intimating that they were innocent victims of the fighting.

    But people continue to swallow that crap. And spout it back on cue.

  • Andre from Sacto


    When one starts the personal attacks I usually chalk up the argument as a win. This one being no exception as we could argue on the intertubes all day long who is tougher than the other. However, tough guy arguments on an anonymous web board makes both parties look pretty ridiculous. Therefore, let us make logical points to one another that rely on proven facts. Here are some facts. The media did not lose the Iraq war. The media did not lose OBL. The media is not at war with the US military or the US itself. In fact, I can tell you that many people in the US media are law-abiding Americans. Many of those who work in the media are prior military. Many have close loved ones in the military. Therefore, to claim that the media has some organized hidden agenda to subvert the gains in the military strikes me as paranoid and delusional at best.

    “And by your standards, exactly how did it turn out badly?”

    We have spent hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars fighting a war with fallacious objective and no clear exit strategy. As far as the SOB who financed the killing of thousands of my fellow citizens… He still is a freeman.

    Your move.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    So Andre, we lost the war? Huh. I spose I should watch MSNBC more. I missed that.

  • Byron

    Sorry, didn’t know that calling someone a “liberal” constituted a “personal” attack. Feel free to call me a “conservative” if you wish. And I wasn’t trying to measure your manliness, I merely asked to to verify what percentage of that 5% fell into which category. If your manhood was offended by that question, please accept my apology.

  • Jay

    Alex — If I had a nickel for every time someone has bleated about media bias…or lack of coverage of “good news” stories…

    Taking one day of the WSJ (focus for the time I have been reading it has really been more on industry and finance, with nods to policy, current events, and culture) proves nothing.

    Your post would have been better served if you looked at overall daily coverage across a spread of 2002-2008+, and provided analysis showing stories & major events.

    Not sure where you could glean that data, but I am sure there are ways. A quick view of the Early Bird will show articles in the major & secondary dailies covering the war.

    Less coverage recently? Of course. I doubt many people would really tune in to view or buy (think advertiser dollars/think market share, think audience) newspapers without conflict. Sunshine stories belong in Reader’s Digest.

    I don’t really think there is a lack of journalistic integrity over this. I do think business decisions do drive coverage more than you (or I) would like.

    The focus is shifting to A’stan. Rightly so. Should have always been the focus.

    Those who predicted a military quagmire in Iraq early on were proven incorrect. The military action outcome was never seriously in doubt. Those who pointed out that the Bush Administration screwed-the-pooch on the “post combat” planning have also been proven correct.

    The jury is still out on post-Surge. We won’t know the outcome of Iraq for some time to come, I would venture a decade, perhaps longer.

    I think the embedded reporters program provided less “biased” reporting.

    Skippy-san is pretty much spot-on. I hope Iraq doesn’t end up being seen as a horrific waste. I still fear it might.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    That pile of nickels would be a lot smaller than the pile of nickels from people who recognize the media bias. Even the outlets themselves have had to come to grips with it.

  • Byron

    @URR: Ah yup.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    URR: Bias implies an unthinking prejudice. Jay says business decisions determine what stories are sought, or if unsought, get spiked. So no bias, since business decisions are thought out.

    It was never personal, it was business.

    Is honest reporting of the world wide events of the day less important than business? Some used to think it WAS the news business. Now we have journalism. Based on business decisions.

    Me thinks we’ve been getting the business for some time now.
    Rather than honest reporting of the world wide news.

    Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    “So no bias, since business decisions are thought out”

    I don’t let the media off that easy. Without doubt, business decisions flavor what is reported, but the bias flavor HOW it is reported. The fact that greater than 90% of news media voted against a Republican candidate in every election since 1980 is significant. To think that such a monolithic viewpoint does not affect objectivity is more than a little naive. Ditto for college campuses.

  • Andre from Sacto

    Accountability. I’ll eat it if its my sandwich.
    Sorry Bryon, I juxtaposed your comments in with URR’s “Bet he will stay safe and protected while he criticizes.” Although, when you open up with “Left Coaster” you too might sound like a partisan flammer.

    Bryon & URR, we could flame war all day long. But this isn’t the place for me to correct your ill-informed views. This is a Navy blog. There are PLENTY of message boards were we can engage in the great American pastime of calling each other nitwits. However, there will be no honest, informative discussion of the subject matter that interest us all. Lets keep the Navy blogs about the Navy and her ships. I suggest that the USNI keep its blogs focused on this goal. Go elsewhere for political shenanigans.

  • Byron

    URR, read the third to last line in Granpa’s comment:

    “Me thinks we’ve been getting the business for some time now”

    I think maybe you missed it. Myself, well, I gotta go clean the monitor now 😉

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Politics, Andre?

    We are discussing a topic very relevant to all the services, and that is dealing with the media. The fact that they happen to be almost entirely aligned to one point of view (and have been for some decades) affects many things. Witness: the birth of the “Strategic Corporal”.

    More important than which side they align on is that there is little to no balance. Why? Well, a little more than a century ago, the powers that be in the news media (exclusively written print, then) were entirely aligned on the OTHER side. Also, very much a result of the political bent of the newspaper moguls. At that time, they fanned the flames of the War with Spain, among other things.

    The power of a free press is as an independent and honest eye, not beholden to any particular group or cause. We aren’t there.

    Hardly an unrelated topic, and certainly worthy of discussion. The concept of “embedded” was a stroke of genius for DoD. But I don’t know how willing many of the news outlets will be to try that again.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    *Burma Shave*

    I thought the great American pastime is watching the Red Sox beat the Yankees…

  • Fouled Anchor

    “…is watching the Red Sox beat the Yankees…”?

    Almost forgot you were a darned New Englander. Don’t you remember the Cold War? The Reds were the bad guys…Yankees the good guys? Same in baseball…

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Hey Fouled,

    I waited 40 friggin’ years to gloat. And, by cracky, after ’72, ’75, ’78, and ’86, I am going to!

  • Fouled Anchor

    Good for you. Heck, I honestly don’t even like baseball. I do, however, love those New York football Giants. What a great super bowl in ’08. I really enjoyed the end.

  • URR,

    Let me start with the bottom line up front. If Iraq is such a success why can’t we go home?

    The Iraq casualties are based on the Opinion Business Research survey. It has also been quoted from other sources that total Iraqi casualties from all sources is somewhere between 400,000 to 800,000 since the invasion began in 2003.

    The 4 million dispossessed number is from a variety of sources including the UNHCR.

    Lets say for argument’s sake the casualties number number is a lot lower-say in the number of 200,000 Iraqis killed since 2003 ( Which is the Official Iraqi government number-well acknowledged to be a low ball estimate)-the bottom line remains the same: the US invasion of Iraq created a lot of misery for a lot of people. It doesn’t matter whether they came from insurgent action or US action-they are a result of a unilateral decision by the United States to invade a sovereign nation, that had not attacked it, for the purpose of changing its government. Right or wrong, that was why we invaded Iraq. AQ, WMD, all the rest of the reasons are window dressing. Mission accomplished-we achieved our stated objective.

    Which gets to the real question? If the war in Iraq is such a success-why can’t we leave and move on to other pressing concerns? Why is it almost every US government leader is finding a way to subvert the SOFA agreement and figure out a way to stay longer than 2011, which will have us in Iraq for over eight years. Phrased another way-when do the Iraqis get to take responsibility for their own mistakes? From a strictly US point of view-our work is done. And that’s the only point of view I care about. The Iraqis will go their own way no matter what we do or don’t do. We got what we wanted-Saddam is gone. Even the biggest of the pro-war cheerleaders no longer speaks in terms of a bright beacon in the Middle East. These are after all, Arabs.

    Your comparisons to other conflicts have no real merit. We are limited in what we can do in North Korea because we invaded Iraq. Furthermore-the lesson learned for North Korea was get a nuke quickly, lest you get invaded. In fact I could probably make a case that, given a choice of which country to invade, invading North Korea would have done more to advance American interests-since a united Korea would allow us to fundamentally reduce our force posture in Asia. There is this little problem, however with the fact that neither the Chinese nor the South Koreans want anything to do with that course of action.

    Things are better in Iraq than under Saddam-but its also got a lot of fundamental problems that we will not ever solve. I’m more concerned about what price America paid than I am about what Iraq gained however. And the US has paid a big opportunity cost for the privlege of helping Arabs who won’t help themselves. Given a choice I’d rather worry about what’s good for Americans and leave the Iraqis to worry about what’s good for Iraqis. Those are not by the way-the same thing.

    There will be extremist groups in the region for many years to come. No “WAR” on terrorism is going to solve that. The Middle Eastern nations have to solve it for themselves and I strongly believe that lies in fixing their economies, weaning them off of foreign labor and Islam, and allowing them to evolve by themselves.

    Even George Bush did not expect war without end, amen- when he started the whole Iraq mess. I’m convinced too he did not believe the Afghans would be so fubar that it would take as long as its going to take. problem was the evidence of their fundamental problems was their for the look see. Yes we had to respond to 9-11, but we could have extracted our vengeance and then moved on to a more deliberate and lower key approach. With the approach we have taken-the US is no safer really than it was eight years ago. We still face a threat from terrorism, my government tells me so.

    Bottom line for me is more visceral. I am tired of Americans getting killed for Arabs. Period- end of story. My view of Iraq can be summed up in five words not 58: leave the Iraqis to themselves.

    And the issue of “media bias” is wholly and separately different and would require a few more paragraphs. I think you are confusing “bias” with drawing a conclusion with which you do not agree. Those are two very different things.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    UNHCR? Oh yeah, those tail lights disappearing into the dust as soon as the first shots are fired. The UNHCR that abandoned thousands of Kurdish refugees in squalid refugee camps where Saddam banished them. After very publicly pledging to help. Yeah, THAT UNHCR.

    And, if someone blows up 30 people with a car bomb at an Iraqi funeral, that is America’s fault? Not the bomber, or the terror group, or the people that train or fund it? America’s fault? Not buying that.

    As for NK, and Iran, we are limited because we gutted our military for a “peace dividend” a decade and a half ago. Our policy went from “fight two” (simultaneous MRCs), to “fight one, hold one”, to “fight one and hope for the best”.

    I don’t think weaning the Middle East of Islam is going to have much efficacy. And our war in Afghanistan was as much about breaking up the capabilities of the group that attacked us, and destroying their safe havens, as it was at all about vengeance.

    I am not saying we didn’t hose things up in a lot of places. That is war. We always do. Failure to plan for “Phase 4” was a large mistake (thank you Foggy Bottom, for not playing). And Rummy trying to fight a war on the cheap (we should have had 200,000 in 2004, and not 135,000) still pisses me off.

    But save the part where you are telling me that many of the reporters I talked to in Iraq really weren’t opinionated, closed-minded, ignorant, and biased. They were, and their reporting reflected it.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Shermanesque URR, shermanesque

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    From bases in Iraq, the USA and the USAF can hold at risk Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and probably most importantly Saudi Arabia. The US has gained what many administrations strategically desired , and the US military will probably not leave Iraq for some time.


  • URR,

    But save the part where you are telling me that many of the reporters I talked to in Iraq really weren’t opinionated, closed-minded, ignorant, and biased. They were, and their reporting reflected it.

    So what? Twas always thus. The difference is now that the concept of a monolithic media no longer exists. For better or worse, the media is divided into niche’s. Its a very wide open and competitive market-and you- the consumer- have a lot of choices. All media is biased for one way or another-and that’s OK probably in the long run. It becomes a vast free market where the consumer can procure the product he or she wants. Especially since, contrary to your intimation-there is no absolute truth here. And never will be. It will just be a set of conclusions argued against another set of conclusions.

    Instead of whining about opinionated reporters-why not complain about uneducated readers? That’s closer to the mark about most Americans ability to discern the truth these days. Thanks to a lot of factors, attention spans are short and growing shorter.

    Sounds to me like you want every reporter to become a cheerleader for the war-like Michael Yon. Sorry, but no-it doesn’t work that way. Much of what you complain about not being reported-HAS been reported. Its been reported in a variety of mainstream outlets. The facts are the same-but the conclusions are different. I’ll bet you a pint of your favorite beverage that, given the time, I can find mainstream outlet reporting of all or most of the major breakthroughs in Iraq. Maybe its not as much as you would like-but you are not the editor of the paper. Want to change jobs? Then you can fix it. Otherwise-one can not purchase what they are selling.

    That is why I don’t fully understand the concept of the Main Stream media being biased. There’s plenty of bias the other way-or are you saying the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal are not part of the main stream media? Smart consumers, like me, read a lot of different view points and form my their own conclusions. Why do think I’m here?

  • URR,

    One other point about resourcing the military. Sure the cuts of the 90’s were not what either of us would have wanted-but did Bush really do any better? Had it not been for 9-11, the 2001 QDR was set to keep the peace dividend rolling and gut the Navy and the Air Force. ( I know about those two-I think the Army would have been screwed too). Basically the military is where it was eight years ago-except all the equipment is that much older. Bush came into office pledging to change that. Congress was practically falling over itself in 2002 to vote expansions in force structure-Bush never took it.

    We are in agreement about Rummy-there probably should have been a declaration of war on the nation of Iraq. But Rummy fell in love with “transformation”-and he ignored very valid evidence that was brought forward. There is evidence though, that it was not just him though-it was the whole mindset. There were people within the Army though who knew better.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I am not asking for nothing but cheerleaders in the media IRT any particular action on the part of the government. But the fact remains, and it is a fact, that the stories coming out of Iraq, when they were coming, were extremely biased, and slanted in a way that was intended to give the American people an inaccurate picture of what was happening, who was doing it, and the actions and reactions of American servicemen. Certainly the reporters I spoke of, Pam Hess and Tony Perry, did not produce entirely positive material. On the contrary. It was balanced and thoughtful. And represented events accurately. Are the Wash Times and WSJ part of the mainstream media? Barely. Aligned against that, one can list The NYT, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, Wash Post, LA Times, SF Chronicle, Chicago Sun-Times, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, BBC, and many more. Though this medium has expanded the availability of sources, there still remains a striking imbalance. I don’t agree with the statement that it is a “wide-open” market.

    But Skippy, when you say I am “whining” by stating fact, you are off the mark. The deliberate misrepresentation of facts and events for the purpose of swaying public opinion is not a “so what?” situation. It is not merely a different interpretation of events. Such instances should be identified, and those outlets and media figures held accountable. You might not have such a cavalier attitude toward such things if you were one of the Haditha defendants. The news media and Congressional figures played a major role in that travesty.

    To your other points, the intellectual laziness of the American public, and the ‘transformation’ efforts of Rumsfeld prior to 9/11, we likely have some common ground.

  • Sue them then. Libel laws still exist-and its still against
    the law to knowingly print something that is untrue.

    Or cut them off from access-the military can still do that you know-and can influence the Iraqi government to the same. However one of the things the media learned along time ago was that was a counter productive strategy in the long run-and it was better to co-opt the media, even if it was biased. I think on balance they actually done a reasonable job of doing that.

    The message would be a lot more positive, however if it answered the “When do the troops leave?” question. I care more about that than anything else about how great things are for the Iraqis. The fact that year after year, they don’t leave-is a huge counterweight to the good news coming out of Iraq.

    Besides-for a “biased media” supposedly slanting public opinion, the poll results have remained remarkably consistent. 65% of the public thinks the Iraq war is a mistake, but over 54% think the war is going “moderately well”. Pretty piss poor job by the supposedly biased media shaping public opinion if you ask me.

    People want it to be over-that’s all.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Gee, Skippy. I think that was the point that sailed over your head. Westmoreland actually had a favorable settlement for a libel suit against CBS for the same type of shenanigans. The news agencies have a responsibility to report objectively, and to check the veracity of the information their sources give them. The consistently fail to do so, and certainly did with their reporting of the fighting in Ramadi and Fallujah, the situation in Najaf with Al-Sadr, again with Hadithah, and the aftermath of the Samarra mosque bombing (see: NBC calling it a full-blown “Civil War”). They are and were exceedingly quick to believe and report alleged “atrocities” by US troops, engaging people who fabricated their stories to discredit America’s military. They did so time and again without even rudimentary vetting of their sources. The line has been completely erased between reporting and editorializing, and that is dangerous.

    So, no, we will disagree when you call that a “reasonable job”.

  • Andre from Sacto

    The media did not lose the Vietnam war and it did not screw this current one up either. They were fouled up by the same things; undefined goals, poor planning, lack of exit strategy. Now add to the mix that when somebody tries to point out the obvious, say Scott Ritter for example, then tactic is to paint them as anti-patriotic of some sort along with other Ad Hominems. What venue is used to carry these attacks? The media.

    URR, so you seem to be in favor of a biased media when it is unabashedly pro-war (Hearst) but remarkable anti-media when it states the obvious. In this case that the Iraq war became CF’ed.

    “But save the part where you are telling me that many of the reporters I talked to in Iraq really weren’t opinionated, closed-minded, ignorant, and biased.”

    Brother, I have the exact same feeling about you.

    A good military is only as good as the policy that drives it. When closed minded nitwits start blaming media, intellectuals, etc for the failings of their own policy then the military does not represent the people it was chartered to serve but only the most extreme ideological elements. History is absolutely littered with examples. The result is that those elements will start to turn on their own people. That is why I do not believe it correct that the USNI blog support these right wing conspiracy theories. The media is NOT are war with the military nor should the military be at war with the media. Go fight some Taliban a-holes if you want a fight. But when you come back wanting to take the fight to your fellow citizens then realize that you have a problem.

  • Byron

    Andre: “That is why I do not believe it correct that the USNI blog support these right wing conspiracy theories”.

    Are you saying that USNI should only support the left wing conspiracy theories? Interesting. I thought the Bill of Rights had something in there about being able to speak your mind. Silly me.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    You don’t read very closely, do you?

    From above:

    “I am not asking for nothing but cheerleaders in the media IRT any particular action on the part of the government.”

    “Certainly the reporters I spoke of, Pam Hess and Tony Perry, did not produce entirely positive material. On the contrary.”

    “I am not saying we didn’t hose things up in a lot of places. That is war. We always do. Failure to plan for “Phase 4″ was a large mistake (thank you Foggy Bottom, for not playing). And Rummy trying to fight a war on the cheap (we should have had 200,000 in 2004, and not 135,000) still pisses me off.”

    Reading through my above comments, the ones I couldn’t find were those claiming the media lost Vietnam or Iraq. Perhaps before you call someone “nitwit” you should be a little more careful before putting words in people’s mouths.

    As for fighting, I’ve already done some. And will again, if called. You may be Scott Ritter’s brother, but you certainly aren’t mine.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I think Andre may be of the viewpoint that everyone can have an opinion, as long as it’s his. But then again, I am just a nitwit.

  • Grampa Bluewater


    You go too far, Sir.

    Specifically, “But when you come back wanting to take the fight to your fellow citizens then realize that you have a problem.”

    I did not come back from this war (much too old and feeble).
    That does not mean I did not watch with close attention as SOME of the media chose to disregard their own professional standards to smear good men and women who served with honor and dedication in this war, and SOME self designated intellectuals chose to vilify men and women whose life choices did not include prep schools, admission to Ivy League schools on the basis of their families ability to donate a building or endow a chair, excellent tutors and preferential selection for IVY League admission on some basis or another. The behavior of SOME politicians in pursuit of political power, campaign funding and the admiration of the rich, influential, and fashionable elite I will not remark further on.

    Nor am I enthused about the strategic judgement or pet theories of certain political appointees or high ranking officers either in theater or in DC. Selective deafness to lower ranks than one’s own is prima facie evidence of incompetance for high command, in my ancient and curmugeonly opinion.

    What I HAVE NOT SEEN is any serving officer or enlisted person, returning from the various campaigns of the current war state, imply, or in any way suggest, or recommend the use of the armed forces of the United States against its citizens for disagreement with the policies or decisions of the legislative, executive, or judicial branch of government with reference to any matter what so ever.

    Such a baseless assertion touches on the individual and collective honor of any and all who have ever honorably served.

    I await your immediate retraction and apology.

  • Byron

    Clock’s ticking, Andre, wouldn’t want to make Granpa wait too long, me being one myself, and with old age comes a reduction in patience. I’m almost as outraged with your suggestion that the Institute should ban beliefs other than yours. Fella named Hitler thought the same thing too.

  • Andre from Sacto

    “I think Andre may be of the viewpoint that everyone can have an opinion, as long as it’s his.”

    “I’m almost as outraged with your suggestion that the Institute should ban beliefs other than yours”

    Congratulations on failing reading comprehension 101.
    Lets recap my position:

    “Lets keep the Navy blogs about the Navy and her ships.”

    Sorry that sounded a little too ‘left wing’ for you. I thought that a blog focusing on the US Navy would be a bit out of place perpetuating myths of the LIEbural media. A topic more suited for a Bill O’Rielly rant of the day. I mistook the USNI blog for something a little better then the Free Republic board. And for that I apologize.

  • Grampa Bluewater

    Actually it’s about the Navy and its future and what can be learned from its past. It’s also about the Navy’s friends and enemies and how they change over time and may change in the future.

    It’s most specifically about searching for truth and pointing out error. Intellectual rigor and integrity. Which includes admitting error or misjudgement.

    It’s even about speaking in ill considered haste and regretting it later. Not to mention graciously expressing that regret.

    Certainly vigorous expression and challenge of opinion is part of this place. As are marshalling fact and logic to support or defend

    Keep your apology, not that it was one. In my view it confirms the calumny for what it was, rather than hasty and passionate rhetorical overreach. Others’ opinion, as usual, may vary.

    Would you like to reconsider observing the appropriate forms, or is this just greek to you?