Coverage of the Iraq war continues to be overwhelmingly negative. If anything, the pessimism of the mainstream media has increased since the attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra. This isn’t because of any dearth of good news, though. For whatever reason, the abundant good work and progress accomplished each day in Iraq are either not reported or underplayed here at home.
Talk of civil war continues in the media even now, in spite of reports that life in Samarra is returning to normal, and in spite of the fact that last week General Casey said that the worst had passed, and that talk of civil war was overblown:
While Gen. George Casey said anything can happen, he downplayed suggestions the country is headed for civil war.
“Now, it appears that the crisis has passed,” Casey said in a briefing from Baghdad with reporters at the Pentagon.
Also being downplayed is the resolve that the Iraqi people and their leaders have shown in not falling in to the trap the terrorists set for them when they bombed the Golden Mosque:
The Iraqi people as a whole saw this for what it is; a blatant effort to foment sectarian violence and promote the perception of civil war in Iraq. In all three counts the terrorists failed miserably and the people of Iraq won. Iraqi leaders such as Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari and President Jalal Talabani immediately denounced the crime and demanded the Iraqi people not take the bait of sectarian violence, but instead use this moment to join against terrorism and for Islamic unity. Provincial councils in Basrah, Baghdad and elsewhere called for calm. The people of Iraq listened.
General Pace made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows and reiterated that Iraq was not on the verge of civil war. ABC News reported on this with the headline “General’s Assessment of Iraq Questioned.” The story questions if Pace is “glossing” over the situation:
The comments drew criticism that Gen. Peter Pace is glossing over problems in the three-year-old U.S. campaign.
It should come as no surprise that the person questioning General Pace’s honesty is Democrat John Murtha.
During the same interview General Pace also noted the progress being made by Iraq’s security forces:
“I would say they’re going very, very well from everything you look at, whether it be on the political side where they’ve had three elections, they’ve written their own constitution, they’re forming their government. You look at the military side where this time last year there were just a handful of battalions in the field, Iraqi battalions in the field. Now there are over 100 battalions in the field. They had no brigades. That’s about 3,000 men each. Now they’ve got about 31 brigades. No matter where you look at their military, their police, their society, things are much better this year than they were last,” he said on Meet the Press.
As the polls show, Americans are getting pessimistic about our mission in Iraq, and the mainstream media bear most of the blame for this. Responsibility for reporting the other side of the story in Iraq has fallen to the blogosphere. The following stories highlight the progress we have made in Iraq over the last two months, and the incredible work being done by the men and women of our armed forces, in concert with their coalition allies and the Iraqi Security Forces.
USAID now has a webpage listing some of our successes in Iraq. The entire list is here, but to give just a few examples:
USAID worked with a Kirkuk community to revitalize a local market. The market had degenerated and grown unsanitary. Now the market serves as an economic and cultural exchange with freshly paved roads and drainage system.
In December 2005, the Government of Iraq (GOI) passed legislation to establish a social safety net targeting Iraq’s most poor and vulnerable. The social safety net initiative is an essential step in reforming national subsidies fuel, food, and electricity as required by the standby agreement signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Currently, these subsidy programs cost Iraq over $12 billion a year.
USAID’s Iraq Civil Society and Media Support Program (ICSP) helped develop the National Iraqi News Agency, Iraq’s first independent news agency. USAID equipped their Baghdad headquarters with cutting edge technology and trained their journalists in editing and international reporting standards. Amid a sea of noise and deception, NINA strives to be a voice of fair, honest, reliable reporting for Iraq.
The first Iraqi National Media Pool celebrated its successful instillation on September 29, 2005. The pool represents over twenty five Iraqi press bureaus and grants Iraqi reporters access to high profile stories and instills higher standards of objectivity and professionalism in reporting. “This is a real development for media in Iraq it enables us to get first hand information, which before was inaccessible.”
The Department of Defense recently sent a report to Congress detailing our progress in Iraq. The report contained several important items not reported to the American people by the mainstream media. The talking points on Iraq continue to include the assertion that the Sunni insurgency is growing, but commanders on the ground in Iraq see it differently:
More Sunni Arabs are turning to the government, leaving hard-core insurrectionists more and more isolated, [assistant defense secretary for international security affairs Peter Rodman] said. “Obviously, they are participating vigorously in the political process.”
The report also states that the Iraqi economy grew by 2.6 percent in 2005, and that Iraqi Security Forces continue to make substantial progress.
“We have no indications anywhere where an Iraqi unit has either surrendered–even down to platoon level — or where they have run,” [Air Force Lt. Gen. Victor E.] Renuart said. He said the Iraqi army has a coherent capability to take control of situations and interface with police forces.
The U.S. Embassy in Iraq also issued a report citing the “remarkable” progress of the Iraqi Security Forces:
“In the first Fallujah operation, we tried to bring in one of the first Iraqi battalions into the fight. The troops never made it to the fight,” [Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt] said.
In contrast, the Iraqi army currently numbers 80 battalions, half of which are engaged actively in daily combat operations, the U.S. general said. “They are learning the cold lessons in combat, the harsh lessons in combat that is accelerating their development.”
During February, Iraqi Security Forces acted independently in 31 percent of security operations:
Of the 435 company-level or higher operations conducted in Iraq last week, 31 percent were independent Iraqi operations, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said at a news briefing.
And as Iraqi Security Forces continue to improve, coalition and American troops continue to hand over real estate to them. In the town of Bayji, Iraqi Security Forces took control of Forward Operating Base Summerall. On the second of March, a ceremony marked the transfer of Forward Operating Base Constitution to the Iraqi army. The Iraqi general now in command thanked Americans for what we are doing for his country:
“The American forces are giving freedom back to the people of Iraq, just as they did in Japan, Germany and Korea,” said Brig. Gen. Aziz, 3-6 Iraqi Army. “We are receiving this area of responsibility and the job to protect it. God willing, we will be able to do so.”
In Mosul a dramatic drop in attacks has occurred since Iraqis took over security of the town:
The Iraqi public in Mosul is becoming less tolerant of the insurgency and are helping the Iraqi Security Forces locate the insurgents with tips, said [Col. Mike] Shields.
This rejection of the insurgency, along with increased pressure from Iraqi Army and Coalition forces, has led to a 57 percent reduction in total attacks since last January, said Shields.
The Iraqi police presence in Mosul has also significantly increased from a year ago. Today the Ninevah province has 14,000 policemen on duty, most who are trained locally at the Mosul Public Safety Academy.
Despite the ever increasing number of transfers to Iraqi Security Forces, members of the mainstream media continue to ignore the progress:
Continued a skeptical Katie [Couric]: “Having said that, will [the ability of Iraq to defend itself] ever happen, given the slow pace of this transfer of military authority to Iraqi forces?”
The Iraqi people not in uniform are also stepping up, and the number of tips about terrorist activity continues to grow. The mainstream media reports on every terrorist attack in Iraq daily, no matter how insignificant, but what they don’t report are the stories of every day Iraqis who are putting their lives on the line to help secure their country.
During a recent operation, two shepherds located twelve munitions sites for Iraqi and American forces:
Two local sheepherders did just that, directing one search team of Iraqis and Americans to more than 12 sites, where munitions were discovered within a two-mile radius. High-explosive, phosphate and mortar rounds were among those discovered, which have all been used as weapons against Soldiers and Iraqis alike.
Examples of Iraqis tipping off security forces are numerous:
‐A tip from an Iraqi led to the arrest of a suspected terrorist south of Baghdad.
‐Two terrorists were detained after a tip from a local citizen. The two are implicated in numerous roadside attacks.
‐A large cache of mortar shells was discovered in Baghdad after a tip from a local.
‐U.S. soldiers in An Najaf were stopped by an Iraqi man who was standing by the side of the road with a sign that read “Stop.” The man led the soldiers to a weapons cache.
‐A tip led to the death of al Qaeda’s leader in northern Baghdad.
I could go on, but you get the point. If a mortar that lands in an empty parking lot inside the Green Zone, doing no damage, is newsworthy, then surely tips from Iraqis are newsworthy.
Even our troops serving in Iraq have noticed the problem with the information being reported by the media:
Sgt. First Class Mike Porter has a lot of stories like this. A bench jeweler at Occasions, Porter just came off a yearlong stint in southern Iraq with the National Guard. He’s tired of the negative stories coming out of the national media and he insists there is much good being done in Iraq by Americans. His words back him up.
The media also can’t be bothered to report on operations that prevent attacks, such as this one in Baghdad that led to the discovery of eleven roadside bombs before they could be used:
Baghdad Soldiers found and destroyed 11 roadside bombs and three weapons caches in the last 24 hours as well as conducted two major offensive operations resulting in the detention of 29 suspected terrorists.
In early February, a National Guard unit from Illinois discovered eleven weapons caches in less than two weeks, including one very significant cache:
The cache consisted of 470 60 mm mortar rounds, 360 82 mm mortar rounds, 43 57 mm rockets, 75 tubes of C3 explosives, 125 hand grenades, 7 50-kilogram bags of TNT, eight land mines, 250 mortar fuses, 500 artillery primers, 15 82 mm illumination rounds, 5 60 mm mortar systems, 1 82 mm mortar system, 11 rocket propelled grenade rounds, eight RPG, 50 anti-aircraft rounds, 20 sticks of TNT, four 12.7 mm machine guns, 1,000 7.62 mm rounds and additional items in the cache.
Every day our soldiers, with the help of Iraqi Security Forces, are capturing or killing terrorists, uncovering and destroying weapons caches, and perhaps most important, winning the trust of local Iraqis. For example, Al Anbar province, once a terrorist stronghold, is exhibiting signs of normalcy, and the Sunni tribes that live there are starting to cooperate with Iraqi and coalition forces. Terrorist attacks in the region are down significantly:
Insurgent attacks last week in the province dropped by more than a quarter, U.S. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said in a briefing here this week.
Every weapons cache we destroy is a victory for a safe and free Iraq.
The Arab League announced this week that it will be opening an office in Iraq:
The Arab League is to open its offices in Iraq for the first time since the US invasion three years ago. The League is seeking to play a bigger role in Iraq trying to bring about unity in the ranks of warring Sunni, Shia and Kurd communities.
Although al Qaeda in Iraq scored a propaganda coup with its attack on the Golden Mosque, conditions on the ground have been less than ideal for them. Al Qaeda’s leader in northern Baghdad, Abu Asma, was killed in an operation conducted by coalition and Iraqi forces. Asma was connected to a cell that carried out suicide car-bomb attacks, and was in possession of explosive vests when he was killed.
In a town north of Baghdad, Sunni tribes placed a death warrant on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his followers after recent violence was attributed to them:
Faced with attacks against their sheikhs and clan members, a number of Sunni tribes from Hawija – an insurgent bastion in northern Iraq – have declared war on Al-Qaeda’s frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
“We shall fight all those who commit such attacks, notably Al-Qaeda,” the tribal leaders said in a statement that has been circulating around Hawija.
In Anbar province and in Fallujah security operations netted 62 suspected members of al Qaeda, including a member of a cell responsible for a car bombing that killed a U.S. soldier:
Coalition and Iraqi forces operations in Iraq northeast of Fallujah and in Anbar province recently resulted in the detention of 62 suspects, military officials reported.
The suspects were captured after a raid on several al Qaeda safe houses.
A Saudi member of al Qaeda who participated in the attack on an oil facility last week in Saudi Arabia was recently captured in Iraq.
Our troops are handing al Qaeda defeats on a daily basis, and these self-declared “Lions of Islam” have resorted to attacking the softest of targets, children:
According to Muhammad, the report states that 64 children were killed and 57 injured in a total of 417 attacks on educational institutions since November 2005.
Additionally, more than 47 youngsters were kidnapped on their way to or from school for the same period. The report also noted that 311 teachers and government employees had been killed and another 158 wounded in attacks.
The Iraqi people will never rally around these murderers who indiscriminately kill women and children, and that is why the foreign terrorists will never achieve their goals in Iraq.
Another positive sign was the drop in the number U.S. casualties. January 2006 saw the lowest number of casualties in two years.
Iraq’s economy is another bright spot for the country. According to the latest figures available, Iraq’s GDP grew to $89.8 billion in 2004, more than double the 2003 figure of $37.92 billion. The real growth rate for Iraq’s GDP in 2004 was 52.3 percent, the first increase since 2000’s 15 percent. That means Iraq’s economy was the fastest growing, in terms of real growth, in the entire world. Iraq’s exports grew by more than $3 billion in 2004. And the inflation rate in Iraq fell to 25.4 percent in 2004, down from 70 percent in 2002.
USAID is working with the Iraqi government to install a financial system that will allow the government to operate within generally accepted accounting standards. The system should be online in time for the FY 2007 budget.
Reconstruction continues in Iraq, and Iraqi women are not being left out of the contracting process:
The Gulf Region Division (GRD) Water Sector Women’s Initiative hosted its quarterly roundtable discussion recently. Eighteen female Iraqi business owners participated in the four-hour discussion on contracting procedures.
The workshops provide female Iraqi business owners with an understanding of the contracting process, including how to locate contracts up for bid and how to respond to debriefings.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also working with the Iraqi State Ministry for Women’s Affairs to help include women in the reconstruction:
Due to targeted efforts over the past year, over 250 Iraqi women-owned businesses have vetted contracts with GRD for reconstruction work, representing approximately $200 million of construction and non-construction contracts. The contracts range from full-scale engineering design and construction of buildings to digging of wells, to supply of construction and office materials, to custodial services. Each month, women-owned businesses compete for and earn approximately 15 new contracts in Iraq – revealing a pattern of slow-but-steady progress.
Here are some examples of the latest reconstruction projects (homepage here) in Iraq:
‐In Diwaniyah province, the last of 32 new police stations was completed:
The station has offices and sleeping rooms for the officers, visitation rooms, jails, bathrooms, parking area, perimeter wall, guard tower and emergency generators.
Renovations to the general hospital in Baqubah, Iraq are complete. Repairs included upgrades to the facility’s water and sewage systems, a new incinerator, new backup generators, and repairs to the elevators. A clinic at the hospital treats up to 500 Iraqis a day.
‐In Diyala province, a hotel underwent $700,000 worth of renovations to turn it into a maternity hospital to serve the province’s 350,000 residents. An Iraqi construction company performed all work on the project.
‐Iraq’s electrical system continues to undergo a major upgrade:
1,500,000 residents of Basrah and potentially all Iraqi Citizens have more reliable power with the installation of Units #5 and #6 at the Khor Az Zubayr Power Plant together producing 250 MW to the national electrical grid.
The completion of underground feeder lines in Baghdad, Erbil, and Mosul cities will mean more reliable power to approximately 1,000,000 people.
The 150,000 people of Mashru, Al-Noor, and Al-Askary, Babil Province now have power to distribution kiosks (on-ground transformers) that the Ministry of Electricity will use to complete the connection of the surrounding homes and businesses to the grid.
More than 50,000 residents of Al-Hindiya, Karbala Province, and Mahawil, Babil Province now have more reliable power to their homes with the installation of 3km of distribution line, repairs to the lines, and three new 630kVA transformers.
Another 30,000 people living in Erbil, Erbil Province, now have reliable power to the local distribution network with the installation of 5km of electrical feeder lines providing power to a newly constructed 33/11kV substation.
20,000 residents of Mahalla 701 in 9 Nisan, Baghdad Province, now have electricity to their homes with completed upgrades to the existing system.
‐The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers now has a site dedicated to reconstruction. On the fifteenth and the last day of each month a comprehensive report on reconstruction is released. You can view the latest, dated January 30, here.
Reconstruction and security are all well and good, but the U.S. also needs to continue to work to form partnerships with the Iraqi people. When they aren’t taking the fight to the enemy, our soldiers are taking the lead in winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
U.S. troops from Camp Adder provided new shoes for children at the Abu Tubar school, which was built by American forces. The shoes were purchased by the soldiers from Nike:
This mission, nothing really difficult for these soldiers and airmen, just another day to try and make a difference in the lives of young people. Young people who will one day become the future of Iraq and its desire to live in a democratic state. Maj. Kassebaum summed up the day.
“I put some shoes on some kid’s feet and that’s worth all the time I have spent over here.”
In Hamrin, U.S. troops delivered soccer jerseys to young players in the town. The mayor was sure to express his gratitude:
“This makes me very happy,” el-Jarbary said. “It is a good feeling knowing you military guys take care of the civilians.”
U.S. soldiers recently delivered supplies to an orphanage in central Baghdad:
“Giving gifts to people is probably one of the best things we do here in Iraq,” said Capt. Scott Ginsburg, civil affairs officer, Company A, 425th CA.
According to Ginsburg, every civil affairs mission is gratifying, and establishing good relationships is essential to help perpetuate peace for the Iraqi people.
“There are two sides to war,” he said. “There is a lethal side and a non-lethal side, and obviously our job is to form great relationships with the people.”
After a winter storm destroyed their homes, U.S. soldiers delivered large tents to five very happy Bedouin families:
The recipients of the tents indicated they appreciated the effort.
“You [Coalition forces] saved me from death to life,” said Kadhem Utob, a retired farmer who watched as his shelters were loaded into the bed of a small pick up truck. “You are providing good support for the people of Iraq. I give thanks to you.”
The Sunni community of Taji benefited from a health clinic put on by U.S. and Iraqi forces:
“We consider this a victory against the insurgency,” added Saad. “We coexist with the people. (Our mission) is to secure the people. This time we’re doing it medically.”
I could go on and on, but I think I have made my point. The only way to combat the MSM’s constant barrage of bad news is to stay informed about Iraq through alternative media sources, because for every negative event in Iraq, there are many more positive events that they ignore.