How hard is it to report all that “good news” in Iraq?

Posted by admin
Jul 06 2006

Well, just ask someone who has been there.

Seven Questions: Covering Iraq (Foreign Policy):

Reporting from Iraq has become one of journalism’s most difficult and dangerous jobs. FP spoke recently with Rod Nordland, who served as Newsweek’s Baghdad bureau chief for two years, about the challenge of getting out of the Green Zone to get the scoop.

FOREIGN POLICY: Are Americans getting an accurate picture of what’s going on in Iraq?

Rod Nordland: It’s a lot worse over here [in Iraq] than is reported. The administration does a great job of managing the news. Just an example: There was a press conference here about [Abu Musab al] Zarqawi’s death, and somebody asked what role [U.S.] Special Forces played in finding Zarqawi. [The official] either denied any role or didn’t answer the question. Somebody pointed out that the president, half an hour earlier, had already acknowledged and thanked the Special Forces for their involvement. They are just not giving very much information here.

FP: The Bush administration often complains that the reporting out of Iraq is too negative, yet you say they are managing the news. What’s the real story?

RN: You can only manage the news to a certain degree. It is certainly hard to hide the fact that in the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day. Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that’s not true.

I appreciate the standard complaint from the people at the New Wingnut Media that I have not been to Iraq and should take the word of people who have been there. However, I get the sense that they exclude such reporters as Nordland, who spent two years over there just trying to cover events since the American invasion and occupation. Those pesky reporters, you see, are not as easy to control and tend to send back stories that are not fully vetted and polished by the Pentagon.

The “real story” of Iraq cannot be fully appreciated unless we can read, see and/or hear the good, the bad, and the ugly news of the consequences of our nation’s actions over there. Complaining that reporters, bloggers, and other American citizens who refuse to wear Bush Brand™ Rose-Colored, Peril Sensitive Sunglasses as somehow willfully ignorant of all the “good” the invasion and occupation has brought Iraq smacks of a pollyannish, immature, and unenlightened attitude.

On a slightly tangental note, has anyone noticed how right-wing bloggers promote constitutions, freedoms (of speech, religion, peaceful protest, and of the press, for example), civil and political rights, women’s rights, democratic elections and representation, and the building and repairing of the social infrastructure in countries on the other side of the planet? That’s great, and more power to them, but don’t you wish they could spend just a little more time promoting such things in our own backyard before Bush or Cheney are photographed with some dangerous weapon (y’know… shotguns, chainsaws, or aircraft carriers with “Mission Accomplished” banners emblazoned across control towers) as some kind of testosterone-fueled testament to the power of a Ba’athist dictator Republican party-controlled Unitary Executive?

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