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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Aiding and Abetting the Deluded

Today, one of the most popular articles in the blogosphere is a letter by LTC Tim Ryan, a soldier on the ground in Iraq. In his letter, Ryan argues the case that the media isn't mentioning all the good news from Iraq, and instead follows the "if it bleeds, it leads" doctrine of journalistic sensationalism. Ryan also argues that when the media reports bad news, they're effectively aiding and abetting the enemy. I would argue that Ryan is unwittingly aiding and abetting the deluded.

Ryan writes:

Ironically, the press freedom that we have brought to this part of the world is providing support for the enemy we fight. I obviously think it's a disgrace when many on whom the world relies for news paint such an incomplete picture of what actually has happened. Much too much is ignored or omitted. I am confident that history will prove our cause right in this war, but by the time that happens, the world might be so steeped in the gloom of ignorance we won't recognize victory when we achieve it.

Read It:

What Ryan fails to realize is that war is not a zero-sum game. Civilian improvements are not a counterweight to military and civilian casualties; they are the baseline by which the progress, or lack thereof is judged. The lacking perspective is his own.
The media should report on the bad news moreso than the press ops orchestrated by the military because they represent the diversion from what should be normalcy. I can understand why a professional soldier might blur this distinction, but the secondary message, that dissent is the moral equivalent of aiding and abetting the enemy is dangerous to democracy. The sad fact is that anyone who expects the military to tell them the truth, without independent confirmation, is a tool. I'm not saying that they always lie, but a lie, to the military, is acceptable if it accomplishes strategic objectives. An independent press is as crucial to a democracy as an army.

If I were to speak to LTC Ryan, I would respectfully ask him to consider what would happen if the tables were reversed, and the political reality of Iraq were to take place in the United States. Juan Cole lays out the scenario brilliantly in his essay entitled,

"If America Were Iraq, What Would It Look Like"?

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Washington, DC and New York, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Oklahoma City and St. Louis? What if the only time they ventured into the Midwest was if they could be embedded in Army or National Guard units?

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and Federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the Secretary of State (Aqilah Hashemi), the President (Izzedine Salim), and the Attorney General (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if all the cities in the US were wracked by a crime wave, with thousands of murders, kidnappings, burglaries, and carjackings in every major city every year?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana, Flint, Michigan, Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, DC, and other urban areas, attempting to target "safe houses" of "criminal gangs", but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

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