Jewish World Review June 17, 2004 / 28 Sivan, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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‘No news is good news’ when reporters will only report bad news | The military web logger "Blackfive" is annoyed with the news media for constantly emphasizing the negative in its coverage of Iraq.

What triggered his ire was an AP story June 14th that began: "A car bomb shattered a convoy of Westerners in Baghdad Monday, killing at least 13 people, including three General Electric workers and two bodyguards. Crowds rejoiced over the attack, dancing around a charred body and shouting 'Down with the USA!'"

The reporter didn't mention until the 23rd paragraph that "Iraqi bystanders scooped up victims and loaded them into vehicles or pickup trucks to speed them to hospitals."

The headline could have read: "Iraqis Rescue Ambushed Convoy," Blackfive noted. But then the story would have reflected the sentiments of Iraqis, who are grateful to the United States for ousting Saddam, and who want Coalition forces to stick around. And that is not a story that most in the news media want to tell.

When the new Iraqi president, Ghazi al-Yawer, publicly thanked the United States and Great Britain for liberating Iraq, the only television network to mention it was Fox News.

A story unmentioned by any in the "mainstream" media was the ceremony June 11th at which Major Gen. James Mattis awarded decorations for valor to five Iraqi soldiers who saved the life of a Marine.

Marines and members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps were patrolling Kharma, a village near Fallujah, May 30th when they were ambushed.

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"When gunfire struck one Marine in his lower left leg, ICDC privates Kather Nazar Abbas and Imad Abid Zeid Jassim rushed to his aid and dragged him to safety," wrote Gidget Fuentes of the Navy Times. "Both soldiers continued firing at the enemy gunmen while a Navy corpsman treated the wounded Marine...The Iraqi soldiers' gunfire and fire support from three other Iraqi troops ultimately drove the gunmen from the area."

The news media report when Iraqi soldiers and police run away, but not when they stand and fight.

There is one piece of bad news from Iraq to which the media have given little attention.

"A leader of militants in Iraq has purportedly written to Osama bin Laden saying his fighters are being squeezed by U.S.- led Coalition troops, according to a statement posted Monday on Islamic web sites," wrote the AP's Nadia Abou El-Magd June 14th.

"The space of movement is starting to get smaller," said the message, purportedly from Abu Musab al Zarqawi. "The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warrior's necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening."

The message is very like one intercepted by Coalition forces in February, and may merely be a different translation of the same memo. But Zarqawi has reason for more pessimism in June than he had in February.

"Since we have agreed to stay at arms reach with Fallujah, we have been able to focus our efforts on the surrounding towns and villages," said Marine Maj. Dave Bellon in a June 2nd email to his dad. "The result is we have made great inroads in breaking up insurgent cells through ambushes and raids. Even more important, we have begun an early and still fragile rapport with the people of these areas. The areas are historical sanctuaries for terrorists, so they are important."

Many good things are happening in Iraq. But to learn of them, you have to read the milblogs, or Iraqi web loggers such as Alaa, Ays, Ali, Omar, Muhammad and Zeyad.

"To the criticism that they report and overemphasize bad news, reporters say, correctly, that bad news is news," wrote JWR columnist Michael Barone. "But in a country like Iraq, ruled by a vicious dictator for the last 35 years, good news is also news.

"Reporters readily fan out to find bad news. But they seldom seek the good news — readily available in Iraqi and military web logs and confirmed in polls of Iraqis — that incomes, electricity, schools, water quality, medical care, religious freedom and security are improving in Iraq. "Some reporters, as the Daily Telegraph's Toby Harnden reports from Iraq, deliberately avoid good news because they think it might help George W. Bush win re-election."

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2003, Jack Kelly