The Therapy Sessions
Friday, August 08, 2003
I was listening to NPR on the way to work today. If NPR was my main news source and I believed everything they said, I’d probably be against the war too.
NPR is a relentless barrage of bad Iraq stories, stories made to look bad, and good stories that are portrayed as bad news.
Among their reporters, there is none worse than Anne Garrels. As NPR boasts: “She earned international recognition in 2003 by being one of 16 U.S. journalists to remain in Baghdad during the initial invasion of Iraq.”
Oh, that’s nice.
There was nothing independent about reporting from Saddam’s Baghdad. Reporters there who wrote stories angering Saddam found themselves reporting from Kuwait. Some are honest about this fact and feel guilty about lying for Saddam; Others, like Garrels, believe that reporting Saddam’s propaganda as fact is something to be proud of.
Today’s gloomy story was about the electricity situation in Baghdad. There was all the usual flatulence about “rising” hostility to Americans for failing to get all the electricity on.
Buried in the story was the “root cause:” so much copper has been looted from the transmission lines around Baghdad that the world copper price has gone down significantly.
Does the story acknowledge the difficulty of trying to build a power grid from scratch? Does the story talk about the real villains here: the looters?
No, it merely magnifies the misplaced anger of Iraqi citizens about their own predicament, a situation that America is working hard to correct.
Garrels is blaming the doctor for the disease.
In ten years, I think Garrels and her ilk will look pretty foolish. I think the situation there is better than she is willing to admit. Recently, I have been having an e-mail correspondence with a former military man who has friends and family members in Iraq. I promised to keep his name and the identities of his friends secret, but these are excerpts from some the letters he has received. The first is from a high-ranking soldier in the first Armored Division:
Even though we are still being shot at daily, the vast majority of the population supports our objectives and just want to get on with their lives. We are doing some excellent humanitarian work, but it doesn't make the news because all the press wants to talk about is the attacks. The infrastructure is up and running and the shortfalls in electricity, water, sewage, etc., are being addressed. We have local advisory councils of Iraqi citizens set up in Baghdad and a functioning city council.
The people we kicked out of power can't stand our success, however, and will do everything they can to try to make us fail. Thus the ongoing gun battles in the streets. There is also a lot of organized crime here. I have flashbacks to "The Godfather" all the time.
And the second is from a soldier on the streets of Baghdad:
Hey Guys, sorry it's been so long since I've sent anything but a quick note to you individually. However things have been pretty hectic since the end of hostilities and the start of the real war. Despite what the assholes in the press like to say over and over:
1) We did expect some armed resistance from the Ba'ath Party and Feydaheen;
2) It isn't any worse than expected;
3) Things are getting better each day, and
4) The morale of the troops is A-1, except for the normal bitching and griping.
My brief love affair with the press, especially the guys who had the cajones to be embedded with the troops during the fighting, is probably over, especially since we are back being criticized by the same Roland Headly types that used to hang around the Palestine Hotel drinking Baghdad Bob's whiskey and parroting his ridiculous B.S.
I'm no longer baby-sitting the pukes from CNN and the canned hams from the networks, but have a combat mission coordinating a bunch of A teams, seeking, finding and rooting out the mostly non-Iraqis that are well-armed, well-paid (in U.S. dollars) and always waiting to wail for the press and then shoot some GI in the back in the midst of a crowd…then they know the next nightly news will be about how chaotic things are and how much the Iraqi people hate us.
Some do. But the vast majority don't and more and more see that the GIs don't start anything, are by-and-large friendly, and very compassionate, especially to kids and old people. I saw a bunch of 19 year-olds from the 82nd Airborne not return fire coming from a mosque until they got a group of elderly civilians out of harms way. So did the Iraqis.
A bunch of bad guys used a group of women and children as human shields. The GIs surrounded them and negotiated their surrender fifteen hours later and when they discovered a three year-old girl had been injured by the big tough guys throwing her down a flight of stairs, the GIs called in a MedVac helicopter to take her and her mother to the nearest field hospital. The Iraqis watched it all, and there hasn't been a problem in that neighborhood since. How many such stories, and there are hundreds of them, ever get reported in the fair and balanced press? You know, nada.
The civilians who have figured it out faster than anyone are the local teenagers. They watch the GIs and try to talk to them and ask questions about America and Now wear wrap-around sunglasses, GAP T-shirts, Dockers (or even better Levis with the red tags) and Nikes (or Egyptian knock-offs, but with the "swoosh") and love to listen to AFN when the GIs play it on their radios.
They participate less and less in the demonstrations and help keep us informed when a wannabe bad-ass shows up in the neighborhood. The younger kids are going back to school again, don't have to listen to some mullah rant about the Koran ten hours a day, and they get a hot meal.
They see the same GIs who man the corner checkpoint, helping clear the playground, install new swing sets and create soccer fields. I watched a bunch of kids playing baseball in one playground, under the supervision of a couple of GIs from Oklahoma. They weren't very good but were having fun, probably more than most Little Leaguers…
…Nothing more satisfying than working with the BEST damn soldiers in the world, flushing real human poop down the drain and giving some folks a chance at trying freedom for a change. They may learn to like it and then my great-great-grandson won't have to worry about some maniac trying to destroy the planet.
The full text of the letters say nothing about “rising” hostilities or tempers “reaching a boiling point.”
Sorry, Anne Garrels, I don’t believe you. I remember listening to NPR during the war, and your warnings about how bloody the seige of Baghdad would be. I remember you telling me that the Iraqi army had concentrated defenses around the city and they were ready to die for Saddam. And at the time you said this, we now know that the army had already disintegrated.
I think that you, and your network (which I pay for, btw), have a habit of studying the trees and ignoring forests. I care more about the forests.
To me, the situation in Baghdad sounds more like Germany in 1945 than Vietnam in 1967.