Anyone remember Iraq?

I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now: What happened to Iraq? It’s as though it fell into a black hole. I watch the News Hour on PBS, and they’re showing just as many young soldiers at the end of the show as they were months ago, and often more. (They close each program with photos of the American soldiers recently kiiled in Iraq.) And yet, there seems to be no urgency in the reporting anywhere.

Think back to the weeks after space-suit shrub landed on his Mission Accomplished aircraft carrier. That’s when we first heard the shocking news: one US soldier was being picked off here, another there. It was huge news. It was terrible and urgent and we were all riveted. “Bring ’em on,” shrub challenged, and they took him up on the offer. It kept getting worse until finally it seemed to climax in April, with Najaf and Fallujah. Reports of four or more US soldiers murdered in a single day became commonplace, but they were still appalling. They totally dominated the news, and the nation was obsessed with them — as it should have been.

Najaf died down after we flip-flopped on our promise to get al Sadr dead or alive, and Fallujah went away after we flip-flopped on our promise to restore law and order and bring to justice those who murdered 4 US contractors (we never brought anyone to justice, and we retreated, handing power over to an old Ba’athist strongman). And then we had our hurried, secretive “handover of power,” and with that, media coverage of Iraq seemed to take on a whole new tone.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this.

A funny thing happened after the United States transferred sovereignty over Iraq. On the ground, things didn’t change, except for the worse.

But as Matthew Yglesias of The American Prospect puts it, the cosmetic change in regime had the effect of “Afghanizing” the media coverage of Iraq.

He’s referring to the way news coverage of Afghanistan dropped off sharply after the initial military defeat of the Taliban. A nation we had gone to war to liberate and had promised to secure and rebuild – a promise largely broken – once again became a small, faraway country of which we knew nothing.

Incredibly, the same thing happened to Iraq after June 28. Iraq stories moved to the inside pages of newspapers, and largely off TV screens. Many people got the impression that things had improved. Even journalists were taken in: a number of newspaper stories asserted that the rate of U.S. losses there fell after the handoff. (Actual figures: 42 American soldiers died in June, and 54 in July.)

The trouble with this shift of attention is that if we don’t have a clear picture of what’s actually happening in Iraq, we can’t have a serious discussion of the options that remain for making the best of a very bad situation.

The military reality in Iraq is that there has been no letup in the insurgency, and large parts of the country seem to be effectively under the control of groups hostile to the U.S.-supported government.

Read the whole thing for a very grim reminder of how we are losing this war. Everything bush could have won points on has failed — the truce with al Sadr, the agreement to send Saudi troops to Iraq, Allawi’s announcement of an amnesty (oh, that’s a good one — see Krugman’s final paragraph).

So if you think the recent silence from Iraq is a good thing, if you believe we are “winning” and that everything’s under control, please think again. The situation is worse, not better; it’s just that it’s dropped off the media’s radar screen, supplanted by the elections and the unfortunate complacency that followed the so-called handover.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

This is what you get for watching American TV, I’ve always said that US TV is very selective about its news, if its not patriotic or scandelous then it doesn’t make the news headlines.

I’m globe watching right now and every few minutes there seems to be a story of another bombing or a kidnapping, I can’t turn on the news without seeing bleeding Iraqi security forces, burning humvees or pleading relatives whose husbands or fathers have been abducted from a lorry or a business somewhere in Iraq.

It’s on my TV screen everyday and from what I can see the security situation is dire and getting worse by the minute, already many companies have had to pull out because of threats to their employees and a lot of countries are barring their nationals from working for the coelition incase they are abducted, and it’s not just you poor white guys getting it.

I’ve seen no end of Muslim and Arabic hostages being taken in the last few weeks and some I think have been beheaded by their abductors, and the Iraqi security forces are taking aright pounding form almost daily suicide or car bombings.

Iraq is unwinnable under the current policy and the Bush administration is to blinkered to notice or is intent on creating a bloodbath to avenge 9 11.

You can’t win this kind of war with a big stick.

August 6, 2004 @ 8:15 pm | Comment

I believe you, ACB. I had a much better take on world affairs when I lived in Asia — even CNN there was way better than here on global issues. And for all it’s sins and anti-Americanism, I loved watching BBC; it actually had intelligent programs, not just the shouting mathces that now make up so much of cable news in America.

August 6, 2004 @ 8:44 pm | Comment

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