AP to step up the propaganda, Times to help

News & Politics

File this one in the Forest for the Trees department.

Sure, there's something to quibble about in nearly any article from almost any paper. But every so often an article comes along that leaves you amazed that valuable oxygen was blown in service of such an idea. An article in the business section of Monday's Times fits this bill. It opens:

"Rosemary Goudreau, the editorial page editor of The Tampa Tribune, has received the same e-mail message a dozen times over the last year."
"'Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?' the anonymous polemic asks, in part. 'Did you know that 3,100 schools have been renovated?'"
"'Of course we didn't know!' the message concludes. 'Our media doesn't tell us!'"
You mean, some campaign or person has taken the time to use a template?

The article follows the efforts of a few AP-associated editors as they attempt to get a fuller picture of Iraq. You see, they can't report on all the good stuff, the logic goes, because all the violence, death and danger is too great.

You're joking, right?

Then this astonishing breach of decency, logic...screw it, what REALITY do these people live in? AP's managing editor:
"We're there to report the good and the bad and we try to give due weight to everything going on...It is unfortunate that the explosions and shootings and fatalities and injuries on some days seem to dominate the news."
Leave aside the mealy-mouthed politician speak, "on some days" and "seem" and isn't that a bit like saying: "Well, I went for a walk in the garden but I can't give you an accurate portrait of the flowers in my walk report because someone threw a hand grenade into the garden and bits of human flesh, severed limbs and fire obstructed my view"?

Unfortunately, the story IS the violence. How good is a school too dangerous to attend? And just how, exactly, is a widower, a hungry child or some average Joe supposed to be comforted by the establishment of foreign embassies?

"They're symbols," someone might respond. Renovated schools are great, sure, I'm all for them. The reestablishment of embassies doesn't exactly make the heart pitter patter, but... But for every one of these unauthored viral lists promoted by frothing rightwingers, you can find an Iraqi, like Riverbend, or an unembedded reporter, like Dahr Jamail, telling tales of food shortages, electricity shortages (worse than before the war), beheadings, abuse, rape, and the general degradation of life in Iraq. Read this, a dispatch from an Iraqi in Iraq -- not cloistered in the Green Zone -- to see what a farce the AP's reevaluation (and the Times' story on it) really is.

But actually, now that I think about it, I'm wrong. The violence isn't the whole story. But if AP wants to "get beyond the death toll" (though they're still not publishing photos of coffins, mutilated Americans and Iraqis, or attempting to find out how many civilians have been killed or wounded, it should be noted) and get at the bigger picture, rather than increase reports from embedded reporters or take their cues from form letters, they might start by talking about something a bit less, umm, Pentagon sponsored.

They might talk about the problem of the ethnic divide and how very few Iraqis are loyal to a thing called "Iraq," but rather to their region and ethnicity. Or the concomitant problem of writing a constitution at once ensuring that each ethnicity is protected -- economically and politically, as well as bodily -- and that each has their demands to control nearby oil as well as to preserve local cultural customs met. In other words: how to get at least three cultures to agree and work together.

They might, each and every time the president, Rumsfeld, or some Pentagon spokesperson blandly lip-synchs their way through the line that Iraqis are getting trained and that we will "stand down as they stand up," analyze the numbers of trained Iraqis and their makeup.

Were they to do that, they'd be forced to publish pieces on the paltry number of trained Iraqis and the fact that many of those aren't really loyal to Iraq as a nation. That the best trained forces are most likely the Kurds (who would leave their post in a heartbeat to defend their land in the North), and that many others are likely to be spies for the insurgency or former Saddam loyalists.

So, yes, in the end I guess I agree. How about that? Let's strive to complement the death toll by including front page analyses of the situation. That would yield a picture of an Iraq War that is, as those of us against the thing in the first place warned, a losing battle. What are the chances?

And this isn't even to mention permanent bases or Halliburton (assuming you can separate the two). Anyone have more to say about that?

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