Commercial Media Let McCain Get Away with Claims that the "Surge" has Worked

Despite strong evidence to the contrary, it has become established conventional wisdom among mainstream Washington journalists that the "surge" was the singular reason for the recent decline in Iraq's violence. It's also agreed that McCain deserves great credit for pushing the "surge" idea early.

Barack Obama has been repeatedly chastised -- even badgered -- for opposing the "surge." His attempts to refocus the debate more broadly on the wisdom of invading Iraq in the first place are rudely rejected by Big Media interviewers.

The latest example came during an ABC News "This Week" interview on Sept. 7 when George Stephanopoulos demanded of Obama: "How do you escape the logic that ... John McCain was right about the surge?"

When Obama responded that he didn't understand "why people are so focused on what has happened in the last year and a half and not on the previous five," Stephanopoulos cut him off, saying "Granted, you think you made the right decision about going in, but about the surge?"

In other words, the big-name journalists don't want a discussion about the decision to illegally invade Iraq under false pretenses in 2003 (presumably because they almost all were cheering the invasion on), but instead they want the debate to center entirely on their latest false assumption, that the "surge" has virtually won the war.

In reality, the "surge" of about 30,000 additional troops sent to Iraq appears to have been only one factor and -- according to military officials interviewed for Bob Woodward's new book, The War Within -- possibly a secondary one in explaining the drop-off in the violence that had made Iraq a living hell.

As Woodward writes, "In Washington, conventional wisdom translated these events into a simple view: The surge had worked. But the full story was more complicated. At least three other factors were as important as, or even more important than, the surge."

Woodward, whose book draws heavily from Pentagon insiders, reported that the Sunni rejection of al-Qaeda extremists in Anbar province (which preceded the surge) and the surprise decision of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr to order a unilateral cease-fire by his militia were two important factors.

A third factor, which Woodward argued may have been the most significant, was the use of new highly classified U.S. intelligence tactics that allowed for rapid targeting and killing of insurgent leaders. Woodward agreed to withhold details of these secret techniques from his book so as not to undercut their continuing success.

But there have been previous glimpses of classified U.S. programs that combine high-tech means of identifying insurgents -- such as sophisticated biometrics and night-vision-equipped drones -- with old-fashioned brutality on the ground, including on-the-spot executions of suspects. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush's Global Dirty War" and "Iraq's Laboratory of Repression."]

Successful Repression

As we've reported previously, other brutal factors -- that the Washington press corps almost never mentions -- help explain the decline in violence:

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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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