Wednesday, May 31, 2006

the fog of war

This exchange on Andrew Sullivan's blog illustrates something most of us find very hard to confront:

from a servicemember:

I saw your statement about how one reader can longer read your blog because it is too depressing. I agree that you are not in denial and believe that you're a fantastic writer. But as I could tolerate your views on Iraq when I was in the U.S., now that I am here, I too find your blog difficult to read. You are co-dependent with the vast majority of journalists who hang around the Green Zone and eventually try to figure this country out by riding in a convoy or going from camp to camp. Just like any experience, you must work to achieve full understanding and the stories you parse together as indicative of what is going on in Iraq is just flat out wrong.

That you have missed the true story here in Iraq and don't realize it is perfectly understandable to me. I was blissfully ignorant while back in the US a few months back, gorging on the Green Zone press menu of car bombs and massacres. Of course these are news-worthy stories, but do little to show how the overall war effort is going here. Al Anbar has changed dramatically just since I have been here and not for the worse, but just different. I wish I could recount to you how things have changed, but for operations security reasons, I can't. But, I shouldn't have to. There is enough information about what is going on here that I think you should be able to look at all of the sensational stories that play so well in New York, but also do a little bit of digging and find the true story.

I have tried hard to inform you about Afghanistan, but you don't seem to get that struggle either. I even told you prior to this spring that the Taliban regularly stir things up this time each year by sending groups of 100 down from the mountains to fight near Kandahar. I also told you that these fighters die by the score and are finished by July if the past yearly pattern is any indication.  Each year, the press jumps on the story and uses "resurgent Taliban" to describe the rag-tag forces that cross the border from Pakistan not knowing most will be dead in a few months.  Again, go back and read stories from 2004 when everyone predicted the Taliban were back until they were all dead by July.  Of course they will be back next spring in limited numbers to attack poor farmers around Tarin Kowt and you will all get depressed again because you think everything is lost.

And the response from a reader

I would ask your erstwhile military reader that if a car bomb in Detroit today killed five policemen, as happened today in Mosul; if the president was forced to declare a state of emergency in Dallas because 140 people were kidnapped and killed this month, as was the case in Basra; if a priest was gunned down in Washington D.C., as was the case today in Baghdad where a Shiite muazzin was killed; if the major of a Westminster, Md., was killed by a bomb hidden in his air conditioner, as was the case in a city 60 miles north of Baghdad today; if jittery police forces fired upon and killed two women, one of them pregnant, north of the capital - if all of these related events happened in the United States this day, May 31 - a day after another 54 were killed by a car bomb in Washington - do you think the news media would, or should, report that despite the violence, all was well in most of America?

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