The past, present, and future media coverage of the military action in Iraq was, is, and will be at odds with reality. The media has thus far been completely unapologetic in their inaccurate war coverage that has presented a viewpoint that is quite different from what is actually happening. While the military has gone to war against Iraq, the media has gone to war against the Bush Administration and our soldiers fighting for freedom. Here are some highlights of how Operation Iraqi Freedom was, is, and will be reported by the media. It makes you wonder which war they are actually covering.
Before the Start of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Media: We don't have enough troops in the region. Not having a northern front through Turkey will be a serious blow to operations. Attacking Iraq will set off violence and war throughout an already unstable Middle East. Be prepared for massive terrorist attacks in the United States.
Reality: No one knew the military plan except top officials in the Administration, and the number of troops was perfectly adequate. Not having a northern front through Turkey turned out to be irrelevant. Even with stray bombs landing in Iran and Syria, nothing beyond protests materialized. There was not a single terrorist attack in the United States.
Week One of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Media: The opening days of military action are a failure. We're short on supplies, troops, and protection for our supply lines. Saddam isn't dead yet. We're not in Baghdad. We're losing too many troops and killing too many innocent civilians. Contrary to popular media predictions, the entire Iraqi army has yet to lay down their arms and surrender. The "quagmire" terminology begins rearing its ugly head.
Reality: The Coalition accomplished more in one week of Operation Iraqi Freedom than forty days of bombing accomplished during Desert Storm in 1991. Any shortages of supplies were short-term and isolated. While we were not occupying Baghdad yet, we had moved 200+ miles in less than a week and were knocking on Baghdad's door already. Compare this with 1991 when we never even made it to Baghdad after forty days. We had fewer troop casualties and civilian casualties than in 1991. And did anyone really expect soldiers to surrender immediately when they were threatened with the execution of their entire family should they choose not to fight? Yet thousands of troops still surrendered without a fight. The "quagmire" terminology turned out to be just as wrong as when it was used during operations in Afghanistan.
Week Two of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Media: Although no one is willing to admit their error, the media can no longer ignore the fact that the military action is a monumental success. Now the focus is on why some of the Iraqis have yet to welcome soldiers with open arms. Questions are asked about whether the Iraqi people actually believe liberation by the Americans might actually be worse than living with Saddam. And where is the humanitarian aid? The armies are arriving in town, but they don't have food, water, medicine, or The New York Times to hand out to the Iraqi people. And now doubt is also cast about whether or not Baghdad can be taken without thousands of Coalition and civilian casualties. Visions of Mogadishu, Somalia, the inspiration for Black Hawk Down, were discussed as severe warnings of what was to come. Reporters at Al-Jazeera and the Palestine Hotel are killed by Coalition forces during a firefight, and the actions are portrayed as possibly intentional.
Reality: Once Iraqis were confident that Saddam was no longer a threat, they were very welcoming to our troops. Murals, monuments and statues were defaced and destroyed. Humanitarian aid was on the way, but it would probably make sense to secure a port to ensure no humanitarian workers were killed by hostile fire before delivering the aid. Had humanitarian workers been killed while delivering aid, there is no doubt that these same critical media outlets would have excoriated the military for being careless enough to allow humanitarian workers into harm's way. And what about Baghdad? The predictions on Baghdad turn out to be completely wrong. The door-to-door fighting and thousands of casualties never happened. Instead the Iraqis welcomed us with open arms and were celebrating in the streets. Baghdad fell almost overnight. While it certainly could be argued that the media was an enemy of the Coalition during this war, it is absurd and irresponsible to insinuate that they were made intentional targets.
Operation Iraqi Freedom Today
Media: The predictions of a quagmire, no humanitarian aid, Iraqis not welcoming us, and a horrific battle for Baghdad have all gone up in smoke, so now the media is looking for other critical angles. Looting has become the criticism of the day. The Iraqis are screaming mad that we're allowing people to loot the cities. Our military is criticized for not being prepared to handle the looting and lawlessness that has happened since the Saddam regime has fallen. It is unconscionable that we are allowing this looting and violence to occur.
Reality: Fighting still isn't over yet, but the expectation is that the military should already have a police force in place. During the Los Angeles riots, the media made excuses for the African-American community looting and rioting due to past oppression, hopelessness, and feelings of powerlessness. But it's different for the Iraqi people for some reason. While looting and fires are happening, the vast majority is focused on locations that are symbols of the Saddam regime. The anger and frustration are certainly to be understood, and things will be brought under better control once our soldiers can safely change their role to police officer.
Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Future
Media: Once the looting is brought under control over the next few days, the media will need to find another area to criticize. While 90%+ of the Iraqis are probably thrilled that we have liberated them, the media will desperately seek to interview the 10% who think we are there as occupiers and not liberators. Questions will be raised about why a new Iraqi government has not yet been established. Concerns about true American intentions will dominate the stories, and we will be portrayed as incompetent in setting up a self-governing Iraq. Then the questions will be raised about weapons of mass destruction. We're not finding them, and the media will become critical of our justification for invading Iraq.
Reality: The Administration has already publicly stated that a new Iraqi government will take a minimum of 12 to 18 months to establish once fighting is over. Probably longer. Just like the war was considered a failure after only three days, the ability to set up a government for an entire country will be incorrectly called a failure after only three months. The timeline for finding well-hidden weapons of mass destruction has also been set out at a year or more. There are over 3,000 sites that must be carefully searched in a country the size of California. The weapons will be found, but it won't be done overnight. Again, the media will criticize the searches as failing after only a few weeks of looking, but the expectation is not valid.
So I'm not quite sure which war is actually being reported in the news, but it's quite different than the one being fought in reality.