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Saturday, June 17, 2006

When Will the Mainstream Media Get It Right? - by Jerry Lanson

My New York Times today paints a pretty grim picture of life in Iraq three-plus years into W's war of choice.

A graphic compares a variety of statistics this May (2006) to the last three. Other than a slight drop in U.S. military deaths from 77 last May to 68 this year, the graphic's stats are awfully disheartening:

-- Monthly incidents of sectarian violence -- up from 20 to 250

-- Daily insurgent attacks -- up from 70 to 90

-- Multi-fatality bombings -- up from 36 to 56

-- Iraqi civilian deaths -- up from 1,000 to 1,500

-- Number of insurgents -- up from 16,000 to 20,000

And so on.

Unfortunately this news appears in views, on Page A27, the opinion page, in a graphic compiled by a senior Brookings Institute fellow and his senior research assistant. The lead news story on Page 1 in my New York Times today is about an entirely different war -- the public relations war of the Republican Party aimed at obliterating any sense of reality among voters of what's really going on in Iraq. The Times reports the Republican offensive without comment, which is appropriate on the news pages. But it also reports this offensive with very little context, which is not appropriate.

WASHINGTON, June 15 -- The House and the Senate engaged in angry, intensely partisan debate on Thursday over the war in Iraq, as Republicans sought to rally support for the Bush administration's policies and exploit Democratic divisions in an election year shadowed by unease over the war.

It was one of the sharpest legislative clashes yet over the three-year-old conflict, and it came after three days in which President Bush and his aides had sought to portray Iraq as moving gradually toward a stable, functioning democracy, and to portray Democrats as lacking the will to see the conflict through to victory.

In the House, lawmakers moved toward a vote on a Republican resolution promising to "complete the mission" in Iraq, prevail in the global fight against terrorism and oppose any "arbitrary date for withdrawal...."

And what do the facts say in support of this Republican offensive? Well the story doesn't offer any. There is no evidence that proves or disproves the Republican's assertion that Iraq is moving toward a stable, functioning democracy. In its 6th paragraph, however, the article does prominently quote Republican House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who says of Iraq, "It is a battle we must endure and one in which we can and will be victorious. The alternative would be to cut and run and wait for them to regroup and bring the terror back to our shores."

Back to our shores?

But wait. Doesn't The Times remember that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with either Al Qaeda or the bombing of the World Trade Center, according to U.S. intelligence? Doesn't it recollect that this mythical connection is one Republicans have insinuated for years through often-unchallenged quotes such as Hastert's? Has it forgotten that even before the war began, those opposing the war warned repeatedly that it would turn Iraq into the very breeding ground of terrorism that the United States was trying to eradicate?

The Times lead article mentions none of this context. Nor does it include any of the statistical context found on Page 27 of the same edition.
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read the rest......

When Will the Mainstream Media Get It Right?

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