Streetwise Professor

April 8, 2008

The First Casualty

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:22 am

It is a truism that truth is the first casualty of war. Few things better illustrate this truism than the recent reporting on the events in Basra and Baghdad. Usually it is governments and generals that dissemble and deceive, and reporters assert that their role is to overcome the “bodyguard of lies.” In Iraq, however, it is more frequently the case that the reporters are the deceivers, and papers and news channels are the outlets of war propaganda.

The unseemly speed with which western reporters declared the defeat of Maliki and the Americans, and the triumph of Sadr is truly disturbing. It suggests that the reporters and editors involved have the fixed objective of making things appear as bleak as possible. If they disclaim such malign motives, the best that can be said of them is that they are so convinced of their own powers of observation and analysis that they feel no hesitation to rush to judgment (remember that phrase?) about who won and who lost in a conflict that (a) most of them did not view first hand, and (b) is inherently confusing, and (c) would be incredibly confusing even to someone present on the scene. Warfare is always chaotic. It is especially so in Iraq, and particularly in the warrens of Basra and Sadr City. Only someone suffering from extreme hubris–or advancing an agenda, facts be damned–would confidently make such sweeping judgments about confusing and murky events.

There are many interesting questions and puzzles that deserve honest reportorial treatment. Bill Roggio reports that Maliki launched the mission far ahead of schedule. Why? This could betray desperation–or that he perceived an opportunity. Which is it? MSM reporters haven’t even raised the question, let alone tried to answer it. The Iraqis utilized their greenest brigade. Again, why? There is uncertainty over whether Maliki acted without American agreement or approval, and Roggio’s reports suggest that American logistical and air support had to be arranged on the fly. Is this true? If so, why?

There is much that an honest and intrepid reporter could do to shed light on the confusing situation. The search for one seems as forlorn as Diogenes’s quest. Reading reporting from Iraq would stun even the that most cynical of men.

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