Monday, October 15, 2007
This Week at War: Vindicating Generals, Ignoring Heroes [Pete Hegseth]
This weekend I was both heartened, and then sickened, by mainstream coverage of America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Washington Post was honest enough to report the facts about Iraq, vindicating General Petraeus in the process; the New York Times managed to completely ignore a fallen hero in its own backyard.
Just one month ago, America’s Commanding General in Iraq, David Petraeus, came to Capitol Hill and provided an assessment of the situation on the ground. Then, and especially now, anyone who actually watched his testimony must concede—at least—that General Petraeus provided a metrics-driven, fact-based snapshot of the situation on the ground. Like any good military officer, he let the numbers do the talking.
Because his testimony cited numerous successes (especially in bringing violence down in Baghdad and throughout Iraq), war critics accused him of “cooking the books for the White House” and some had the gall to question his motives (Senator Clinton’s "willing suspension of disbelief" comment heads that shameful list). Rather than engage General Petraeus’s assessment, war critics attempted to impugn his credibility.
Bad move. Especially when the General is right.
In the Sunday edition of The Washington Post, the lead editorial reads, "Better Numbers: The evidence of a drop in violence in Iraq is becoming hard to dispute.” The editorial states that “there isn’t much room for debate” about whether violence has dropped in Iraq, and cites numerous dramatic drops in violence that have occurred as a direct result of the “surge” and General Petraeus’s counter-insurgency strategy.
I could quote the entire editorial because it’s so chalk full of statistics about improvement in Iraq, and I encourage everyone to read it. In short, Iraqi civilian deaths are down over 75% from last year, American combat deaths are down dramatically (over 200% from Ramadan last year), and our aggressive, and exposed, counter-insurgency posture is the reason for these numbers.
The editorial is a stunning admission of success from a paper that has been less than supportive of recent policy in Iraq. It is also an overt vindication of General Petraeus, and by extension, an indictment of anti-war groups like MoveOn.org who shamelessly smeared him.
I applaud The Washington Post for taking an objective look at the situation on the ground, and reporting the facts. I wish the same could be said for its counterpart further north along the eastern seaboard: The New York Times.
On Thursday, the United States Navy announced that Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a Navy Seal killed in Afghanistan, would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during a mission to find a key Taliban leader in 2005. This will be only the third Medal of Honor awarded since 2001, and the first given for actions in Afghanistan.
As a resident of New York City, I opened the New York Post on Friday morning and read about the Lt. Murphy’s heroics. And then, by force of habit, I checked the New York Times. Certainly, since Lt. Murphy is a New Yorker (Long Island) they would cover the story. Certainly, given the noble shade the paper grants the Afghan war (as opposed to the Iraq war), they would cover the story.
I open the paper…nothing. Tried again on Saturday and Sunday…nothing. Not a word. Apparently, it never happened. Apparently, Lt. Murphy’s courageous actions in a far-off land didn’t pass editorial muster.
Surrounded by over 50 Taliban fighters, Lt. Murphy’s four-man reconnaissance patrol was pinned down and in need of support. In order to save his fellow SEALs, Lt. Murphy, who was already wounded, crawled into the open to radio for help, further exposing himself to enemy fire. He was killed, but only after successfully calling for help, allowing for the rescue of one of his men.
But you’ve never heard about this if you read the New York Times. Say what you want about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are no excuses for the “paper of record” not running this story. The Washington Post noted it, as did the Los Angeles Times. But according to the New York Times, this story of courage and sacrifice is not “fit to print.”
I don’t subscribe to grand conspiracy theories about the mainstream media. I do, however, know that editorializing in newsrooms is nothing new. Therefore we should applaud papers that have the courage to right wrongs and deliver the facts, and shame papers that ignore the sacrifice of men who defend their very right to exist.
10/15 06:52 AMShare