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Published: Saturday, 2/26/2005

To the media: Get it right on Iraq

LT. COL. Jim Stockmoe, chief intelligence officer for the First Infantry Division, roared with laughter as he recalled the increasing missteps of the resistance in Iraq in an interview earlier this month with British journalist Toby Harnden, writing for The Spectator.

"There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone," Colonel Stockmoe said. "They were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment, and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off. "

The surviving brother sought refuge in a nearby house, but the occupants "beat the crap out of him and turned him over to the Iraqi police," Colonel Stockmoe told Mr. Harnden. "It was like the movie Dumb and Dumber."

"The nine election-day suicide bombers averaged about three victims each, a strike rate so bad that Allah might soon start rationing the virgins to show his displeasure," Mr. Harnden wrote.

Colonel Stockmoe has heard so many similar stories that he created an Iraqi version of the Darwin Awards. Created in 1993 by a student at Stanford University, the awards commemorate those who "contribute to our gene pool by removing themselves from it in a really stupid way."

The number of insurgent attacks has fallen off significantly since the Fallujah offensive last November, and the attacks that are being made are less effective.

There are 50 to 60 attacks a day on coalition forces, about half the pre-Fallujah level. Almost all are within the Sunni triangle, and most are ineffective. "Most of these are ambush-style attacks that result in no casualties," noted StrategyPage.com.

The news media report the attacks but tend not to report, as StrategyPage does, that "dozens, sometimes over a hundred, of the attackers, or suspects, are arrested every day."

Unbalanced reporting has given Americans a false impression of how the war is going, said Col. Austin Bay, who served in Iraq last year.

"Collect relatively isolated events in a chronological list and presto: the impression of uninterrupted, widespread violence destroying Iraq," Colonel Bay said. "But that was a false impression. Every day coalition forces were moving thousands of 18-wheelers from Kuwait and Turkey into Iraq, and if the insurgents were lucky, they blew up one. However, flash the flames of that one diesel rig on CNN and, 'Oh, my God! America can't stop these guys!' is the impression left in Boston, Boise, and Beijing."

It will be some months before the news media recognize it and a few months more before they acknowledge it, but the war in Iraq is all but won. The situation is roughly analogous to the battle of Iwo Jima, which took place 60 years ago this month. It took 35 days before the island was declared secure, but the outcome was clear after Day 5, with the capture of Mount Suribachi.

Proof of this was provided by Sen. Hillary Clinton. Iraq is functioning quite well, she said in a press conference in Baghdad Feb. 19. The recent rash of suicide attacks is a sign the insurgency is failing, she said.

"When politicians like [Clinton] start flocking to Iraq to bask in the light of its success, then you know that the corner has been turned," a reader of his blog wrote to Colonel Bay.

More substantive signs abound. The performance of Iraqi security forces is improving, as are their numbers. Nearly 10,000 men showed up at a southern Iraqi military base Feb. 14 to volunteer for 5,000 openings. Only 6,000 had been expected.

Sunni Arab politicians have admitted they made a big boo boo in boycotting the Jan. 30 election and are pleading to be included in the political process. Some ex-Baathists are seeking terms for laying down their arms.

Those who get their news from the "mainstream" media are surprised by developments in Iraq, as they were surprised by our swift victory in Afghanistan, the sudden fall of Saddam Hussein, the success of the Afghan election, and the success of the Iraqi election.

Journalists demand accountability from political leaders for "quagmires" that exist chiefly in the imagination of journalists. But when will journalists be held to account for getting every major development in the war on terror wrong?



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