Jewish World Review June 25, 2003 / 25 Sivan, 5763
Bad news is the only news: An journalist's eyewitness report
A producer for National Public Radio, who learned that I had recently
returned from Iraq, called to inquire if I would be interested in taking
part in a special program NPR was planning on Iraq. But it soon became clear
a formal invitation would not be extended. I wasn't telling her what she
wanted to hear.
Q. Aren't the Americans encountering more opposition than they expected?
A. No. Most of the Iraqis we encountered either were friendly to Americans,
or indifferent to our presence. I saw only a small piece of the elephant.
But the other embedded reporters with whom I've talked had similar
Q. Doesn't the guerrilla war that's going on now pose a serious threat to
A. No. The death of each soldier is a tragedy. It's easy to ambush a soldier
at a sentry post or to fire an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) at a convoy.
But these sniping incidents represent neither widespread public antagonism,
nor a serious military threat. If we had a soldier killed each day for a
year - and I don't think we will - that would amount to less than four
tenths of one percent of the forces we have in Iraq. That's militarily
Few news organizations are as biased as NPR. But most tend to emphasize bad
news, on the flimsiest of evidence. An example is the brouhaha over the
alleged looting of antiquities from the Iraqi National Museum, which has
since been shown to be a fraud.
Swift victories are by their nature incomplete. When U.S. forces entered
Germany in WWII, most of the diehard Nazis had already died hard. But most
of the Iraqi forces were neither killed nor captured. They just melted away.
Some who deserted in order to preserve their lives continue to bear animus
to the United States. It is not surprising that a few would continue the
Most of the incidents have taken place in the so-called "Sunni Triangle." It
extends from the northwest suburbs of Baghdad - where those who benefited
most from Saddam Hussein's regime live - west about 50 miles to the cities
of Fallujah and Habaniyah and Ar Ramadi, northeast to Saddam's hometown of
Tikrit, then southeast through Samarra back to Baghdad.
Sunni Muslim Arabs constitute about 20 percent of the population of Iraq.
Sunnis have been running Iraq ever since it was created. If Iraq becomes a
democracy, they won't be running things anymore. It is understandable that
many Sunnis would resent this. But the weight of anecdotal evidence suggests
that a majority of Sunnis are not hostile to the American presence - albeit
a much smaller majority than for other ethnic and religious groups.
"Residents have displayed little hostility toward the formidable American
force during it's daytime patrols," wrote the New York Times' Michael Gordon
from Fallujah. "The troops have even been cheered by schoolchildren...Iraqi
officials say they attacks are being carried out by what they call outsiders
who slip into Fallujah at night."
The key to understanding how things are going in Iraq is to pay attention to
where "news" is not being made. You rarely hear of trouble in Basra, Kirkuk
or Mosul, Iraq's second, third and fourth largest cities; in Sadr City, the
huge Shi'ia Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad, or in the Shi'ia holy cities of
Karbala and Najaf. You hear nothing at all from the Kurdish areas, as
sizable a proportion of the population as the Sunni Arabs, because the Kurds
are overwhelmingly pro-American.
The Iraqi Institute of Strategic Studies recently conducted the first
scientific poll in Baghdad in decades. In it, 73 percent of Baghdadis
criticized the U.S. Army for failing to provide adequate security. But only
17 percent said they wanted the Americans to leave now. Nearly two thirds
said they want U.S. troops to stay until Iraq is "safe and secure."
It is doubtful that in any other Arab land there would be so much support
for a major American presence of indefinite duration. And this is a country
we have bombed, invaded, and now occupy. We have problems in Iraq, but fewer
of them than some would have you believe.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly