Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Peters Challenges "Conventional" Media Wisdom

Ralph Peters has a great column up today that is available here at RealClear politics. Peters dispels the following myths perpetrated in the relentless negativity of most media accounts:

- The failure of the Iraqi army. Instead, the past month saw a major milestone in the maturation of Iraq's military. During the mini-crisis that followed the Samarra bombing, the Iraqi army put over 100,000 soldiers into the country's streets. They defused budding confrontations and calmed the situation without killing a single civilian. And Iraqis were proud to have their own army protecting them. The Iraqi army's morale soared as a result of its success.

- Reconstruction efforts have failed. Just not true. The American goal was never to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure in its entirety. Iraqis have to do that. Meanwhile, slum-dwellers utterly neglected by Saddam Hussein's regime are getting running water and sewage systems for the first time. The Baathist regime left the country in a desolate state while Saddam built palaces. The squalor has to be seen to be believed. But the hopeless now have hope.

- The electricity system is worse than before the war. Untrue again. The condition of the electric grid under the old regime was appalling. Yet, despite insurgent attacks, the newly revamped system produced 5,300 megawatts last summer--a full thousand megawatts more than the peak under Saddam Hussein. Shortages continue because demand soared--newly free Iraqis went on a buying spree, filling their homes with air conditioners, appliances and the new national symbol, the satellite dish. Nonetheless, satellite photos taken during the hours of darkness show Baghdad as bright as Damascus.

Peter concludes with the following judgement of recent media coverage:

While there are and have been any number of
courageous, ethical journalists reporting from Iraq, others know little more of the reality of the streets than you do. They report what they are told by others, not what they have seen themselves. The result is a distorted, unfair and disheartening picture of a country struggling to rise above its miserable history.

This column helps to confirm what many of those who have posted comments on this blog and many others have decried, especially recently: the failure of the media to get a grasp on the realities of the situation in Iraq. Read the whole thing.


Bill W said...

I also saw this first hand.

I can also say, since I was there shortly after the invasion that there was hardly any destruction from the invasion. I went through most of the power plants - and not one was damaged from the invasion this time around (they were in 1991). Same with the Water plants. The worst problems were that they were just extremely dilapidated. Turbines that should be overhauled every say 7000 hours (maybe 1.5-2 years of elapsed time) had not been overhauled for 150,000 hours - they were leaking oil all over the place - and that is the ones running. I have seen numbers reported that there was 11,000 Megawatts connected to the grid before we came, and afterwards could not get more than about 3000 MW on a daily basis. There might have been 11,000 at the power plants, but most had not run since the 80's & 90's. One example is at Taji where they probably had 25 generators "connected" but only 9 were still running, and they could not get more than 50% power out of these dilapidated machines - with the fan blades of the turbines worn away. The Army Corps at the time did an audit, and the best they could hope to produce with the assets there was about 3500 MW - with bubble gum and bailing wire holding that together. A lot has been done to install new units and repair existing units.

One reason that some in Baghdad do not feel it is better is that Saddam had ordered all power from Shiite & Kurdish areas severely curtailed to about 2 hours per day while keeping Baghdad, Tikrit, and a few other places in power. Now that power is shared equitably it will be a while before Baghdad gets to 7x24.

I also concur with the demand factor. The consumer economy is doing well there - computers, refigerators, Satellite TV sales hav e all been booming.

Bill W said...

I can also concur about the media. When I was staying in the hotels in Baghdad, the media rarely left the site. They set up tent studios on the roofs of porticos and other areas where, with the back open, there would be a nice backdrop of Baghdad. By changing the positions they could get three or four different shots.

For the most part, they hired Iraqi stringers to go out and shoot video, and they would compare notes in the lobbies of the Palestine, the Sheraton, Hotel Baghdad and others. They just wanted a Baghdad byline, but they could have easily been in NY, and probably just as informed.

What galled me was that twice I was approached by "journalists" who misrepresented themselves and would try to get me to tell them about life "on the outside". They would ask leading questions and if I did not answer "right" they would ask it a different way. Finally I caught on to the fact that they were trying to manufacture a quote to support a preconceived "angle" or "story" - and not even telling me they were journalists.

Bob W. said...


Thanks again for the insight, and I agreee 110% with you about the media. When I served in Afganistan a few years back, most of the reporters stayed right on Bagram (the largest U.S. and Coalition base) or in Kabul, and didn't really have good situational awareness of what was going on in the outer provinces (where most of the conflicts between coalition forces and anti coalition militia occurred). When I read the newspapers or watched news on tv describing events that transpired, the majority of the time it felt like the media did not grasp what had happened.

I can only imagine how frustrated soldiers and civilians serving in Iraq feel right now about the way the wart is being reported.

Bob W. said...

I meant war, not wart, soory about that!

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