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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The True Iraq

One would think that, with all the technology and communications and all that we have today, it would be hard to hide current events. However, take some time on Google or something like it and try to find out the news from places like Iraq, and you'll find that only one thing is going on in that war-torn country -- death. No one lives there, not in the sense that we consider "living". Imagine the worst neighborhood of the worst city with the worst gang problem, multiply that by a thousand, and you've got a description of the country of Iraq. It's not safe to walk in the streets ... anywhere. Everyone is killing everyone. All Iraqis hate all Americans. And why is it that 137,000 American combat troops can't take care of the problem there? We know we're getting the truth from Iraq because we have "imbedded reporters", people who go along with the troops and report everything from an eyewitness perspective. So of course that's all the real thing.

It only takes seconds of reflection to realize that none of this is true. It cannot be. If the country of Iraq or even the city of Baghdad was actually in the condition that it is being portrayed, it would collapse in a moment. No business, no infrastructure, no success, no life. And about those imbedded reporters ... are they really telling us the truth? It occurred to me (again) after looking over the responses to the President's State of the Union address that two people observing the very same thing can have very different opinions and report very different things ... while being eyewitnesses!

I want to know what's really going on. As an example, occasionally there is a report that somebody blew up an oil pipeline. That says to me that it is occasional. That says to me that most of the time the oil is actually flowing from the oil fields in Iraq to the ports that will export it. That says to me "progress". But I'm drawing conclusions from a lack of information. Is it right? Or I hear all the time about fighting in a particular region of Baghdad. What about the rest of the city? Is all of the fighting relatively localized? Or is all of the city in flames all of the time? I'm drawing conclusions from a lack of information. What is the truth? And I notice that there appears to be almost zero news coming out of anywhere but Baghdad. Does that mean that there is relative quiet in most of Iraq? I'm drawing conclusions from a lack of information. What is the truth?

How many Iraqi troops are there at work in Iraq? I know, for instance, that of the 137,000 troops in Iraq, no more than perhaps a third of them are actually in combat situations doing combat-type duty. It takes a large number of support troops to take care of a small number of combat troops. If a third of the troops there are combat troops, that puts maybe 41,000 combat troops to work in the country of Iraq. If you throw in another 21,000, that is a significant increase in the combat capability. Is that a bad thing? But I don't know what they're going to do with them. I don't know how many are currently in combat situations. I don't know how many of those 21,000 would be used for what purposes. And I don't know how many Iraqi troops are assisting the unknown number of American troops, or how many troops from other countries are performing what other duties in that country.

I want to know what successes we've seen. The news is very happy to report the problems. That, I suppose, is news. But I didn't know, for instance, that the troops had cleared out a particular neighborhood of its terrorist occupants (I will not call them "insurgents.) until they finished the job, moved out, and started to go back a year later to do it again. Why didn't anyone tell us about that success? I keep hearing sprinklings of news here and there that good things are happening as well as bad. Why don't we hear that on the news?

I'm aware that mistakes have been made. I'm aware that bad things are happening. It is not possible to pay attention to the slightest news without knowing that. But if we "have the right to know", and there is actually balancing news to the conditions in Iraq, why don't we have the right to know those facts as well? Why is it so hard to get the truth out of that country? I know the President isn't perfect. I'm aware that there have been mistakes made. I suspect that one of the President's biggest mistakes, however, has been that he has been too quiet in disseminating the truth about what's going on in Iraq. If only we had a news media that would give us the truth rather than only that which suits their purpose. But, as all of us, I guess they're only human ...

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