While the Democratic presidential candidates bash the President’s Iraq policy, Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, says “we have a problem with overly pessimistic media coverage that emboldens our enemies, discourages our potential allies and lessens our resolve.” He says media bias “is killing our troops.”
Back from a trip to Iraq, Marshall, a Vietnam combat veteran, says, “There is good news to balance the bad. American soldiers with their typical ‘can do’ attitude and ingenuity are engaging in literally thousands upon thousands of small reconstruction projects working with Iraqi contractors and citizens? For example, hundreds upon hundreds of schools are being renovated, repainted, re-plumbed, and re-roofed?”
The Hill newspaper reported that Marshall “explained that the longer he was in Iraq, the more skeptical he became of his previous assumptions.” The coverage had led him to believe that “it was Vietnam revisited,” he said. But he found “a disconnect between the reporting and the reality.”
The Hill reported, “Marshall also claimed that there now are only 27 reporters in Iraq, down from 779 at the height of the war. “The reporters that are there are all huddled in a hotel. They are not getting out and reporting,” he told the paper. “The good news is not being reported in the conventional press.”
Another Democrat, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, was also on the trip. According to The Hill, he said the media stress the injuries and the deaths but that the good news about progress “isn’t being reported.” The Hill said that Skelton and other Democrats on the trip said they plan to reach out to members of their caucus and explain what they observed.
The Hill reported that Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, said: “We were all like-minded in our conversations, not robotic at all, but we saw the real progress that is being made, that we are not at all mired.” Wilson, a former reporter, criticized the lack of balance in the coverage, saying, “Sure, show the bloody side, but get away from this police-blotter mindset. There’s much more going on.” In a speech on the House floor, Wilson said U.S. forces “won the war and are now winning the peace in the War on Terror.”
Brit Hume of Fox News interviewed Rep. Marshall on his show, Special Report. Hume began by reading part of an e-mail Fox had received from one of its Washington correspondents, Molly Henneberg, who was in Iraq before and had just gone back. She wrote, “What a difference three months makes. Yes, there is still violence here, but oh, my goodness, this place feels like a city again. The city looks, seems so much more alive. More traffic, more stores open, more people coming and going. More parties. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of problems here, but the infrastructure, this country appears to be getting its act together.”
Marshall said things were going “a good bit better than?the overall American seems to think. And the important thing is for Americans to understand that the news media tends to dwell on the negative. It happens in your own hometown, the typical TV show, the typical newspaper article focuses on murders and rapes. And that’s what you’re seeing right now. What you don’t see is the progress.”
Marshall said the U.S will continue to make progress “as long as the Iraqis step forward” and work with the us. He warned, “They’re less likely to step forward if we’re pessimistic. We’re more likely to be pessimistic if we’re getting a lot of negative news coverage. And that’s the connection.”
In a major breakthrough, a story in USA Today by Peter Johnson quoted reporters themselves as saying that the coverage has been too negative and pessimistic. “‘It’s the nature of the business,” Time’s Brian Bennett was quoted as saying. “What gets in the headlines is the American soldier getting shot, not the American soldiers rebuilding a school or digging a well.”
Johnson reported that when Bennett visited the U.S. a few weeks ago, “he realized that, five months after the U.S. invasion, the Iraq he lives in doesn’t mesh with the bleak picture that friends here are getting from the media.” Bennett said, “I’m not saying all is hunky-dory. But in the States, people have a misperception of what’s going on.”
This is why, Johnson said, Bennett plans to pitch a story about the improving scene in Iraq. But will it be published?