Look beyond the headlines

Look beyond the headlines

: On tonight’s Anderson Cooper 360, he urged us to “look beyond the headlines” and you will see that “some things have improved on the ground in Iraq.” Well, yes, considering that the headlines are all bad, you’d have to look beyond them. He hands over to CNN’s Jennifer Eccleston for “that side of the story.”

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big day has arrived for Piras Odisho and —. Despite the daily disruptions to life in Baghdad, a rising number of young couples like them are taking the plunge.

PIRAS ODISHO, GROOM (translator): Life must go on. There must be marriages and happiness.

ECCLESTON: Marriages are up 30 percent since Saddam’s overthrow and the judge signing their wedding contract thinks he knows why.

GHANI AL-ISAA, JUDGE (translator): There is an increase since the income of all sectors of Iraqi people has gone up.

ECCLESTON: Measuring Iraq’s economic health is not an exact science, but those in work, like the 350 judges trained in the past two years, are better paid, thanks to U.S. subsidies.

The Iraqi dinar holds its value. Gone is the rampant inflation of the ’90’s. There are more goods in the shops, in part, thanks to low import duties and a thriving black market.

It’s estimated that there’s five times more traffic on Baghdad’s roads than there was pre-war and then, there is, what some call, the freedom index. In January, nearly 60 percent of Iraqis voted, choosing from a wide variety of parties. The assembly they voted for is meeting and is beginning to frame a new constitution for Iraq and 25 Sunni delegates are participating.

Internet cafes, unknown under Saddam, have sprung up in Baghdad. There are more than three million telephone subscribers, compared to fewer than a million before the war and many of them are on cell phones. Some 170 independent newspapers and magazines offer competing opinions and there are 80 commercial radio stations.

Wealthier Iraqis have satellite dishes and watch channels from around the world, a luxury unthinkable three years ago. Much of the country away from the Sunni dominated north and west is not racked by sectarian violence and some 150,000 Iraqi security forces are trained, equipped, and playing a larger role in battling the insurgents.

Well, bravo, at long last, major media concedes that the agenda it has set in Iraq — of unrelenting doom — has another side. But they can’t leave it at that. She returns to say:

Now, despite the undeniable progress in Iraq, one year after the handover of sovereignty, the grinding violence, the lack of personal security, the hardships of day-to-day living, not enough power, not enough water, inadequate sanitation, this limits most Iraqis ability to believe their governments and American assertion that life is indeed improving…

Yes, we couldn’t just balance months of dire coverage with a moment’s good news without returning to the dire.

  • James P. Purshing

    I am a conservative and as a patriot I have to point out one assumption about Iraq which currently widely accepted but nevertheless totally wrong. And we will all have to pay the price for it if it is not discarded.
    The assumption is that all terrorists will stay in the Middle East as long as we fight wars there.
    Or, fight them there and we won’t have to fight them here at home.
    It is so obviously false and naive that it is gut-wrenching that no one seems to care to speak out against it.
    Here is why it is so wrong and why we are wrong and in great danger if we feel more secure because of it:
    (1) The terrorists chose their battlefields based on what they deem to be the best target in reach. We can fight five simultaneous wars in the Middle East, and they can still come to our homeland as long as we don’t secure our ports and borders.
    (2) A real war is the best training ground for future terrorists coming to us, as we have seen with Afghanistan. They are training now to later hit us harder.
    We should have stuck with our guns and clean up the terrorist base in Afghanistan once and for all. Instead, we spread our troops thin and left all the burden on their shoulders because of a flawed strategy.
    The troops are doing the best job they can, we should do the best job we can by increasing pressure for a smarter strategy against terrorism.

  • You know, I have a pretty serious crush on Jennifer Eccleston. Always have. She took the place of Ashleigh Banfield as my girl-reporter-on-whom-I-have-a-crush.
    But she actually said “a rising number?”
    Oh, why are the pretty ones always so dumb?

  • Yes, Jeff, better for them to go back to the unrelenting cheerleading for Bush they’ve done for the past 3 years.

  • Great. Now all I can think about is Jennifer Eccleston in a cheerleader outfit. Thanks a lot, Oliver.

  • Sinbad

    Only in Oliver’s little world, where the sky is mauve and the grass fuschia, could the media coverage of the last three years constitute “cheerleading” for the Bush administration.

  • yak

    And just how do you think concentrating on “cleaning up Afghanistan” would have helped with the terrorists that are in Iraq right now? Very few of them were in Afghanistan to begin with. What we are fighting is Islamic fascism not just al Queda. However, the terrorist base, as you called it, is gone in Afghanistan – we did clean it up. Yes, there are still terrorists there, but their ability to base there is gone.
    I agree with your first point, however, just because they choose to fight there instead of here, does not, in itself, preclude other attacks here. However, the best defense is still a good offense – we want to get inside their OODA loop (google OODA and John Boyd).

  • HT

    Good one, Sinbad. Either those people have mastered the art of “the big lie” and are thus in need of ridicule, or they are so far divorced from reality as to be clinically delusional. Either way, a little humor at their expense is highly therapeutic for the rest of us. I myself feel better already.
    Mr. Purshing: as yet another conservative and patriot, and something of an armchair strategist to boot, I disagree with your analysis. For one thing, terrorists in Afghanistan are still under pressure. For another, their resources are finite, and what they spend in Iraq certainly diminishes what they can devote to other theatres. Also, even if we were to make a massive effort in Afghanistan, nothing would prevent them from moving across the border into Pakistan (which is where I think a lot of them really are). And finally, internal security measures in the U.S., while perhaps not yet to your liking, have in fact thus increased the deterrence effect that the fear of random detection must have on terrorist activities.
    Oh heck. I guess I’m not embarrassed to say it…I think the “flypaper strategy” is both tactically feasible and strategically sound. Although, I will agree, not to the exclusion of other approaches to the problem.

  • Eileen

    Thanks for a moment’s respite, Jeff.

  • Cog

    And then you have Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, who are starting to find out that airing verbatim terrorist press statements and hostage videos does not gain them any protection from those they lionized as resistance freedom fighters.
    First Zarqawi complains about Al Jazeera’s coverage, and now Al Arabiya claims they are up against it from both sides as well:

  • jenny eccleston was a fox babe – cnn stole her to try and spice up their coverage. she’s still a l’il conservative at heart. awwwww and so cute

  • jenny eccleston was a fox babe – cnn stole her to try and spice up their coverage. she’s still a l’il conservative at heart. awwwww and so cute

  • Josh

    Still can’t get over oliver trying to claim TODAY that the msm spent 3 years (any 3 years at any time) giving Bush any credit for his successes, or downplaying his failures. That kind of disconnect with the truth is exceptionally stunning. He’s not fooling me, I doubt he is really fooling himself because it’s just TOO HARD TO BELIEVE.

  • … Jeff, I think it’s interesting to point out that most of the things that are better in Iraq are creature comforts we enjoy in America that we often criticize ourself for enjoying too much – armchairs and Internet, cars and satellite dishes. All of which make life a lot better, I agree … I’m just pointing that out.
    What I think you got from her was a balanced news report – the good with the bad. Now if only the bad had the good, then they’d all be balanced. But no one goes for soft news, Jeff, Journalism School 101. IF it bleeds, it leads. Who wants to read a front-page story about Iraqi satellite dishes?
    Oh and three years cheerleading … yeah that guy’s crazy.

  • Good report by Jim Lehrer’s Newshour last night in Iraq, on gains and lacks of same. The report featured families acknowledging they were able to own computers and tv’s they couldn’t (weren’t allowed to) under Saddam, being of non-Sunni extraction. However, with power demands increasing at a rate of 80%, the slower growth of power delivery system isn’t keeping up – and during the report, the power went out.
    As to cheerleading: (doesn’t this call to mind one of the pictures of a certain teenage boy cheerleader at prep school who now does another sort of cheerleading?): The WaPo and NY Times both admitted that they had been guilty of delivering misinformation to the reading public because they had been reporting administration reports without balancing those reports with the opposite points of view. Now the MSM is showing balancing reports in addition to administration output. How terribly unfair?

  • Cosmo

    I’m an investor, and have experience building businesses in developing countries. I’ve noticed this disconnect for well more than a year.
    Last October, the IMF declared Iraq the fastest growing economy in the Arab world. People are returning to Iraq (as they did to Afghanistan). By contrast, refugees flee civil wars and countries falling apart. The dinar has appreciated (although I’m not sure if any artifical support has been provided) and the fledgling stock market is up and running. And it’s been known for some time how incomes have improved.
    As for ” . . .limits most Iraqi’s ability to believe their governments (sic) and American assertion that life is indeed improving.” Pure spin.
    Send me a prospectus, please.

  • Jeff, as a professional journalist yourself you know that they feel that they need to show balance in their coverage. The question is, is their balance balanced?

  • Cosmo,
    You’re an investor and you actually put stock in anything the IMF has to say? The Economist Intelligence Unit is considerably less optimistic. I’d cut and paste from their 2005/6 forecasts for Iraq but as you probably know their country reports and extremely expensive and extremely copyrighted (color me lucky that my employers pay for access to the whole spread!), mostly because their information tends to be spot on and their forecasts eerily prescient. But here are a couple of highlights–
    1. The Iraqis are in a deeper fiscal deficit for 2005 than anyone predicted in 2004, mostly due to fallen oil production and rampant corruption
    2. Foreign investors ARE interested in Iraq, but the ongoing very real insurgency is slowing their entry into the market
    3. The trade deficit is higher than predicted as well
    4. Iraq’s patchwork ethnic representation in government, however laudable, is undermining any serious attempts at economic reform
    5. The EIU is still giving a 30% probability that Iraq will show no signs of improvement by the end of 2006 and a 10% chance that the new Iraqi government will collapse, leading to civil war and a Coalition pullout
    At this point you’re still better off throwing your money away at the dogtrack, no matter what Jeff Jarvis–a.k.a. the John Stossel of the Blogosphere–or anyone else with the rose-tinted shades on has to say about it.

  • Patricia

    IOW, they stole from Chrenkoff and reported part of the good news. I guess this is what Klein means about reflecting more what America think or wants.
    And actually, Jennifer, the last Iraqi poll says that over 60% believe that their country is heading in the right direction. Oh, well, I’m sure that will be in her next report.

  • whodat

    “Jeff Jarvis–a.k.a. the John Stossel of the Blogosphere”. Oh that’s rich. Thanks for the morning snicker.

  • Angelos

    The media has perpetuated the myth of the “popular president”, despite pervasive evidence to the contrary. And yes, they have given him a giant free pass on mistake after mistake.
    Hell, Fox News blamed Michael Jackson for taking the focus away all of Bush’s successes! And CNN is too busy in Aruba to discuss, I don’t know, the Downing Memo or something like that. You know, news. All white women, all the time! Schiavo! Wilcox! Holloway! Whoopeeeeeeee
    But anyway, yes, there is good news in Iraq. Some people are still alive. Not all cars have been rigged with explosives.
    Strategically, of course, the mistakes made of the past 3 years haven’t been addressed, corrected, even admitted to. But as we all know, GWB doesn’t make mistakes. He has CONVICTION! He don’t need to listen to no experienced 5-star generals, he’s got Donny and Wolfie telling everything will be alright, you don’t nee more tropps, etc.
    Now, if we could only provide electricity, water, and plumbing at the levels Saddam did, we might have a victory of measurable progress. If we could safely get to and from the airport, we might have a moral victory for the troops and civilian contractors.
    But as it stands, half a trillion dollars and 2 years later, and Iraq is worse off than it was before.
    Remember, wingers, being told our post-war expenditures would be only 2 billion dollars? Because the oil would pay for the rebuilding?
    Of course you don’t. Your Bush-colored glasses won’t let you contemplate anything that will disturb your little fantasy. Just keep kidding yourselves.
    Remember these quotes from 2003?
    Rumsfeld – It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.
    Cheney – I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . (in) weeks rather than months.
    Now, of course, Condi says this will be a “generational war”, Bush tells us ten years, and THEY INSIST THAT THAT’S WHAT THEY TOLD US ALL ALONG!!!
    2 billion, or 2000 billion. 6 months, 10-15 years. Big deal!
    How does it feel, suckers?
    Oh, and 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Ahhhh, that’s better.

  • Syl

    Angelos, what a maroon.
    The major combat operations DID last only a few weeks. They are over. This is a cleanup operation against insurgents and terrorists who have flocked to Iraq to impede progress.
    The most important thing is that the Iraqi PEOPLE are sick of those insurgents and foreign fighters. No more casual acceptance of jihad. This is the most important outcome of Iraq…muslims around the world seeing up close and personal the nihilism and cruelty of the jihadis.

  • Angelos, what a maroon????

  • EverKarl

    Gotta love a Bugs Bunny reference.

  • Angelos

    So you actually believe “Mission Accomplished” Syl?
    And you actually think defeating a starving, unequipped army of disaffected “soldiers” was an accomplishment?
    Are our standards that low? Wait, don’t answer that…
    I could have defeated Saddam with a couple thousand Michigan militia rednecks.
    You’re trying to change history on the fly, and spin earlier erroneous claims, just like your Dear Leader.
    This WHOLE THING was supposed to be quick and easy, parades for liberators, statues of Bush, and all for the low low price of 2 billion dollars, because the oil would be flowing freely.
    They don’t have electricity yet! Half a trillion, and zero repairs to infrastructure.
    Maybe Halliburton should get another performance bonus.
    Yeah, the people who look at facts, milestones, and concrete data are the maroons…

  • kat

    maroon is the color of the camel’s ass from whence Angelos’ head emerges every now and then so he can scream “halliburton” one more time.

  • Section9

    The key point to me appears to be the value of the dinar.

    For all the Vietnam heads, I would compare the dinar to the value of the South Vietnamese piastre, a junk currency if there ever was one. No one ever felt that the RVN would survive once we left, and it didn’t. The PAVN rolled over it two years after we pulled out (although Congress cut off military aid). There is no “North Iraq” to roll over “South Iraq” once we leave. There is an insurgency that represents a minority of Sunnis, plus the Islamic Fascisti, who apparently are making a habit of killing the locals, thus pissing them off. This is leading to Red on Red fighting.

    Through all of this the dinar is either holding or increasing in value. You can’t bullshit a currency trader or a local Iraqi money guy. People vote with their dinars. The fact is, relative to Iraq before the invasion, it is a more prosperous country, and investment is up. In addition, the prospect of additional oil coming online has to be concentrating Iraqi minds. BTW, this is, I suspect, a reason for so many Saudis showing up in Zarqawiland. I do not believe this to be an accident-the Saudi Royal Family likes the prospect of 70 dollar a barrel oil, and as long as Iraq is on its back, 70 dollar a barrel oil is a good bet. Methinks the Saudi Royals have their hand in some bad business. Iraqi oil production going at full tilt, on the other hand, drives prices back down. Not good for the gold plating on the rims of your pimped-out Rolls Royce.

    While I don’t believe in a long term military solution to the problem of the Sunni arhabi, I suspect that there will be a political solution among the Iraqis themselves, along the lines of an understanding of an eventual American pullout as a price for peace in exchange for Sunni acceptance and participation in the political process. A fair trade, in exchange for their turning on the jihadists (who are probably wearing out their welcome, anyway).

    It was always going to end in a political solution among the Arabs-it’s their bloody country. Our price is Zarqawi and his goons: that’s who we want.

  • Angelos

    That’s a great argument Kat.
    Just wake me up when can actually say something I wrote is incorrect. Or when there’s enough electricity in Baghdad. Either one.
    And Section9, if all we wanted was a couple heads, we paid, and will continue to pay, WAY too high a price.

  • Angelos

    And, in a sign of continuing polarization, more than two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq.

  • Ptolemy

    If not for the walking homicides wantonly killing as many people as possible, many of the operational problems would have long been solved (electricity, oil production, etc). Why isn’t the Left furious at the rampaging animals committing these acts? Why is all the hate reserved for the military for not overcoming all these horrible and deliberate obstacles?

  • Angelos

    Uh, ptolemy, how f-ing wrong can you be?????
    No one who is against the invasion of Iraq is blaming the troops. We blame the suits who sent them to be slaughtered, on false premises, and without enough equipment or help.
    If you can’t understand that much, maybe you should back away from the keyboard.
    In fact, in the thread just above this one, I and another Democrat said that very thing. It’s tough to fix infrastructure when you’re constantly looking over your shoulders for another car bomb or human bomb.
    Us “libruls” understand cause and effect a little better than your administration does, apparently.
    And you wingers forget one thing – we started a war. While “major combat operations” may be over, the war isn’t, because our enemy was never Iraq in the first place. Our actual enemy doesn’t have the weapons or resources we do. But they have bombs, and they’re using them. Just fighting their idea of a war.

  • Ptolemy

    I still believe the terrorists are committing these acts with you in mind, Angelos. Every time one goes off you all shout quagmire and retreat. They can’t move us out with terrorism unless we lose heart in this effort. They are bombing for you in expectation that you will effect a withdrawel by demoralizing your country enough or by impeaching Bush.
    They just plan to hold out and murder Iraqis/Americans knowing all your anger will be at America and that evenually you will do their job for them and demand the US surrender. Just like another war the Left remembers and dreams about.