When the Iraq war is being reported, it's critical that we get our news from trustworthy sources, and not from the sources that support our political opinion about the war. It's not uncommon for US news sources to parrot untruths that originate with sources friendly to al Qaeda.
While I was serving in Iraq, it was common to wonder why the news was being reported the way it was, because it didn't seem to be a good picture of what was really happening. Sometimes it was just lazy reporting, or an attempt on the part of the reporter to report that which was most sensational. Sometimes it was fear on the part of the reporter to get outside of the Green Zone to find out what was really going on. In many cases, US news relies on news 'stringers' or local reporters that do the reporting for them. It makes me wonder if they rely on stringers more than they do the military for such reporting.
John Hughes, former editor of the Christian Science Monitor tells of one such story.
A Marine officer whose credibility I trust cites an operation of success in theregion earlier this month that was reported as a disaster by US and British media companies. His unit had established a new precinct headquarters for Iraqi police, Army troops, and US Marines to patrol and protect a dedicated area. It was well received by the local populace and almost 200 Iraqis volunteered for police recruitment. Insurgents sought to disrupt it but were routed.
Meanwhile, in a separate firefight at a makeshift suicide vehicle factory, three separate suicide bombers were killed, two suicide trucks were discovered and blown up, and foreign and other fighters were killed or captured. On the defending side, one civilian and one policeman were wounded, with no US or other casualties. "The enemy was killed in his tracks; his best weapon was discovered before it could cause any harm," says the officer, "but Western media reported no enemy killed in these operations, 28 civilians killed, and 50 civilians wounded. We are getting demolished," the Marine officer says, "by nefarious enemy media outlets … 'reporters' or 'sources' for Arab and other news agencies either on insurgent payrolls or who have known sympathies with insurgent operations, and by collective Western media that are often being manipulated by enemy elements. What incredible economy of effort the enemy is afforded when US media is their megaphone. Why spend precious resources on developing your own propaganda machine when you can make your opponent's own news outlets scream your message louder than you could ever have hoped to do independently?"
Do we think it's important to know the truth, or to propagate those ideas that most closely match our opinion of whether we should be in Iraq? I think that, regardless of what our opinion is, what's true is true. That's what should be reported.
Al Qaeda and al Jazeera are not reliable sources of news. And reliable news sources shouldn't rely on them. Even if it is more exciting than the truth.