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Media's hand in the Iraq war

My exchange with Iraq war blogger Bill Roggio raises a sensitive issue.

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A few months ago in this space, I wrote about Bill Roggio, a blogger who covers US military campaigns, as an example of an online counterpoint to the mainstream media (MSM) coverage of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On his blog, www.billroggio.com and in pieces for publications such as The Weekly Standard, Mr. Roggio offers a more positive view of the military campaigns. What follows is an e-mail discussion we had last week about the MSM's coverage of Iraq:

Chinni: I know you weren't particularly pleased with the media's coverage of Iraq as of December. Has it gotten better, worse, or more accurate since then?

Roggio: In some respects the media coverage in Iraq has improved, such as the recent spate of reporting on the remarkable success in suppressing Al Qaeda and the insurgency in Anbar Province. But as a whole, the coverage in Iraq lacks context, and reporters as a whole display a lack of knowledge of counterinsurgency and the role the media plays in an insurgency's information campaign.

For instance, the success in Anbar was immediately negated when Al Qaeda conducted a suicide attack in Ramadi in early May, and the Associated Press "reported" that the attack dealt "a blow to recent U.S. success in reclaiming the Sunni city from insurgents." Al Qaeda conducted the attack to generate such an opening paragraph. This type of reporting is all too common in Iraq.

In the media reporting, the Baghdad Security Plan (the troop surge) was practically declared a failure before it even began. Al Qaeda and insurgent groups have clearly reduced attacks in the capital (even though the full complement of forces are yet to arrive, and much of Baghdad has yet to be cleared) and increased attacks in the provinces. Yet these attacks are generally lumped together. The goal posts have been shifted, and Al Qaeda achieves the desired effect – Iraq is a failure.

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