Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hidden in plain sight

A reasonable-sounding kind of guy emails the InstaPundit and wonders why the media just won't report on the declining U.S. troop deaths, bombings, etc:

My only point is that, at the very least, people who complain that good news coming out of Iraq gets shuttered by the press aren’t crazy.

Well, maybe not crazy, but probably not very good users of the Google-ometer.

Why, look! Here's a story from the April 2 edition of the NYT. And they buried it on the front page, in the first column, above the fold. Here's what the print edition's headline (not available online) said:



New Phase of War Further Splits Sunni and Shiite -- U.S. Deaths Drop

Now, one could argue that there's something of a negative spin on the article, and the "U.S. Deaths Drop" comes all the way at the end, but if you can't be bothered to read 23 words before you start screaming "bias!" then you probably don't have any business being a press critic. Still, maybe you read the story online, and they buried the decline in troop deaths all the way at the end! Well, here's the lede:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 1 — The war in Iraq has entered a bloodier phase, with the killings of Iraqi civilians rising tremendously in daily sectarian violence while American casualties have steadily declined, spurring tens of thousands of Iraqis to flee from mixed Shiite-Sunni areas.

The new pattern, detailed in casualty and migration statistics from the past six months and in interviews with American commanders and Iraqi officials, has led to further separation of Shiite and Sunni Arabs, moving the country toward a de facto partitioning along sectarian and ethnic lines — an outcome that the Bush administration has doggedly worked to avoid over the past three years.

The nature of the Iraq war has been changing since at least the late autumn, when political friction between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs rose even as American troops began implementing a long-term plan to decrease their street presence. But the killing accelerated after the bombing on Feb. 22 of a revered Shiite shrine, which unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodletting.

About 900 Iraqi civilians died violently in March, up from about 700 the month before, according to military statistics and the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an independent organization that tracks deaths. Meanwhile, at least 29 American troops were killed in March, the second-lowest monthly total since the war began.

And of course, one of the major reasons we're seeing less troop deaths? We're "implementing a long-term plan to decrease [our] street presence."

Well, that's all well and good, the lead story in the most influential newsapaper in the country. But what about all the other agenda-driven media who want the Iraq War to fail? Where is their reporting on the troop death decline?

How about the Washington Post? How about the Knight Ridder chain? How about Reuters? How about NPR? How about UPI? And on and on.

But see, when you work yourself into a blind rage about all that negative press coverage of Iraq, you tend not to see these things.

UPDATE: Also, should have linked to the Brookings Institute study on which the Insty emailer based his post. It's curious, though, that the blogger at MyElectionAnalysis uses this line [the numbers are trend lines from Brookings over the last several months]:

Okay, okay, so insurgents aren’t engaging us; they’re turning increasingly to car bombs then, right?

70, 70, 70, 68, 30, 30

Civilians then. They’re just garroting poor civilians.

527, 826, 532, 732, 950, 446 (upper bound, two months before that were 2489 and 1129).

Look, I may not be a numbers-crunching blogger or a fancy Brookings Institute report-writer, but if anyone believes that the number of civilian deaths have declined in, say, the last month-and-a-half, well, I've got lots of landmarks for purchase. The NYT says in the article excerpted abovethat deaths have shot up from 700 to 900 in the last month.

The point is this: people who are looking for good news, any good news, will make themselves happy with these numbers. I remain deeply agnostic-to-pessimistic. If reporters are talking to commanders on the ground in Iraq, and those commanders are telling us that the war is shifting from insurgent-civilian attacks to civilian-civilian, then that's obviously a pretty bad sign. Yes, bombings may be down, insurgent attacks on civilians may be down, but a low-grade civil war is bubbling. People want to spin this as a good thing? That's delusional.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 4:32 PM

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