- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

There is no development in Iraq that the news media do not treat as a setback, so it comes as no surprise that crepe is being hung by the cartload in the wake of the suicide truck bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad.

As I write this several days after the bombing, Nexis indicates there already have been 183 news stories printed that use the word “chaos” to describe the situation in Iraq, 33 that use the word “quagmire” and four that use both.

Television is worse. The CBS Evening News broadcast Aug. 20 a report by Mark Phillips that Mickey Kaus said was “so jaw-droppingly one-sided and opportunistically defeatist” that it made the BBC look like the O’Reilly Factor.

“Phillips outlines U.S. goals in Afghanistan and Iraq… and then asserts flatly that chaos and blood, not security and democracy, have been the result,” Mr. Kaus said. The only authorities Mr. Phillips cited for this conclusion were two leaders of radical Islamic groups (neither of them Iraqi).

“That’s it. No attempt to even summarize what the Bush administration might credibly argue that it has achieved, much less to actually film somebody saying it,” Mr. Kaus said. “Even as an antiwar document, this was bad journalism.”

“Judging from news reports… some might think my native Iraq was in a terrible mess. Not so,” wrote Ayad Rahim in The Washington Times.

“Except for the isolated contract killings and sabotage, the country is calm and experiencing improved conditions day by day,” Mr. Rahim said. “A general who previously served in Kosovo said things are happening in Iraq after three months that didn’t happen after 12 months in Kosovo.”

“There is another Iraq the media virtually ignore,” wrote Marine Lance Cpl. John Guardino. “It has been a model of success. The streets are safe, petty and violent crime are low, water and electrical services are almost universally available, and ordinary Iraqis are beginning to clean up and rebuild their neighborhoods…. A deep level of mutual trust and respect has developed between the Marines and the populace here in central and southern Iraq.”

The bombing of the U.N. complex and the earlier bombing of the Jordanian Embassy actually are indications the United States is succeeding in Iraq.

The original strategy of the terrorists was what might be called the Mogadishu strategy. Kill a few Americans, and they will leave, as they did in Somalia in 1993.

The terrorists killed a few Americans, and we didn’t leave. And the terrorists discovered a downside to attacking Americans. Americans shoot back. As I write this, Central Command is reporting that Ali Hassan al Majid, who orchestrated the gassing the Kurds, No. 5 in the deck of 55, has been taken into custody. Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay are burning in hell. Saddam is on the run. The Mogadishu strategy has not worked.

The terrorists have discovered that if they attack Americans, they will probably get killed. So they have shifted to softer targets. But though this reduces military danger, it increases political risk.

“Baghdad residents condemned the bombing, drawing a distinction between terrorism against humanitarian workers and the guerrilla attacks on U.S. soldiers, which many Iraqis consider legitimate resistance to foreign occupation,” the Knight Ridder news service said.

Guerrillas must swim in a sea of at least some popular support. The sea is drying up.

Journalists are beginning to note, and lament, that Iraq is becoming a magnet for al Qaeda types. “It would appear the very terrorism the war in Iraq was meant to combat is now being drawn into the country with renewed vigor and no lack of targets,” wailed UPI senior editor Claude Salhani.

As usual, journalists are putting a negative spin on a mostly positive development. To win the war on terror, we have to kill the hard core terrorists. It is better to fight them in Iraq, where our soldiers can kill them without reading them their Miranda rights first than it is to wait for them to strike in Chicago or New York. We have a “fly paper” strategy. It’s working.

Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.

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