- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2004

The Department of Defense has its own counterpoint to the mainstream press, which often emphasizes lawlessness and acrimony rather than progress and hope in Iraq as the June 30 transition approaches.

The Department of Defense’s “Defend America” Web site (www.defendamerica.mil) offers a daily, clear-eyed dose of the good, bad and ugly that confronts U.S. troops — along with the noble, poignant, hair-raising and humorous.

“We try to show all sides of the human experience. If it impacts our soldiers, we cover it,” said editor Linda Kozaryn. “We hear from parents, families and friends of our troops who are grateful for the news. We give them something the mainstream media does not.”

The site is also a showcase for military photojournalists on the front lines of both Iraq and Afghanistan, bolstered with facts, maps, transcripts and operational information.

But the contrast in the coverage of Iraq is startling.

Defend America reported yesterday, for example, a half-dozen Iraqi armed forces recruiting stations “continue to be flooded with thousands of eager Iraqi volunteers” — 25,000 in the past year — ready “to serve their country and ensure its freedom,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Timothy Fitzpatrick, head of the Iraqi recruiting effort.

The U.S. Army, meanwhile, introduced the concept of the town meeting to Baghdad neighborhoods this week to “give the community a taste of democracy and a sense of ownership,” said Capt. Michael Levy of the 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment Field Artillery unit.

More than 70 people attended one inaugural gathering, which was deemed a success by Army organizers.

But The Washington Post said yesterday that American efforts in Iraq were nothing more than “chaos” and a “controversial, costly intervention.”

USA Today declared that “Iraqis want their country — now,” while the Los Angeles Times referred to the transition as a “messy process.” CBS News continues to call its coverage of transition “Iraq in Turmoil.”

In addition, the Los Angles Times offered a lengthy story yesterday about a run-down schoolhouse, which served as “a symbol of how the coalition has failed” Iraqis. Defend America, however, detailed the exact amounts of U.S. funds — delivered by Marines — earmarked for the city of Al Kharma.

It included $19,000 for city infrastructure, $21,500 for electric power, $23,500 for billboards and flagpoles, $2,500 for street cleanup, $32,000 for youth recreation and $7,000 for a soccer and handball league to be run by a local sheik.

The Los Angeles Times story dwelled on “open-air sewage,” while Defend America offered two news items that explained that “rehabilitation work on turbine 5 has added 110 megawatts of electricity (105 MW derated) to the Iraqi power grid,” and “the 5th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division plans to help the people of Al Rashid solve their sewage problems.”

The Department of Defense also maintains its own news site (www.defenselink.mil).

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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