Monday, June 5, 2006

No one yet knows what happened in Haditha, Iraq, last November. There are unconfirmed accounts of a massacre perpetrated by a unit of enraged Marines against unarmed civilians. Unless I miss my guess, this is about to be the biggest story in the world.

Consider that Abu Ghraib, which did not involve killing or torture (though it did include extreme humiliation) became the American and world press’ favorite topic for weeks on end, though far more grotesque acts were perpetrated daily by the jihadists in Iraq and elsewhere. The American press since has focused almost exclusively on stories from Iraq that depict the situation as hopeless and the role of Americans as counterproductive.

Even before we know anything with certainty about Haditha, the Chattanooga Times Free Press has let fly with this bit of instant sociology: “If the vicious sectarian strife that is ripping Iraq apart holds no apparent end and is now sufficient to prompt a spree of unprovoked killings of innocents by American troops, Americans reasonably may wonder whether, as some generals already believe, this nation is now doing more harm than good by remaining in Iraq.”

Rep. Jack Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, every liberal’s favorite ex-Marine since the day he advised pulling out of Iraq, called a press conference to accuse the Marines of murder. “[T]here was no firefight, there was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

The Boston Globe, like countless other outlets I checked on, has rushed to dust off Vietnam analogies: “The My Lai massacre, covered up for more than a year, symbolized the moral bankruptcy of the Vietnam War. Senators need to determine whether the Haditha killings were a shameful anomaly, or, three years into the occupation, a manifestation of a deep coarsening in the U.S. force.” Three guesses which option the Globe thinks is true?

Actually, My Lai was not evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the Vietnam War. It was exactly what America-haters here and abroad claimed it was not — an aberration. It is endlessly frustrating to see those who were so wrong about the Cold War, starting with Vietnam, invoke the memory of that conflict to stand for the opposite of what it should. The principal “lesson” of Vietnam that our enemies learned was that America could be driven from the battlefield by psychological warfare aimed at the home front. They always flee, teaches Osama bin Laden. The lessons our liberal professors and editorialists learned was that the war was immoral. And no amount of experience — a million boat people, genocide in neighboring Cambodia, the collapse of communism nearly everywhere — has been sufficient to alter their view.

There are any number of liberal congressmen, commentators and opinion leaders who, like their European counterparts, actively wish America to fail in Iraq because it will mean the failure of the hated Bush presidency. Their reporting from Iraq has therefore been one-sided and defeatist from the beginning. (In fact, the defeatism preceded the Iraq war and was evident in the early days of the Afghanistan campaign as well when the New York Times famously declared the conflict a “quagmire” after only a few days of fighting.)

Amir Taheri, writing in the June issue of Commentary magazine, offers a catalogue of progress in Iraq that is almost impossible to find in our principal news outlets. For example, he notes there have been no queues of refugees streaming out of Iraq. To the contrary, 1.2 million have returned home since Saddam’s ouster. Muslim pilgrims flock to the holy sites in Karbala and Najaf. The Iraqi dinar, which had been in free fall during the final period of Saddam’s misrule, has risen by 17 percent against the Kuwaiti dinar and 23 percent against the Iranian rial. Iraq’s gross domestic product has rebounded since the invasion, and inflation has dropped from 70 percent to 25.4 percent.

Yes, violence is extreme, particularly in certain areas of the country. But this does not mean democracy is failing to take root. Seventy percent of eligible Iraqis voted in the last three years. Radio stations, newspapers and Internet blogs have proliferated. The first free trade unions in the Arab world have begun in Iraq.

But don’t expect to hear about those things. Our press will doubtless be too busy luxuriating in Haditha.

Correction: In my May 24 column, I said 23 percent of all births were to illegal immigrants. That 23 percent statistic actually refers to births to all immigrants. I regret the error.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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