- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2007


For three years, politicians and pundits challenged the president’s policy of spreading democracy around the world. Can’t be done — particularly in the Middle East, they tell us. Won’t help to make us safer, they claim. It has become a mantra of the Left.

To support their assertion that democracy has reached inevitable limits, they cite problems in Afghanistan with a resurgent Taliban and, of course, “the U.S. failure” in Iraq. Both issues were raised repeatedly with President Bush at his press conference on the economy last week.

Despite evidence of progress on the ground in Iraq, the masters of the media — and the majority in Congress appear unwilling to desist in their attacks — and intend to continue their barrage of defeatism. The mainstream media all but ignored press releases from Iraqi and coalition commands on successes against both Iranian-backed terror cells in Baghdad’s Sadr City and al Qaeda’s network in northern Iraq, Salahadin, Diyala and Al Anbar provinces.

Instead of covering these stories with in-depth reporting from the front, the potentates of the press launched a “shock and awe” campaign of their own. The target? The Iraqi parliament — for taking a monthlong recess in the midst of a war.

Perhaps the press and politicians who are so outraged that the Iraqi legislature is on “vacation” should learn a bit of history. The British parliament recessed for all but one holiday — the summer of 1940 — throughout World War II. In keeping with this “democratic tradition” the U.S. Congress has done the same thing during every war we have fought — including our own Revolution.

Rather than fire barbs at the Iraqi legislature, critics should focus their ire on Capitol Hill. The 110th Congress — led by Democrats Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California — is setting new records for irresponsible behavior.

Though they have found time to launch more than 600 investigatory hearings, our good senators and representatives fled Washington this week for a month in the sun without passing any of a dozen appropriations bills — including those needed to support our troops in the field. This week the shipment of new armored vehicles, necessary to protect U.S. soldiers and Marines from deadly Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) was postponed for lack of funding.

Little of this congressional misfeasance — or its consequences — made its way onto the front pages of major U.S. newspapers or the network news.

Nor was anything but scant attention paid to a recent nationwide USA Today/Gallup Poll showing the proportion of those who believe additional U.S. troops are “making the situation better” in Iraq rose to 31 percent from 22 percent a month ago. Those who said it was “not making much difference” dropped to 41 percent from 51 percent.

A shift in public opinion this significant would be hyped in any political campaign — and likely make the pundits take notice. Instead, almost to prove the people wrong, we have been treated to yet another avalanche of headlines and lead stories bemoaning bad things in Iraq. “5 more boycott Iraqi Cabinet,” said an Associated Press headline. “Iraqi political crisis grows,” screamed ABC News. “26 U.S. troops killed in 1 week in Iraq,” blared a CBS headline. The Washington Post ran, “Weapons given to Iraq missing.”

The Bush administration has, up to now, been able to alter the negative editorial perspective of those who decide what will and will not be reported about this war. For the last six months, that task has fallen to Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. He has certainly tried.

During an exclusive interview this week on Fox News Radio’s “Alan Colmes Show,” Mr. Colmes asked the general, bluntly, “Is the surge working?” Gen. Petraeus’ reply: “It is. We are making progress. We have achieved tactical momentum in many areas, especially against al Qaeda Iraq, and to a lesser degree against the militia extremists. We’re also heartened by the number of Iraqi tribes and local citizens who have rejected al Qaeda.”

Asked if Iraqis could take over their own security, the general replied, “They have actually taken over security in a number of different places…. If you look at Samawa, Nasiriyah, Najaf, Karbala — we hardly have any forces in those locations at all.”

Though Alan Colmes is anything but a shill for the Bush administration, his liberal media colleagues simply ignored these previews of what Gen. Petraeus will tell the Congress in September. One can only conclude they don’t want the American people to get any “good news” from the battlefield.

It’s time to face facts. The American media simply aren’t going to march in step on this war. My eight trips, embedded with U.S. units, letting our troops tell the story, haven’t been enough. Having the battlefield commander tell the story hasn’t worked. Neither have video conferences from the Situation Room, talking points issued by the Pentagon or press conferences like this week’s from the White House press room.

There is, however, a way to reach the American people while our Congress is on vacation. George W. Bush can’t do it from Washington or his dad’s place in Kennebunkport, Maine. After kissing French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the cheek and taking him out to fish, Commander-in-Chief George Bush needs to jump on Air Force One and fly to Iraq.

Now is the time to change the paradigm, Mr. President. Your visit will confound America’s adversaries and reassure our allies. The troops will be forever grateful. And most Americans will admire you for going — because it’s the right thing to do.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of “War Stories” on the Fox News Channel and founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance an organization that provides support to the troops and scholarships to sons and daughters of American heroes.

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