- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2009


Gone are the days of 2,000 embedded reporters nervously fingering their gas masks and bandying about the term “daisy cutter.” Press coverage of Iraq has gotten minimal, and good news from the nation, as usual, is microscopic. With that in mind, here is the official boots-on-the-ground report from the proverbial sandbox, this from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, commander of the Minnesota National Guard’s 34th Infantry Division as well as the Multinational Division South in Iraq.

Things are, well, not too bad.

“The Iraqi security forces have had tremendous success in establishing security throughout the nine provinces of southern Iraq,” Gen. Nash says, which in turn has encouraged the locals to side with the government, provide actionable intelligence and foster “significant captures of weapons and ammunition.”

Among the latest haul: metal plates used in making armor-piercing roadside bombs, magnetic “sticky” bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, hundreds of machine guns, assault rifles and thousands of small-arms rounds — plus more than 100 rockets, artillery rounds and mortar shells. The number of attack incidents in the region has dropped to about one a day over an area containing more than 10 million people, Gen. Nash says.

The U.S. military does not provide logistics support, though troops do some heavy lifting in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and medical evacuation. The Iraqis provide their own food, fuel, maintenance and ground transportation. They also enforce the local law themselves, obtaining arrest warrants and making court appearances.

“They’re really doing a great job, and I’ve seen just magnificent improvement since we’ve been here taking over this area in May,” Gen. Nash observes.

Selective reading

The precious New York Times best-seller designation doesn’t do much for conservative authors. Consider that talk radio host Mark Levin’s “Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto” spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Times best-seller list, and remains in the top 10. Yet it got no mention on the big three broadcast networks in the first six months of the year, according to a study by the Culture and Media Institute.

In contrast, Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” warranted six stories on ABC, CBS or NBC.

Overall, best-sellers penned by liberal authors were featured 36 times on the three networks. They covered the books of conservative writers only 12 times. The analysts also found that the networks ran stories on nearly 80 percent of the liberal authors on the best-seller list, but only 36 percent of conservative authors.

“We have not heard from any of the major networks, and the only major newspaper that has interviewed me is the Philadelphia Inquirer, and that’s because I’m from Philadelphia,” Mr. Levin says. “The book is selling by word of mouth. I’ve done very little media, and it’s chugging along. I don’t need Matt Lauer’s imprimatur to believe what I believe and to speak to my audience.”

March to a million

Is there change of a different sort in the wind? Maybe. The Heritage Foundation reports that by the end of August, their membership had topped half a million for the first time, reaching 515,000. That’s up from 395,000 at the start of the year and 281,000 at the start of 2007.

“There’s a good reason for this,” says Ed Feulner, president of the 36-year-old research and educational group. “Our time-tested conservative principles offer an alternative to business as usual in Washington. Onward to 1 million.”

Poll du jour

90 percent of Americans support increased food safety measures by the federal government.

89 percent support new measures to protect the public.

83 percent say the federal government is responsible for food safety.

64 percent say imported food is “often or sometimes” unsafe.

58 percent fear bacterial contamination of the nation’s food supply.

Source: A Pew Health Group survey of 1,005 likely voters conducted June 29 to July 3.

Days of yore

The start of a long tradition? The U.S. government took out its very first loan on this day in 1789, hitting up several banks in New York City. Francis Scott Key penned a poem titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry” on this day in 1814; it was eventually set to an old British drinking tune and became “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Guard small dogs today, watch out for flying monkeys. We note that it’s the 107th birthday of actress Margaret Hamilton, who was 37 when she played the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”

And for no reason in particular, we point out that the highest temperature ever recorded — 136 degrees — was measured at Al Aziziyah, Libya, on this day in 1922.

Margaret Chase Smith was elected to the U.S. Senate and became the first woman to serve in both houses of the U.S. Congress 61 years ago today.

And last but certainly not least, Willie Nelson and his band performed at the White House for President Carter 29 years ago today. After the festivities were over, Mr. Nelson strolled to the White House roof to smoke a little marijuana, an event he revealed in his biography several years go. Mr. Carter denied he knew about such goings-on in the aftermath; Mr. Nelson is now campaigning for Texas gubernatorial hopeful Kinky Friedman.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085. Follow her at twitter.com/harperbulletin.

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