Saturday, October 11, 2003

President George W. Bush is on the offensive this week, warning the country not to succumb to the misguided belief the danger of terrorism has passed. “Terrorists continue to plot and plan against our country… and we must fight this war until our work is done,” he said to members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard. Noting again that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, he said, “There is only one decent and humane reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein: Good riddance.”

The president’s remarks are part of a concerted effort this week by Vice President Richard Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others in the administration to rebut the professional pessimists in the news media who can’t stop distorting and exaggerating the problems in Iraq. Great achievements are being made there, but unfortunately are being ignored here at home.

Sensational reports from television news anchors, correspondents and other media dominate the airwaves and newsprint and paint a false picture of postwar Iraq. The Media Research Center, which records political bias in the Fourth Estate, provided some examples.

“While increasingly organized guerrilla-style attacks are a top concern for American forces in Iraq, ordinary Iraqis are faced with an extraordinary surge of crime, banditry and thuggery from carjacking and robbery to kidnapping and murder. The result is a population fearful, frustrated, angry and heavily armed,” announced CBS’ Dan Rather as he introduced a story by his colleague Kimberly Dozier.

Miss Dozier went on to report: “Day or night, these are some of the most dangerous streets on Earth. Desperation drives murder and theft. Iraqis have traded fear of the despot for fear of their fellow man, and U.S. troops seem powerless to protect them.”

Newsweek irresponsibly compared Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to “Baghdad Bob.” NBC’s Tom Brokaw insisted there was a “profound failure of intelligence” and that somebody in the administration should be “held accountable.” New York Times reporter Richard Bernstein said President Bush is seen as “a gunslinging cowboy knocking over international treaties and bent on controlling the world’s oil, if not the entire world.”

Such negative reports, Rep. Jim Marshall, Georgia Democrat, warns, “are hurting our chances” to complete the mission in Iraq. “The falsely bleak picture,” painted by the media, Mr. Marshall wrote, “weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.”

Last week, top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay released a preliminary report stating his team uncovered widespread evidence of unreported biological and chemical weapons programs that were concealed from U.N. inspectors. In the words of Mr. Kay: “Iraq’s WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

The report stated that “over two dozen laboratories that were hidden in the Iraqi intelligence service… had prohibited equipment, and… at the minimum, kept alive Iraq’s capability to produce both biological and chemical weapons.” But Mr. Kay also noted that much of the evidence of WMD “is irretrievably lost” because prior to the war there was “deliberate dispersal and destruction of material and documentation related to weapons programs.” Despite these facts, The Washington Post ran a headline that read: “Search in Iraq finds no banned weapons.”

Negative news reports are creating the impression that U.S. and coalition forces are losing in Iraq. As those who have been there report, that is not the case.

John Wobensmith, retired from the National Security Agency and now with the Institute of World Politics just returned from a five-city tour of Iraq and told me the attitude of the Iraqi people toward Americans and our allies is “very positive.” He said the reports of chaos are “greatly exaggerated” and “tremendous progress” is being made.

The media have created the impression the U.S. is going it alone in Iraq, yet more than three dozen countries have contributed to the rebuilding effort, 19 countries have sent personnel, and last week the Turkish Parliament overwhelmingly approved sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq. The media created the impression Saddam had no military arsenal, yet more than 8,200 tons of ammunition have been seized, along with thousands of weapons and grenades and evidence of WMD research and development. They created the impression there is still an organized Iraqi resistance, yet 43 of the top 55 most wanted Ba’athists have been captured or killed.

If you watch the news you would think there is no infrastructure. Yet electricity and water services have been restored to most Iraqis, and hospitals, schools and businesses are open.

All this and much more has been accomplished in free Iraq during the past six months. Not a bad record for a region where dictatorships are measured in decades. And not a bad story if the news media would care to report it.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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