The "good news" that conservatives have accused the media of not reporting has generally been pretty weak. The Iraqi elections were indeed major accomplishments. But the opening of schools and hospitals is not particularly newsworthy, at least not compared with American casualties and with sectarian attacks meant to bring Iraq down around everyone's heads in a full-scale civil war. An old conservative chestnut has it that only four of Iraq's 18 provinces are beset by violence. True, but those provinces include 40 percent of the population, as well as the capital city, where the battle over the country's future is being waged.
In their distrust of the mainstream media, their defensiveness over President Bush and the war, and their understandable urge to buck up the nation's will, many conservatives lost touch with reality on Iraq. They thought that they were contributing to our success, but they were only helping to forestall a cold look at conditions there and the change in strategy and tactics that would be dictated by it.
"Realism" has gotten a bad name lately from its association with James Baker's daffy Iraq Study Group. But realism is essential in any war, and it is impossible without an ability to assimilate bad news, even bad news that comes from distasteful sources. Conservatives need to realize that something is not dubious just because it's reported by The New York Times, and that the media ultimately will be wrong about Iraq only if --fully acknowledging how bad it is there -- the Bush administration takes bold steps to reverse the tide.
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