Thomas Sowell

The media seem to have come up with a formula that would make any war in history unwinnable and unbearable: They simply emphasize the enemy's victories and our losses.
 
 Losses suffered by the enemy are not news, no matter how large, how persistent, or how clearly they indicate the enemy's declining strength.

 What are the enemy's victories in Iraq? The killing of Americans and the killing of Iraqi civilians. Both are big news in the mainstream media, day in and day out, around the clock.

 Has anyone ever believed that any war could be fought without deaths on both sides? Every death is a tragedy to the individual killed and to his loved ones. But is there anything about American casualty rates in Iraq that makes them more severe than casualty rates in any other war we have fought?

 On the contrary, the American deaths in Iraqi are a fraction of what they have been in other wars in our history. The media have made a big production about the cumulative fatalities in Iraq, hyping the thousandth death with multiple full-page features in the New York Times and comparable coverage on TV.

 The two-thousandth death was similarly anticipated almost impatiently in the media and then made another big splash. But does media hype make 2,000 wartime fatalities in more than two years unusual?

 The Marines lost more than 5,000 men taking one island in the Pacific during a three-month period in World War II. In the Civil War, the Confederates lost 5,000 men in one battle in one day.

 Yet there was Jim Lehrer on the "News Hour" last week earnestly asking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the ten Americans killed that day. It is hard to imagine anybody in any previous war asking any such question of anyone responsible for fighting a war.

 We have lost more men than that in our most overwhelming and one-sided victories in previous wars. During an aerial battle over the Mariannas islands in World War II, Americans shot down hundreds of Japanese planes while losing about 30 of their own.

 If the media of that era had been reporting the way the media report today, all we would have heard about would have been that more than two dozen Americans were killed that day.

 Neither our troops nor the terrorists are in Iraq just to be killed. Both have objectives. But any objectives we achieve get short shrift in the mainstream media, if they are mentioned at all.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate



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