W. Thomas Smith, Jr

The latest criticism of the war in Iraq has become so politically manipulative, so disingenuous, so over-the-top; it is undermining a critical cause that we cannot afford to lose; and for a variety of global security reasons.

As I mentioned in my piece on irresponsible reporting, there is far too much emphasis on blatantly inflammatory words and pictures – any opportunity to focus attention on tired stories like Abu Ghraib or an angry politician’s loaded comments about “no WMDs” or an “impending civil war.”

Thanks to the short shrift given it by many members of the mainstream press, too few Americans appreciate or grasp the magnitude of the fact that the first session (since last December) of a freely elected Iraqi parliament convened on March 16: A result that would not have been possible had it not been for three risky albeit remarkably successful elections since January 2005.

And as far as the U.S. effort is concerned, it seems there is almost nothing the White House, the Pentagon, or for that matter any American rifleman on the ground can do that is good enough to garner so much as a one-line “attaboy” from many of our country’s largest newspapers and television news networks.

Let’s look at last Thursday, March 16, the day the Iraqi National Assembly opened in Baghdad and a high-profile “air assault” northeast of Samarra, as an example:

The earliest news leads in U.S. newspapers (particularly the online versions) read something to the effect of, “Iraqi and coalition forces today launched the largest air assault operation since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in southern Salah Ad Din province to clear a suspected insurgent operating area.”

They were legitimate leads, based largely on the U.S. Defense Department’s initial press release about Operation Swarmer, a “50-ship” helicopter assault aimed at seizing weapons caches, gathering intelligence, and nabbing or killing terrorists in the targeted area.

But a misinterpretation of military terminology resulted in many – perhaps most – Americans having an image in their minds of waves of bombers and fighters unleashing a 2006 version of 2003’s “shock and awe.” And those responsible for disseminating the news, did not initially help much in that regard.

When I logged into my email Thursday morning, I had numerous messages from colleagues who – unlike me – are opposed to our efforts in Iraq. One reporter-friend asked, almost gleefully, “What are we doing now? Why are we launching a ‘massive’ bombing campaign in Iraq? So now we are bombing and killing lots of innocent civilians? Justify this!”

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
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