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The Most Overlooked News Story of 2008

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Have you noticed lately that mainstream media are giving less attention to the war in Iraq, especially concerning our troops' progress? Who doesn't recognize by now that we live in a time in which there's little, if any, publishing space for positive military stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

CNSNews.com recently reported: "There were only two front-page New York Times stories that mentioned 'Iraq' in the headline in October 2008 -- there were 11 in October 2006 and 17 in October 2004. The Washington Post ran four front-page stories that had headlines using the word 'Iraq' in October 2008 -- in October 2006 there were 17 stories, and 27 stories in October 2004."

In July, The Times, a newspaper in the U.K., ran a column that commended American and Iraqi forces in making significant progress in Mosul, Iraq, and reaching the "final purge" of al-Qaida in Iraq. Investor's Business Daily echoed the same sentiment but sharply criticized American mainstream media for completely overlooking that military success. The media indictment became so widespread on the Internet that it left the global audience wondering whether such an oversight was an urban legend.

TruthOrFiction.com, an urban legend-debunking Web site, affirmed this media Mosul omission by saying: "At the time of our investigation, US media reports of this were hard to find but we did manage to find a report of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's announcement on the Fox News site. For the most part, it appears the mainstream media missed this one."

Here's what they missed:

During the surge in 2007 and early 2008, U.S. forces intensified efforts in Mosul by pushing out into small-neighborhood bases -- a strategy that proved successful in routing insurgents from other large cities in the country.

In February 2008, Col. Michael A. Bills, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, predicted that U.S. and Iraqi troops would be in full control of the city by the end of July.

By March 2008, Brig. Gen. Tony Thomas, second in command of coalition forces in northern Iraq, already was reporting: "So again, we can go anywhere we want to in Mosul and we're now forcing the enemy -- boxing them in, if you will -- into areas that they otherwise had free play in the city. So we've seized the initiative, and we're slowly but surely eliminating their toehold in the city."

By June 2008, this city of 2 million people had 14 Iraqi army battalions, 10,000 Iraqi police and 4,000 coalition force soldiers. And they were utilizing the "Sons of Iraq" (paid volunteers by the U.S.) to control neighborhoods better. And it was working.

Despite the fact that July 2008 saw an increase in insurgent activity, Lt. Col. Robert Molinari reported that it was really "nothing out of the norm." A senior Iraqi commander added: "We've limited their movements with checkpoints. They are doing small attacks and trying big ones, but they're mostly not succeeding." American and Iraqi forces clearly were getting the upper hand, demonstrated then through the dip in the number of U.S. casualties to the lowest number since the start of the war -- 11 deaths in the entire country.

Overall, attacks in Mosul and in Ninevah province have declined from 50 a day at the start of the year to the present number of 10 a day -- almost the same as the number was in 2006. Open street fighting is a rarity. That is why Maj. Ra'ad Jalal, an Iraqi officer, said: "The security situation in Mosul is improving. It's safe here now. I'd be happy to come here even without all of this protection."

Of course, assaults continue. But they don't diminish the momentous progress. Capt. Hunter Bowers, who presently is serving on the battlefield in Mosul, summarized his upbeat thoughts about their progress to me by e-mail Monday: "We have had some great success here and a lot of it has to do with the integration of the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police."

Unfortunately, instead of reporting these substantial advances being made in Mosul, mainstream American media have chosen to ignore them, favoring to continue to report only negative news from the war zones or repeated jabs by Democratic leaders about the unfounded grounds for the war. (I've been sadly amazed and gravely amused how often progress in war is played out not on the battlefield, but in the backrooms of news broadcasting studios.)

With another Pearl Harbor anniversary approaching and in a Christmas season when the sacrifice of our troops is accentuated by their absence from loved ones, it's fitting to honor, not overlook, those who fight for freedom. Find ways to commemorate their courage and commitment. Admonish others to watch positive and honorable tributes to our service members, such as those on the Military Channel and those created by director Mike Slee of Zaragoza Pictures, a documentary filmmaker whose mission also is to capture the progress of our troops -- including those in Mosul. (See his Mosul footage here.)

The fact is American coalition forces have reduced the number of al-Qaida fighters in Iraq from roughly 12,000 to 1,200, have cornered them in Mosul, and are successfully gaining the upper hand on their remaining strongholds. That is why Gen. James Conway, the head of the Marine Corps and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summarized, "Iraq is now a rear-guard action on the part of al-Qaida." In fact, he says that security is so good around the country that for the first time, it "smells like victory," adding that next year, as many as 20,000 Marines currently deployed will return home.

And just in time for President-elect Barack Obama to begin his withdrawal of our troops -- an act that likely will be a signal broadcasting victory in Iraq and likely will earn the new commander in chief credit for military success. Now there's a 2009 news story that America's mainstream media will be guaranteed to run over and over.

(In the spirit of Christmas, Chuck is giving away a free chapter from his current New York Times best-seller, "Black Belt Patriotism." To obtain yours, go to www.ChuckNorrisNewBook.com. "Black Belt Patriotism" makes a great Christmas gift for anyone!)

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