WASHINGTON -- "Does anyone know or care that we're turning things around over here?" The query was in one of several dozen e-mails I received this week from troops with whom our FOX News "War Stories" team has been embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them are on their third -- some even their fourth -- combat tour. The sender was chiding me for going to the Philippines to cover his comrades-in-arms in the campaign against Abu Sayyaf instead of heading back to Mesopotamia. In fact, his plaint could have been aimed at anyone in the so-called mainstream media -- where good news is no news -- and no bad news story is too old to resurrect with a new lead.
The soldier's lament is valid. As congressmen prepare to embark on their weeklong Independence Day recess, there will be no vacation at the beach for the 177,000 U.S. troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. While the rest of their countrymen are carping about $3 per gallon gasoline and whining about long lines at airports, young Americans deployed along the Tigris and Euphrates will don 50-pound flak jackets and Kevlar helmets and do battle against suicidal Islamic radicals in 130-degree heat. But no matter how effective our troops are, it's unlikely to make its way to the front page of your newspaper or the evening news.
If things continue to go as they began this week on Operation Arrowhead Ripper, there will be major successes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates in Baqubah and Diyala province. In Al Anbar, the Marines and their Sunni allies will continue the process of building new police stations and bringing security to neighborhoods once dominated by Al Qaeda. And in Maysan province, Iranian-supported Shiite militias will continue to get rolled up by U.S. and British Special Operations units. But little of that -- other than the inevitable casualty figures -- will be worthy of being called "news" by the potentates of the press.
Instead of good news from the war zone -- the masters of our media have decided to feed us a steady diet of bad news from a different battlefield -- Washington. And to do so, they have had to scrape the bottom of every political barrel they can find.
Tony Blair's departure from office -- after more than a decade as Prime Minister of Great Britain -- was depicted as a "major blow to Bush." Descriptions of Blair as the president's "last foreign ally" were a common theme, along with prognostications that the new PM, Gordon Brown, would move to "expeditiously withdraw British troops from Iraq." The fact that Blair had announced his intention to step down nearly a year ago was barely mentioned in these commentaries.
To ensure that younger Americans who weren't even alive in the 1970s know just how evil our government really is, the media hyped the re-release of 693 pages of internal reports on "CIA misdeeds" and "bungled illegal operations." The Associated Press ballyhooed the release as a catalog of "misconduct" and "agency excesses" as though the information was brand new. Only those who are very young, illiterate or suffering from amnesia would think of this as news -- but that's the treatment it received. Fidel Castro had to be pleased. Resurrecting the CIA's failed Kennedy-era assassination attempt against the Cuban communist may give the fading dictator a new lease on life -- and help Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Patrick Leahy build support in Congress for new limits on counter-terror wiretaps.
Messrs Blair and Castro weren't the only ones making "war news" this week. Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, depicted as a "wise man" of the Republican Party, also made headlines by declaring in a floor speech that, "In my judgment our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond." Though his remarks continued for more than 50 minutes, the media hyped his belief that "the current surge strategy is not an effective means of protecting" America's vital interests in Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Lugar's remarks a "turning point" in the war.
Nobody mentioned that the "surge strategy" has actually been in effect for one week. Instead, breathless headline writers and broadcast newsreaders who failed to read the entire text of Lugar's remarks cited "GOP leaders defecting" and "Tide shifting on GOP support for war," as though Lugar was a longstanding advocate for the appropriate use of force who had suddenly seen the light.
In reality, Lugar's long tenure in Congress reveals a pattern of uncertainty when it comes to the forceful prosecution of American foreign policy. In 1986 he led the fight to overturn Ronald Reagan's veto of congressionally imposed economic sanctions on South Africa. He voted against aid to the Nicaraguan anti-communist resistance in the FY '89 defense budget; voted repeatedly against funding for the B-2 Bomber, "yes" for nuclear disarmament in 1991 and against funding SDI in 1992.
Those are inconvenient facts for those who want to depict Lugar's recent statement on the war as some kind of tectonic shift. But for America's media elites, it's enough. They have determined that the outcome of the war against radical Islam will be decided not on the battlefields of Iraq but in the corridors of power in Washington. And about that, they may very well be right.