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Good News is No News

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Have you been keeping up with the good news out of Mosul, al-Qaida's last urban stronghold in Iraq? The good news is that it's not an al-Qaida stronghold any more. Thanks to the latest American and Iraqi offensive.

But you might not have heard about that welcome development. American victories don't get all that much play in this country - a pattern that dates back at least to David Halberstam's heyday as a New York Times war correspondent and behind-the-scenes player in Vietnam.

For news of victory, Americans may have to look to the foreign press. For example, The Times of London, which carried a piece by Marie Colvin the other day. She reported that "American and Iraqi forces are driving al-Qaida in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror."

Who knew? I must have overlooked the story in the New York Times. Nor did I see it on the AP wire. And I missed it on NPR, too. For much of the American media, good news is no news.

But there's hope. Reality dawns. Even at the New York Times. In a front-page story, the Times' Steven Lee Myers reports that the Pentagon, which has already begun withdrawing combat brigades as the Surge achieves its purpose, is considering further reductions in American force levels in Iraq.

To quote Mr. Myers: "Such a withdrawal would be a striking reversal from the nadir of the war in 2006 and 2007. Security in Iraq has improved vastly, as has the confidence of Iraq's government and military and police, raising the prospect of additional reductions (in American troop strength) that were barely conceivable a year ago."

Barely conceivable to some, anyway. Last year Barack Obama, who's now cinched his party's presidential nomination, was still arguing that the Surge would fail: "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."

But don't look for any of his anti-Surge statements on Senator Obama's Web site, not any more. They've just been purged. And replaced by a new, more militant stance. To borrow a phrase from Ron Ziegler, Richard Nixon's hapless press secretary: "This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative."

There's no longer any sign on the Web site of Senator Obama's long articulated, often reiterated view that American policy in Iraq is doomed to failure. It's been tossed down the memory hole. Winston Smith, whose job at the Ministry of Truth in "1984" was to rewrite history, would understand perfectly. Nothing is more mutable than the past - at least on your own Web site.

At the same time Senator Obama was dismissing American prospects in Iraq last year, his chief rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, was ridiculing the new commander in the field, telling Gen. David Petraeus at a widely publicized hearing that it would take "a willing suspension of disbelief" to put any faith in his projections.

Those projections now have proven even more reliable than even the general could have hoped at the time. But I have yet to see an apology from Senator Clinton for her snide remark, nor, worse, do I expect one.

Yes, victory in Iraq was barely conceivable a year ago - but only to some. It was conceivable to a visionary new commander in the field and an old U.S. senator named John McCain, who backed the general's plan when that was anything but the popular thing to do.

It was easy enough to jeer at the general when all the odds seemed against him; what took political courage was to support him.

At this point it would take a willing suspension of disbelief to put any trust in the military judgment of a Barack Obama - or the humility of a Hillary Clinton.

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