Iraq Study Group Settles Debate Over ‘Negative’ War Coverage

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By: E&P Staff

For years now, the debate has raged: Does the press overstate the level of violence in Iraq and ignore the overall positive aspect of the U.S. involvement? The Iraq Study Group report today, in its main claim that the situation in Iraq is now “grave” and “deteriorating” would seem to offer a clue to the answer, but more specific details — providing a “slam dunk” (if we may use that phrase) on the side of the press — are found in the Intelligence section of the report near its end, starting on page 93.

There we learn, bluntly, that “there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq” by the U.S. military. “The standard for recording attacks acts as a filter to keep events out of reports and databases,” the report continues.

Looking at one day, the report found undercounting of violent attacks by more than 1000 percent.

“A murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted as an attack,” the report explained.” If we cannot deter mine the source of a sectarian attack, that assault does not make it into the database. A roadside bomb or a rocket or mortar attack that doesn?t hurt U.S. personnel doesn?t count. For example, on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence [officially] reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.

“Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.”

The report also relates: “A senior commander told us that human intelligence in Iraq has improved from 10 percent to 30 percent. Clearly, U.S. intelligence agencies can and must do better….

“The Defense Department and the intelligence commu nity have not invested sufficient people and resources to understand the political and military threat to American men and women in the armed forces. Congress has appropriated almost $2 billion this year for countermeasures to protect our troops in Iraq against improvised explosive devices, but the administra tion has not put forward a request to invest comparable resources in trying to understand the people who fabricate, plant, and explode those devices.”

The section closes with:

“RECOMMENDATION 77: The Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense should devote significantly greater analytic resources to the task of understanding the threats and sources of violence in Iraq.

“RECOMMENDATION 78: The Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense should also institute immediate changes in the collection of data about violence and the sources of violence in Iraq to provide a more accurate picture of events on the ground.”

Meanwhile, amid endorsements for the Study Group’s report from many leading Democrats, comes this criticism from Rep. John Murtha, who called for a speedy U.S. pullout more than year ago: “On November 7th, 2006 the American public sent a message on Iraq and as the new Democratic majority, we must respond with decisive action. Staying in Iraq is not an option politically, militarily or fiscally. The American people understand this.

“Today there is near consensus that there is no U.S. military solution and we must disengage our military from Iraq. The ISG recommended that we begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops by early 2008, depending on conditions on the ground. This is no different than the current policy. We must do what is best for America and insist on a responsible plan for redeployment. Iraq is plagued by a growing civil war and only the Iraqis can solve it.”

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