McCain in Op-Ed Again Hits Media’s Iraq Coverage

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By: E&P Staff

Sen. John McCain told ’60 Minutes’ for its Sunday broadcast that he had misspoke last week in taking a too positive spin after his visit to a Baghdad market. But in a Sunday op-ed in The Washington Post, he again hails progress in Iraq and hits the news media for concentrating on the negative.

He goes so far as boast that a reason for some drop off in violence at markets in Baghdad is that new barriers mean cars can no longer get close to them, reducing the number of fatalities from car bombs. Nowhere does he refer to the ridicule of his heavily-guarded trip to one market.

Also in the Post’s Sunday opinion section is a piece by Ronald Glasser which reports: “About 1,800 U.S. troops, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, are now suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by penetrating wounds. But neurologists worry that hundreds of thousands more — at least 30 percent of the troops who’ve engaged in active combat for four months or longer in Iraq and Afghanistan — are at risk of potentially disabling neurological disorders from the blast waves of IEDs and mortars, all without suffering a scratch.

“For the first time, the U.S. military is treating more head injuries than chest or abdominal wounds, and it is ill-equipped to do so. According to a July 2005 estimate from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, two-thirds of all soldiers wounded in Iraq who don’t immediately return to duty have traumatic brain injuries.”

Here is how the McCain column opens.
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I just returned from my fifth visit to Iraq since 2003 — and my first since Gen. David Petraeus’s new strategy has started taking effect. For the first time, our delegation was able to drive, not use helicopters, from the airport to downtown Baghdad. For the first time, we met with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province who are working with American and Iraqi forces to combat al-Qaeda. For the first time, we visited Iraqi and American forces deployed in a joint security station in Baghdad — an integral part of the new strategy. We held a news conference to discuss what we saw: positive signs, underreported in the United States, that are reason for cautious optimism.

I observed that our delegation “stopped at a local market, where we spent well over an hour, shopping and talking with the local people, getting their views and ideas about different issues of the day.” Markets in Baghdad have faced devastating terrorist attacks. A car bombing at Shorja in February, for example, killed 137 people. Today the market still faces occasional sniper attacks, but it is safer than it used to be. One innovation of the new strategy is closing markets to vehicles, thereby precluding car bombs that kill so many and garner so much media attention. Petraeus understandably wanted us to see this development….

The new political-military strategy is beginning to show results. But most Americans are not aware because much of the media are not reporting it or devote far more attention to car bombs and mortar attacks that reveal little about the strategic direction of the war. I am not saying that bad news should not be reported or that horrific terrorist attacks are not newsworthy. But news coverage should also include evidence of progress. Whether Americans choose to support or oppose our efforts in Iraq, I hope they could make their decision based on as complete a picture of the situation in Iraq as is possible to report.
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For E&P Editor Greg Mitchell’s column on the fallout from McCain’s trip to Baghdad,

click here.

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