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One really has to wonder how SPEIGEL handled the end of apartheid in South Africa. I mean, after all....it took three years of negotiations to end white rule....and another five were alloted for the writing of a Constitution. Not to mention, of course, that the first election was marred by political violence....and disruptions by white and black agitators (should we call them freedom fighters?)

Was there as much cynicism, negativity and blatant lying in the articles? Enquiring minds want to know.

Well, here's an eyewitness account of what's going on in Baghdad. You decide:




March 1, 2006 -- THE reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest. There is no civil war in the streets. None. Period.

Terrorism, yes. Civil war, no. Clear enough?

Yesterday, I crisscrossed Baghdad, visiting communities on both banks of the Tigris and logging at least 25 miles on the streets. With the weekend curfew lifted, I saw traffic jams, booming business — and everyday life in abundance.

Yes, there were bombings yesterday. The terrorists won't give up on their dream of sectional strife, and know they can count on allies in the media as long as they keep the images of carnage coming. They'll keep on bombing. But Baghdad isn't London during the Blitz, and certainly not New York on 9/11.

It's more like a city suffering a minor, but deadly epidemic. As in an epidemic, no one knows who will be stricken. Rich or poor, soldier or civilian, Iraqi or foreigner. But life goes on. No one's fleeing the Black Death — or the plague of terror.

And the people here have been impressed that their government reacted effectively to last week's strife, that their soldiers and police brought order to the streets. The transition is working.

Most Iraqis want better government, better lives — and democracy. It is contagious, after all. Come on over. Talk to them. Watch them risk their lives every day to work with us or with their government to build their own future.

Oh, the attacks will continue. They're even predictable, if not always preventable. Driving through Baghdad's Kerada Peninsula District, my humvee passed long gas lines as people waited to fill their tanks in the wake of the curfew. I commented to the officer giving me a lift that the dense lines of cars and packed gas stations offered great targets to the terrorists. An hour later, one was hit with a car bomb.

The bombing made headlines (and a news photographer just happened to be on the scene). Here in Baghdad, it just made the average Iraqis hate the terrorists even more.

You are being lied to. By elements in the media determined that Iraq must fail. Just give 'em the Bronx cheer.

Here's another one. Sorry for posting the whole thing, but it had so many good parts that posting excerpts would have been almost as long (and a PITA):




March 5, 2006 -- BAGHDAD

I'M trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.

Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view's clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn't give me the right skills.

And riding around with the U.S. Army, looking at things first-hand, is certainly a technique to which The New York Times wouldn't stoop in such an hour of crisis.

Let me tell you what I saw anyway. Rolling with the "instant Infantry" gunners of the 1st Platoon of Bravo Battery, 4-320 Field Artillery, I saw children and teenagers in a Shia slum jumping up and down and cheering our troops as they drove by. Cheering our troops.

All day - and it was a long day - we drove through Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. Everywhere, the reception was warm. No violence. None.

And no hostility toward our troops. Iraqis went out of their way to tell us we were welcome.

Instead of a civil war, something very different happened because of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. The fanatic attempt to stir up Sunni-vs.-Shia strife, and the subsequent spate of violent attacks, caused popular support for the U.S. presence to spike upward.

Think Abu Musab al-Zarqawi intended that?

In place of the civil war that elements in our media declared, I saw full streets, open shops, traffic jams, donkey carts, Muslim holiday flags - and children everywhere, waving as our Humvees passed. Even the clouds of dust we stirred up didn't deter them. And the presence of children in the streets is the best possible indicator of a low threat level.

Southeast Baghdad, at least, was happy to see our troops.

And we didn't just drive past them. First Lt. Clenn Frost, the platoon leader, took every opportunity to dismount and mingle with the people. Women brought their children out of their compound gates to say hello. A local sheik spontaneously invited us into his garden for colas and sesame biscuits.

It wasn't the Age of Aquarius. The people had serious concerns. And security was No. 1. They wanted the Americans to crack down harder on the foreign terrorists and to disarm the local militias. Iraqis don't like and don't support the militias, Shia or Sunni, which are nothing more than armed gangs.

Help's on the way, if slowly. The Iraqi Army has confounded its Western critics, performing extremely well last week. And the people trust their new army to an encouraging degree. The Iraqi police aren't all the way there yet, and the population doesn't yet have much confidence in them. But all of this takes time.

And even the police are making progress. We took a team of them with us so they could train beside our troops. We visited a Public Order Battalion - a gendarmerie outfit - that reeked of sloth and carelessness. But the regular Iraqi Police outfit down the road proved surprisingly enthusiastic and professional. It's just an uneven, difficult, frustrating process.

So what did I learn from a day in the dust and muck of Baghdad's less-desirable boroughs? As the long winter twilight faded into haze and the fires of the busy shawarma stands blazed in the fresh night, I felt that Iraq was headed, however awkwardly, in the right direction.

The country may still see a civil war one day. But not just yet, thanks. Violence continues. A roadside bomb was found in the next sector to the west. There will be more deaths, including some of our own troops. But Baghdad's vibrant life has not been killed. And the people of Iraq just might surprise us all.

So why were we told that Iraq was irreversibly in the throes of civil war when it wasn't remotely true? I think the answers are straightforward. First, of course, some parties in the West are anxious to believe the worst about Iraq. They've staked their reputations on Iraq's failure.

But there's no way we can let irresponsible journalists off the hook - or their parent organizations. Many journalists are, indeed, brave and conscientious; yet some in Baghdad - working for "prestigious" publications - aren't out on the city streets the way they pretend to be.

They're safe in their enclaves, protected by hired guns, complaining that it's too dangerous out on the streets. They're only in Baghdad for the byline, and they might as well let their Iraqi employees phone it in to the States. Whenever you see a column filed from Baghdad by a semi-celeb journalist with a "contribution" by a local Iraqi, it means this: The Iraqi went out and got the story, while the journalist stayed in his or her room.

And the Iraqi stringers have cracked the code: The Americans don't pay for good news. So they exaggerate the bad.

And some of them have agendas of their own.

A few days ago, a wild claim that the Baghdad morgue held 1,300 bodies was treated as Gospel truth. Yet Iraqis exaggerate madly and often have partisan interests. Did any Western reporter go to that morgue and count the bodies - a rough count would have done it - before telling the world the news?

I doubt it.

If reporters really care, it's easy to get out on the streets of Baghdad. The 506th Infantry Regiment - and other great military units - will take journalists on their patrols virtually anywhere in the city. Our troops are great to work with. (Of course, there's the danger of becoming infected with patriot- ism . . .)

I'm just afraid that some of our journalists don't want to know the truth anymore.

For me, though, memories of Baghdad will be the cannoneers of the 1st Platoon walking the dusty, reeking alleys of Baghdad. I'll recall 1st Lt. Frost conducting diplomacy with the locals and leading his men through a date-palm grove in a search for insurgent mortar sites.

I'll remember that lieutenant investigating the murder of a Sunni mullah during last week's disturbances, cracking down on black-marketers, checking up on sewer construction, reassuring citizens - and generally doing the job of a lieutenant-colonel in peacetime.

Oh, and I'll remember those "radical Shias" cheering our patrol as we passed by.

Ralph Peters is reporting from Forward Operating Base Loyalty, where he's been riding with the 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.


Iraqi's wildly exaggerate, but Americans do no such thing.

What was that about WMD's again? Oh, I'm sorry, you don't like to admit complete and total error, do you? Iraq is over, lets move on to Iran.

Here's another shining example of American democracy at work:


So, let me get this straight, Jack...Iraqis WILDLY exaggerate. So do Americans. But journalists? NEVER. Does that just about sum in up Jack?

Jack, stay in the box, it's safer in there.

@ Jackinthebox,

And Germans are never wrong either...

Things like this don't bother me as much as they used to, because ultimately they are counterproductive for the left-wing.

The media can lie and distort, and frequently people forget all about it, and that bothers me a lot. But they've been calling Iraq a quagmire since the very first week. When you harp on something that much, reasonable people don't forget.

Eventually (years, decades) the reality of a reasonably stable Iraqi government will be obvious to everyone, and the MSM's credibility will erode just a little bit more.

In the meantime, there are some beneficial effects. With the constant drumbeat of negativity, it seems people are gradually realizing that Islam encourages violence. Probably not a result the left-wing desires


alternative viewpoint

@ UBetcha,

Even the authors featured in your link (who roundly harangue Mr. Peters) admit that Iraq is a complex place with "many moving parts." We get none of that from reading SPIEGEL ONLINE's offerings. They are totally negative. They are totally black-and-white.


Germans thinking in terms of black and white - amazing!

I only thought they could see shades of gray.


Eh. A personal rant with a dearth of facts -- as one of the commenters to Allbriton's post pointed out.

You are correct, the SPON article is bs, as are many other outlets declaring outright civil war. One of the reasons why I read your site. Media likes to exagerate stuff. Old story. Every time you see flooding on tv they will have their cameras pointing at the worst they could possibly find and while you think a whole village is drowning it could well be dry where the camera is standing.

But (and that is a big but), while I wouldn't write the same thing about Mr. Peters I pretty much agree. His article sounds like it. Even though SPON and other outlets focus on the worst, a flood is still a flood, even if the ground is dry where the camera is standing. We can be pretty sure, that a civil war is almost impossible as long as so many US troops are in Iraq. If they were to leave the country would break apart. The question is how much can you do as a soldier when you don't understand the culture and certainly not the language.

"... soldier when you don't understand the culture and certainly not the language."

You make a great and fundamental error of factual ignorance here. I suppose it's due to lack of formal education.

The dominant language and culture in Iraq is violence, force, killing and terror. I think soldiers understand this very well, and American soldiers especially. What is described as 'a war' or 'chaos' is a discussion of politics by other means. Nothing fancy. Just which bunch of killers discussing who will (will as in willpower) prevail. I am betting with the house. The bigger battalions. Or to clip from ol'Uncle Joe Stalin, how many divisions does Al Queda have?

Now, take all the above, color it with all the lefty predictions from the beginning of the invasion, of which not one, single, breathless doom and gloom prediction has come true, and every stated goal of Iraq government creation has come through and people publicly believe the leftists?

I don’t know anyone who believes lefty predictions on poverty eradication, education, economic policy or just fighting regular street crime. Why would what these people say about war be any better? And were is the person with more than a weeks memory that would believe then?

Deep down the people at SPIEGEL ONLINE would like nothing more than for civil war to break out in Iraq

Hmmm. Almost certainly true in many cases. False in others, I think. Another factor is what is driving the 'bad news' dominance in reporting news from Iraq and alsewhere is that good news is not interesting. It does not sell newspapers and magazines or advertising on online websites. Bad news does all that. So the good folks in the media have a vested interest in bad news.

What is described as 'a war' or 'chaos' is a discussion of politics by other means.

Profoundly true. How ironic that so many Germans seem ignorant of von Clausewitz, no?

The dominant language and culture in Iraq is violence, force, killing and terror.

The 'Civil War' which began (and ended) last week with the bombing of the Shia Golden Dome mosque and continued with a fair number of Sunni mosques being torched. This was a dialogue in the discussion. A statement was made (we can outrage you) and a response was propounded: "Not wise when we outnumber you 3-1". Then both sides backed away from civil war - for now.

If the Sunnis insist on ruling the Shias it will all end in tears and ethnic cleansing, I think. Saddam gave the Shias and Kurds enough precedent to get the idea - just ask the gassed Kurds and the swamp Arabs in the south of Iraq. Assuming that they can answer, that is.

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