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Saturday, September 02, 2006

The AP misrepresents the Pentagon Report 
Here's the AP's headline:

AP: Pentagon Releases Gloomy Iraq Geport.

Sectarian violence is spreading in Iraq and the security problems have become more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2003, a Pentagon report said Friday.

In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.


The report itself is here.

Does the report - or at least, AP's characterization of the report accurately reflect the tone and content of the report itself?

Well, let's take a closer look.

Here are some bullet items I'm taking from the report (not quoting, just paraphrasing. It's a pdf so I can't cut and paste).

*17 of 18 countries have joined the Paris Club agreement to forgive Iraq 80 percent of its Saddam Era debt. Russia is the lone holdout, but it has agreed in principle to substantial debt forgiveness and will finalize an agreement shortly.

Hardly gloomy.

Mentioned in the AP report? No.

* Iraq averaged 14 hours per day of electricity this quarter - an improvement of three hours over the previous quarter.


Hardly gloomy.

Mentioned in the AP report?

No.

* Crude oil production improved 18% and exports increased 20% over the previous quarter.

Mentioned? No.

* Iraq casualties increase 51 percent over the previous quarter.


That piece of news is genuinely bad, the good news from August notwithstanding. We'll see how September and October go. Weather conditions are more favorable for guerilla attacks are favorable in September and October, because it's just not so screamingly hot!

* Polling data still shows broad support of the government and the rejection of Al Qaeda and their ilk.


Gloomy? No. Mentioned? No.

*277,000 Iraqis have completed security training - an increase of 14,000 over the previous quarter.


Gloomy? No. Mentioned? No.

* 92% of authorized Iraqi battalions have been generated and equipped.

Gloomy? I would say neutral, though it would indicate that there have been a number of successes. Mentioned? No.


* The number of Iraqi units able to operate independently or take the lead in taking the fight to the enemy increases steadily. 85 battalions have taken primary responsibility for their sectors - an increase of 35% over the previous quarter.


Gloomy? No. Mentioned? No.



* 80 percent of the population in Baghdad has a good deal or a fair amount of confidence in the ability of the government to improve the situation. Similar margins apply to residents of Kurdistan, Mid-Euphrates, and the south. Kirkuk is evenly balanced. Only Tikritis are pessimistic.


But that's ok. Tikritis are the biggest assholes in the country. Nevertheless, does the positive polling data - even in Baghdad - get even a passing mention in the AP's "gloomy" report?

No.

* Judges are exposed to terrorist action, endangering the integrity of the rule of law in Iraq.

This is bad news, but hardly unexpected. It's the same way in Columbia. Terrorists threaten judges because it works. And they do so regardless of how much security there is, because no matter how tight you draw security, you can never draw it so tight that a bad actor cannot at least deliver a death threat or get to a member of the judge's family somewhere.

The best way to improve that situation is to kill terrorists dead.

I don't have time to go through the entire 66 page report. But Burns' entire article seems to have been drawn from a single paragraph on page 3.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Burns read beyond page 3 in writing his article.

Taken as a whole, the Pentagon report does recognize a number of challenges in all kinds of areas, and does sound an alarm. But it is hardly gloomy. In many areas, it cites important progress being made and is even cautiously optimistic.

Indeed, in the very paragraph that Burns cites, the report states that while conditions that could lead to a civil war in Iraq are extant, "movement toward a civil war can be prevented."

As I write this, the more I read the actual report and compare it to Burn's incredibly blinkered news story, the angrier I get. "Notably gloomy," my ass. Burns didn't even make it past the executive summary.

And unfairly presented what he read there.

A dismal performance by John Burns and the Associated Press.

Splash, out

Jason

UPDATE: The report penned by the New York Times' Michael Gordon isn't much better, but at least Gordon makes passing reference to the lighter casualties in August...and demonstrates that he got past the executive summary of the report, even though he grossly misrepresents everything about it except the security-related paragraph on page 3.

As I note above, the report itself outlines quite a number of positive developments in Iraq. Do the warrant a mention in the Times?

No.

If you are relying on news reports of this Pentagon report, you are wholly misinformed.

Comments:
I wish I could say I was surprised at the AP butchering that report, but I'd be lying if I did...
 
Jason,

The author of the article on the Pentagon report is Robert Burns--the same Robert Burns whose article on Secretary Rumsfeld's 29 August speech was so distorting and misrepresentative that the Defense Department actually issued a public statement about it.

Seems to be a pattern with this guy, no?
 
Great analysis, Jason. Agree with all your points after reading the whole thing myself. Plenty of good news in there.

I am struck by the how far we have apparently come since VietNam. I say apparently because we didn't have access to DOD reports as we do now, in those days. I don't really know whether DOD was hiding bad news from me in 1969.

What is almost undisputable today is the your Dept of Defense provides astronomically more facts and more Truth in its press releases than the entire newspaper industry in the United States. Without doubt, you can accept the facts written in a DOD or MNF or CENTCOM press release as the gospel Truth today. There is no speculation, no "spin", and no analysis provided in their press releases. The facts are what they are. Military reports of a formal nature, which are released to Congress or the public, are also more accurate and all encompassing than the reporting done by ANY US or European newspaper.

My question is why should any of us believe anything else but DOD? I agree that sometimes the reports may seem wrong or be spun wrong, but the basic facts are not disputed by the MSM in DOD releases. I hesitate to say we should just accept a DOD press release unquestioned. I don't want to trust my government undisputably in everything, because I know it is made up of people just like you and I who make mistakes occasionally, even frequently.

But I am appalled at the unprofessional opinions and spin embedded in almost every news story released by the MSM today (and that includes Fox News). I just want the facts. I'm smart enough to interpret the intel for myself and make my own conclusions of what success looks like and what failure looks like.

I don't want a Columbia Journalism major telling me what works and doesn't work in war. I have professionals for that. The Dept of Defense. A Columbia Journalism major (and almost every reporter I can think of today) knows how to write. He doesn't know war or fighting, even if it walked up and bit him in the ass.

And Mr. Burns, Seymour Hersh, the NY Times, the Wash Post, and LA Times, and all other MSM news organizations have lost all credibility with me.

And they will play Hell getting that back.

Subsunk
 
Guys, you have Fox News to tell us that your president is God.
 
You should be able to cut and paste from PDF's - the official Acrobat reader certainly has the function (you need to change tools to text selection first though).
 
As it turns out, violence did not decline in August. Not that the lyin' bastard fucktard Jason will make any note of that. Like all rightwingnuts, he prefers to lie with impunity. It's the Wingnut Way (TM)
 
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