Sunday, January 07, 2007

General Mattis optimistic 
Read the interview here

What we are seeing now is a significant shift in the tribes. They are coming over. How does this manifest itself? How is it more than just my words? The Sunni sheiks are having their young guys join the Iraqi police. The reason is they will go to their local areas after they go to training academies in various countries outside of Iraq and they return, when they come back, they go back to their home areas.

So you've got the tribes shifting over, their kids joining the police. You've got the Iraqi army and the Iraqi security forces today, they are probably running around, about 52 percent of the casualties in our medical treatment facilities are Iraqi security forces. Which says something about the nature of the fight and the nature of the Iraqi troops who are now represented among the casualties. It's one way to indicate whether or not they are really in the fight or not.

So these are significant shifts right now. And the transition teams and the Marines who are over there, fighting in a very lethal area where the efforts have been unrelenting, have basically achieved successes that we would not have anticipated this early in this process.

Our strategy approach to this remains pretty much the same. This is the U.S. approach: Get the security situation under control, the violence down. Get the Iraqi security forces trained and picking up more of the load. And third, assist and facilitate the Iraqi government becoming capable of meeting needs of the people. These things happen fast.

But if there's one point I would make strongly, it is this, Mark: that violence and progress can and do coexist. You see the blasts, you see the IEDs, you see the cameras on them out there. And that is a legitimate point.

And on the media:

I was talking to a lieutenant in Haditha, he told me that because they are now all connected nowadays in their FOBs, he could read stories about Haditha. He said, 'I guarantee you there has not been a reporter in Haditha in my last two and a half months here.'

We're seeing, I think, an unwitting passing of the enemy's message, uncritical, unwitting passing of the enemy's message because the enemy has successfully denied the Western media access to the battlefields.

I'm not sure what Lloyds of London is charging now, I think it's over $5,000 a month insurance for a reporter or photographer to go in. But the murder, the kidnapping, the intimidation means that, in many cases, we have media folks who are relying on stringers who are Iraqi.

Now you can have any kind of (complaint) about the American media or Western media you want, but there is at least a nod, an effort toward objectivity. The stringers who are being brought in, who are bringing in these stories, are not bringing that same degree of objectivity.

So on the one hand, our enemy is denying our media access to the battlefield, where anything perhaps that I say as a general is subject to any number of interpretations, challenges, questions, but the enemy's story basically gets there without that because our media is unable to challenge them. It's unwitting, but at the same time, it can promote the enemy's agenda, simply because there is an apparent attempt at objectivity.

Reporter: Would you like to see more Western media there then?

Mattis: Oh, we would be happy to have more Western media out there. We've had Al-Jazeera out with our troops.

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