Mr Smith Lands Washington Post

Michael Yon tipped early and well that there was a big operation underway in Baqubah near where he is embedded. Yon’s post, Be Not Afraid, is one of his best yet because he uses his special talent to convey the feeling of war – in this case the beginning of a big offensive. His opening:

Thoughts flow on the eve of a great battle. By the time these words are released, we will be in combat. Few ears have heard even rumors of this battle, and fewer still are the eyes that will see its full scope. Even now—the battle has already begun for some—practically no news about it is flowing home. I’ve known of the secret plans for about a month, but have remained silent.

This campaign is actually a series of carefully orchestrated battalion- and brigade-sized battles. Collectively, it is probably the largest battle since “major hostilities” ended more than four years ago. Even the media here on the ground do not seem to have sensed its scale.

Al Qaeda and associates had little or no presence in Iraq before the current war. But we made huge mistakes early on and are pumping blood and gold into the region to pay for those blunders.

I include the last just to demonstrate that Michael Yon is no cheerleader. The other major warblogger, Bill Roggio, has been bringing us details of the offensive in his cooler style here and here. We quickly learn that the offensive is not just in Baqubah, but right across Diyala province and in parts of Salahadin, Babil, and Anbar provinces as well as in Baghdad itself. As Michael Yon said above this is a big operation – and Roggio confirms that 10,000 troops are involved in Baqubah alone. Demonstrating his grasp of military operations he gives us the big picture:

The operation in Baqubah is a microcosm of the larger operation in Diyala, while Diyala is one but one of three of the corps level operations. The same goal is shared across the three theaters: cordon the regions, trap and kill al Qaeda and clear the areas, and then move in security forces in for stability and reconstruction operations.

Reading the comments to Roggio’s second post I came across this comment by a Mr. D Smith(Yes, I’m just assuming he or she is male):

We won’t hear about this from the MSM until there are US KIA, especially if an IED is used. Then CNN,CBS etc will make a huge deal about the American war dead. That is their standard MO.

That’s a bit harsh, I thought. So I checked. First, the Washington Post. Under the headline At Least 14 U.S Soldiers Die in Attacks in Iraq, here is the opening paragraph:

Fourteen U.S. soldiers have died in scattered attacks in over the last two days, including five killed Thursday by a roadside bomb in a northeastern Baghdad neighborhood, the military said in a series of statements.

I stand corrected. Mr Smith got it exactly right. The following paragraphs are revealing as well:

With a major U.S. effort to oust insurgents underway in Diyala province north of the Iraqi capital, a series of five attacks elsewhere claimed the lives of American soldiers on patrol in Baghdad, in the restive Al Anbar province, and southwest of the capital.

Few details were released. But the military said that the deadliest attack involved a unit working with the Iraqi Security Force to “clear and control” a section of northeastern Baghdad. Along with the five U.S. soldiers who were killed, three Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi interpreter died, and one other soldier and two Iraqi civilians were injured.

That second paragraph is actually the WaPo’s way of reporting the biggest offensive in Iraq since 2003. Here is Bill Roggio working from the same ‘few details’ released by the military:

Dubbed Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the offensive is massive. This is a division sized operation of “approximately 10,000 Soldiers, with a full complement of attack helicopters, close air support, Strykers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.”

What the Washington Post is doing is corrupt reporting. Mr Smith has them cold – they are going to lead with American casualties because they have committed to the position that the war is already lost. They lay it on thicker by putting a picture of a US soldiers’ faces in combat over an advertisement for a ‘Special Report ‘ called “The Faces of the Fallen.” This is a terrible example of mass media abusing its public trust by not just misframing the news but by openly suppressing it. The information is all publicly available in copious detail from MNF Iraq. Click on the ‘Operation Arrowhead Ripper’ link above and look around.

So much for the WaPo, how about the NY Times? As I was drafting this post, thier front page lead with a story headlined 12 US soldiers killed. Mr. Smith has their number too. However, if you drill down you finally get to a report of the offensive here (registration required). I just reread it to be sure my impression is fair and I have to conclude that the report conveys neither the scale of the offensive, nor an overall picture of it. They actually have a reporter in Baqubah and he does dutifully report a nice blend of details balanced perfectly to convey an impression of studied futility. Things like the offensive being delayed by a sandstorm and some insurgents getting away along with some upbeat stuff. The overall technique used, is to hide what is happening in plain sight by reporting disconnected details. It gives the impression of soldiers running around doing stuff with no strategy anywhere in sight. The ending of the Times article is an ingenious off topic misdirection – a separate story really – of abused orphan boys found in Baghdad. It’s like reporting D-Day by saying that some landing craft were sighted off Normandy, and some paratroopers were reported inland, and oh, by the way, an orphanage was found with the children in a bad way. The Times does exactly what the WaPo does except it goes on for a whole page rather than a paragraph.

Move on folks, there is nothing to see here. The ‘newspaper of record’ has become a couple of guys the Times and the WaPo wouldn’t consider hiring. When historians write what Richard Landes calls the second draft of history, it is to these two that they will be forced to go. Michael Yon actually reported the biggest story before the battle began:

Few ears have heard even rumors of this battle, and fewer still are the eyes that will see its full scope. Even now—the battle has already begun for some—practically no news about it is flowing home.


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