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December 14, 2008

Comments

Spend less, pay more.

Invading a foreign country is not like going to Wisconsin for the weekend.


It's worth recalling that at the time, we were all being told by columnists and bloggers on the right that the reason we kept reading stories about things going wrong in Iraq was that journalists were only reporting the bad stuff.

Columnists? I do get your point, but yes, good news of any kind was and is under-reported. In fact, it was left to “bloggers on the right” to report any good news at all.

And say what you will, but “the right” actually had bloggers there, embedded and not. We still do.

Given that the standard caveats about "not all Republicans are like X" apply here, does that in any substantive way really detract from Hilzoy's point, Steve? The point is that the ostrich act we've been getting from the party-line Republicans when it comes to Iraq was every bit the sham that we kept saying it was. As Atrios would say, the DFH's were right.

yes, good news of any kind was and is under-reported. In fact, it was left to “bloggers on the right” to report any good news at all.

I remember this book about journalism I was given as a birthday present when I was a teenager and considered that as a career. They made the rather fundamental point that "all airplanes have landed safely at LaGuardia today" is not really news, while "a Boeing 747 crashed while trying to land at LaGuardia, all passengers are dead" is indeed big news. Similarly, when I studied literature ever so often the question popped up as to why writers were "always so negative", depicting things like intrigues, abuse, murder, war, failed relationships or addiction - the answer is quite obvious.

That doesn't mean that reporters cannot or do not report "good news" or that writers cannot or do not depict happiness, but I think you get my drift.

I think that competent journalists or reliable bloggers will put information in persepctive. The perspective on the reconstruction of Iraq was that, while every now and then something would fianlly get done in spite of the corruption and incompetentence, for the most part the hard work of well intentioned people was being undermined by the malfeasence which was endemic in the Bbush administration. So the painting of schools stories didn't deserve a lot of coverage because to do so would hae distorted our understanding of the reality of the reconsgruction.

$117 billion had been spent on the reconstruction of Iraq, including some $50 billion in United States taxpayer money.

Where did the other $67 billion come from?

I think that one of the standards of journalism (possibly ignored more than used) is perspective; news is supposed to be given in context so that the consumer can get an accurate sense of the relative importance of things.

Sure schools got painted. Sure there was good news. However the overall process of was a story of incompetence, fraud, corruption..malfeasence of every sort which undermined and thwarted the good intentions of of those who tried to get on with the work of reconstrution. So it was appropriate to give more play to stories of chaos and gridlock than to stories of good news. Even now, now the the reconstrution has finally resored Iraq to prewar conditions it would be bad journalism to play up good news qwithout mentioning the price tag and how little was achieved for the money.

Sorry about that. I thought that my first comment had gotten eaten by the computer so I reconstructed it.

On this point I tend to support OCSteve. There was, though not necessarily still is, an underreportage of "good news" from the Iraq situation.

Granted, most of the "good news" was about relatively minimal things, but occasionally, som more importanbt thing may have been missed.

The problem is that any such reportage of good news would have still given an incorrect picture. And the bigger problem is that the columnists tha hilzoy rferred to were more or less calling for a non-reporting of the bad news and only a reporting of the good news.

Actually, currently there is, if anything, an underreportage of bad nws from Iraq and an over-reporting of good news. If you asked most people, they would probably tell you, I believe, that things are going quite well there, that the Surge worked fatastically well and the Iraqis are very happy with the way things are going.

One rfinal commet about the subject of th post. Although this report is importat as it once again describes the utter incompetence of the Bush administration and what happens when you place ideology as a larger requirement that skill, it also tends to continue to expand a myth.

The myth is that if things had been more competently run, everything would be better and the invasion would have been justified. The myths that go alongside this are that if we had found WMD's that would have shown the invsion to be justified and that if we had just used enough troops at the beginning, everything would have been justified.

There was not then and will never be a justification for our going into Iraq.

As regard Hilzoy's post, I have absolutely no disagreement. The government obviously didn't (at least to begin with) have any interest in "nation building", and I remember reading about how much the reconstruction jos were filled by post-adolescents who were hired to reward Republican donor parents.

But on a more general note, about "good news" being reported, I do wonder sometimes about the "scandal" aspect being overreported with regard to NGO's or charitable projects. Often there seems to be a sensationalist tone to pointing out the shortcomings of organizations trying, facing huge obstacles, to do some good. I accept that these situations too require balanced reporting and that these organizations need to be scrutinized, but I always cringe when I realize that the necessarily limited success of these programs sometimes diminish the inspiration to support them. Don't really know how to avoid it, but just a thought about "good news" versus "bad news" reporting, but often people generally don't understand how not-for-profit organizations work, and don't really have a fair picture of the worthiness of their efforts. (Maybe a bit off topic - for that I apologize.)

The Executive Branch failed miserably to plan for a postwar Iraq. Try searching for a detailed plan for how the occupation was to be carried out, there is NO PLAN.

The Pentagon and DOS's failures are staggering, considering the fact that many in the government anticipated we would eventually confront Saddam's regime with finality in the future, for over a decade.

Congress's lack of scrutiny on the postwar planning is an equal failure. After the contrasting Wolfowitz/Shinseki testimony, shouldn't alarm bells have gone off to examine the plan before granting war authority? This wasn't a stupid highway bill, this was a vote to grant the president the ability to do all the crap that has gone on for six years now, pretty momentous.

Contrast the government's actions on Iraq with postwar planning for Japan; the US government began planning the Japanese occupation PRIOR to the Pearl Harbor bombing, in anticipation of an inevitable showdown in the pacific.

You got more Federal Government for the money, back in those days. . .
acreofindependence.com

Uh, if its not a "scandal" that we lost 8 billion at the get go, that we put tweens with right wing resumes in charge of major departments, that we fired all arabic language translators for the crime of gay, that we pushed the idea for the weak minded OCsteve's that "good news" was good if it was so rare as to merit special handling by special right wing bloggers and would be missed otherwise.... well, my point here is that it is absurd, utterly absurd, that a few die hard war supporters can still point to "the schools we painted" or the children we gave candy to while the country we invaded and incompetently occupied sucked money, men, materiel, honor and glory from us down a rat hole from which we will never be able to recover it. Hilzoy's point that journalists and talking heads should have been more sceptical is the least of it. When you bomb a civilian population, when you let loose the dogs of war and point them at anything that moves, and occasionally stick governmental responsibilities and a paint brush in their hands and then close your eyes and hope for the best, you have zero hope that responsible reporting is going to change things.

The journalistic class, one the whole (with notable exceptions) was on board with the whole imperial endeavour, the coverup of our real intentions, the hiding of the natural abuses of wartime. Only the fact that we lost, and lost publicly, prevents bush and co from today claiming victory. If they could have swept the entire war and its funding and its deaths under the rug they would have. As far as the ocsteve's of theworld they might as well. WAtching the dead enders deny the evidence of their own eyes is like watching a cargo cult build bigger and bigger fake planes hoping the gods will shower them with goods from a clear blue sky.

aimai

aimai: I agree with most of what you said. But OCSteve is not "weak-minded", and calling him that violates the posting rules.

The Executive Branch failed miserably to plan for a postwar Iraq. Try searching for a detailed plan for how the occupation was to be carried out, there is NO PLAN.

It wasn't a bug, it was a feature. There wasn't going to be an occupation. The troops were going to be out by September and the Iraqis would be able to easily deal with any transition difficulties. And the oil would flow prodigiously, so it would be easy for the Iraqis to pay for any incidental damage.

If the description had included a lengthy occupation, and there had been planning for a potential lengthy occupation, they could never have sold the invasion to the American people.

I agree that more bad news was reported than good news.

If our media was not incentivized to "sell" their product (bombs going boom is much more eyeball-attracting than paint drying on schools) in our free-market system, we could have received all of the good news fit to print.

Like the Russians did in World War II. Or the Chinese did until a couple of decades ago. What's the bad news in North Korea lately?

Let me tune in to Radio Free Bullcrap.

I have my own complaints about media bias ..... in the stock market. Grinning liars and cheats lying and cheating to well-coiffed, inanely chortling money-honeys telling us all how Mr. Ponzi corporate and stock markets would keep expanding like a schoolboy's condom-turned-water balloon.

Plan?

Only socialists plan.

I'm beginning to think some of those Charles Bird posts about how many Iraqi units were at Level 1 or Level 2 or the special hidden level you can only access by certain gesticulations of your Wiimote were not...reliable.

Iirc there was actually a detailed plan (authored by the State Departement) but Rumsfeld explicitly forbade its use and threatened those with reprisals who merely mentioned it in his presence.

good news of any kind was and is under-reported.

There was, is, and always will be no good news for the U.S. in Iraq. The invasion and occuption of Iraq was, is, and always will be, a complete and unmitigated fncking disaster for the U.S. The fact that the citizens of the United States couldn't overcome their fear, cowardice, and bigotry to, at a minimum, vote the fncking criminals whose idea this was out of office in 2004 was, is, and always will be a stain on our national honor.

And mean-fncking-while, more than 5 1/2 years later, Iraq is still not safe enough for Bush to travel there in a visit announced in advance. But the Iraqis do love him for their freedom, as evidenced by a reporter throwing two shoes at him and calling him a "dog," which I'm sure is a term of endearment in Iraq.

Hartmut, I belive you're thinking of the Future of Iraq Project.

It seems to be online as of September 1, 2006.

Good news under-reported?

You mean things like this?

"Baghdad in the Midwest cornfields" LAT, April 2007

The delegation arrived at the market [in Baghdad], which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees … and attack helicopters…. Sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests…. At
a news conference shortly after their outing, Mr. McCain … and his three congressional colleagues described Shorja as a safe, bustling place full of hopeful and warmly welcoming Iraqis — "like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime," offered Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican. — New York Times

Or that?

March 2006 Howard Kaloogian, a leading GOP candidate for Randy "Duke" Cunningham's seat in Congress, posted a photo on his Web site of a quiet Turkish suburb. No problem there -- but his site said it was of Baghdad, taken during his trip there. He called it proof that Iraq was calmer than the media was reporting.

Seems some Republicans were really pretty desperate to "produce" good news.

I don’t know. That was a serious trust violated. Really really a serious thing. I just don’t know. No, I do. I still hold a TS security clearance and I’m damned proud of it.

I can say Yay for what he exposed; OTOH, this is a capital offense. Yes, I am damned serious. He needs to burn.

You just don’t get to make that call. You. Do. Not. It’s above your pay grade. Period.


novakant: but I think you get my drift.

I do. Really, I do.


aimai: Uh, if its not a "scandal" that we lost 8 billion at the get go, that we put tweens with right wing resumes in charge of major departments, that we fired all arabic language translators for the crime of gay, that we pushed the idea for the weak minded OCsteve's that "good news" was good if it was so rare as to merit special handling by special right wing bloggers and would be missed otherwise....

Well, I’d likely agree with you that I am weak minded. OTOH, I have a long standing record on opposing Bush crony appointments. I have tons of comments here supporting gays in the military. Look it up. I hooked up with CC and sent a letter to our Congress critters about the translators.

What the hell do you want from me?

As far as the ocsteve's of theworld they might as well. WAtching the dead enders deny the evidence of their own eyes is like watching a cargo cult build bigger and bigger fake planes hoping the gods will shower them with goods from a clear blue sky.

Jeeze. Can I get some of that? “fake planes”? No – they are very friggin’ real. They land at Dover. Their cargo is the corpses of American fighting men and women.

In terms of what I have denied about this totally f’d up administration, you may want to provide links.

I do get your point, but yes, good news of any kind was and is under-reported.

Hey, I remember live shock and awe in living color. I remember video of Saddam's statue getting pulled down playing 24/7. I remember Bush dressed up like a fighter pilot telling us all the mission was accomplished, followed by everyone and their dog admiring, at length, the comely bulge of his genitals.

I remember purple fingers, and Mr. Democracy Whiskey Sexy. I remember Preznit Give Me Turkee.

I think what you mean to say is that the positive coverage, of which there was quite a lot if truth be told, was all of stuff that was total horse shit, whereas the actually useful things that were done -- schools, infrastructure, etc. -- weren't covered well.

I agree that more bad news was reported than good news.

Yeah, me too. That's because the amount of bad news to cover was orders of magnitude larger than the good news.

You got more Federal Government for the money, back in those days. . .

My take on this is that it wasn't "more", but "better".

The reason for the decline in quality, I think, lies in the perverse phenomenon of governments populated by people dedicated to demonstrating the inherent incompetence and uselessness of government.

Kind of a cute parlor game at a meta level, but they've had their fun. Now it's time for them to get out and stay out.

Thanks -

I first want to apologize for piling on OCSteve, but the synchronicity of this is to striking to pass up. The video of it is here. Back in the day, we were told ad nauseum how trodding on pictures of saddam indicated how much he was despised. Seems like appropriate bookends.

OCSteve: Columnists? I do get your point, but yes, good news of any kind was and is under-reported. In fact, it was left to “bloggers on the right” to report any good news at all.

On September 11, 2001, in Manhattan, two aeroplanes struck the WTC, killing over 3000 people. As a direct result, good news of any kind was under-reported that day. I expect you think that was unfair, too.

From March 2003 till the present day, over one million people have been killed in Iraq, as a direct result of the US invasion. Given the relative size of Iraq and the US, that's the equivalent of two 9/11s on a daily basis. For five and a half years. And you think under-reporting the good news is "unfair"?

And say what you will, but “the right” actually had bloggers there, embedded and not. We still do.

What I'd say is: "the left" actually had bloggers there too, serving soldiers and others. Who, when they reported how bad things were in Iraq, regularly got howled down by "the right" - the 101st Fighting Keyboarders - who didn't want to know.

As far as the ocsteve's of theworld they might as well. WAtching the dead enders deny the evidence of their own eyes is like watching a cargo cult build bigger and bigger fake planes hoping the gods will shower them with goods from a clear blue sky.

Jeeze. Can I get some of that? “fake planes”? No – they are very friggin’ real. They land at Dover. Their cargo is the corpses of American fighting men and women.

Steve, please forgive me for asking this if I misunderstand, but do you know what cargo cults are? Because your response reads like a non-sequitur. Aimai is making an analogy. (Harsh, to be sure, and I don't agree with it, but that's another issue. I also think that implicitly calling you a "dead-ender," which is what that quote seems to do, is possibly a violation of the posting rules.)

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