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On Iraq, 'Bad' Is News, 'Good' Is Opinion

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Consider the progress already seen in Iraq since forward operations (popularly coined 'The Surge'). When positive developments are slipped into hard news coverage, they are almost always prefaced with the caveat of "Petraeus says" or "General Caldwell said," while the bad news is stated as unarguable fact. Whether in print or broadcast, while some news reports seem to note successes in Iraq on occasion, it is not an overstatement to say that such reporting is more often than not couched with an immediate "but" or "however" qualifier.

In order to read of good news on any given situation in Iraq, one is relegated to pilfering the Opinion section. Bad news, after all, is fact. Good news, on the other hand, is surely just opinion. Is this an over-arching and unfair generalization? Perhaps. But consider that the observation is neither unique, new nor even disputed much directly. Those who share this view did not arrive at it overnight nor due to over-active imaginations.

Consider the latest from Gordon Cucullu, replete with extensive quotes from General Petraeus in Iraq, detailing the ground situation as he sees it, one which the Commanding General cautiously notes is improving each day. Naturally, Mr. Cucullu's observations are relegated to the New York Post's Opinion Page.

What tactics are working? "We got down at the people level and are staying," he said flatly. "Once the people know we are going to be around, then all kinds of things start to happen."

More intelligence, for example. Where once tactical units were "scraping" for intelligence information, they now have "information overload," the general said. "After our guys are in the neighborhood for four or five days, the people realize they're not going to just leave them like we did in the past. Then they begin to come in with so much information on the enemy that we can't process it fast enough."

In intelligence work - the key to fighting irregular wars - commanders love excess.

And the tribal leaders in Sunni al Anbar Province, the general reports, "have had enough." Not only are the al Qaeda fighters causing civil disruption by fomenting sectarian violence and killing civilians, but on a more prosaic but practical side, al Qaeda is bad for business. "All of the sheiks up there are businessmen," Petraeus said. "They are entrepreneurial and involved in scores of different businesses. The presence of the foreign fighters is hitting them hard in the pocketbook and they are tired of it."

A large hospital project - meant to be one of the largest in the Sunni Triangle - had been put on hold by terrorist attacks when al Qaeda had control of the area. Now it's back on track. So are similar infrastructure projects.

Now, the Opinion Page is where Mr. Cucullu's conjecture belongs. Yet, there is hardly conjecture in the lengthy quote provided above. Within is found more encouraging news than perhaps could be discovered within the entire world/national news section of most any newspaper in print or within most any single news broadcast in the United States.

In fact, in fully 18 paragraphs of Cucullu's reporting (or, opinionating), only the final paragraph contains the kind of conjecture one may expect in a typical opinion piece. Even that is populated with a direct quote from "Malik Daoud," the new MNF-I Commanding General.

Early signs are positive; early indicators say that we're winning. As Petraeus cautiously concluded, "We'll be able to evaluate the situation for sure by late summer." That's his job. Our job? We need to give him the time and space needed to win this war.

There is more conjecture and opinion than that in New York Times (et al) front page reports on (formerly secret) US signals intelligence operations, (formerly secret) US detention facilities abroad, and/or (formerly secret) US Treasury Department financial counterterrorism measures. Once again (or still), for any good news on Iraq, read the Opinion Page.