Friday, April 07, 2006

Not Good News, Just News

I always cringe when I hear people complain that the mainstream media "never tells the good news" from Iraq. No, it doesn't. Because in the cold and cynical calculus of commerecial journalism, good news just isn't news. The 500 kids in your high school who didn't knife anyone last night won't be on the front page tomorrow. The one who did, will. If you want to read about the rest, buy a yearbook, not a newspaper.

What's missing in Iraq is not "good" news, but a more complete picture of the country than a list of car bombings and IED casualties. Yes, those things are important news. But Americans, in judging the sum of our efforts and experience in Iraq, need to know more than just the butcher's bill. We can't make intelligent decisions about the thing, and vote accordingly, unless we know more about what, exactly, we're doing over there.

How often do you read about the daily activities of average soldiers and Marines in Iraq? How often are their voices heard in your media? The Associated Press every day tells us about the 2,300 dead. What about the 130,000 or so living?

Are they out there laying sewage pipes in Sadr City and painting schoolrooms in Fallujah? I want to know about that. Because then we can discuss whether that's something they ought to be doing.

You could argue that they ought to be securing the borders and infrastructure of Iraq and picking off insurgents full-time, and letting the Iraqis do the smiley happy work.

If one of the goals of this war was to address the root cause of terrorism -- and the biggest root is a general feeling of impotence and inferiority in the Islamic world -- then the important thing is to make Iraqis feel like its their country. If we want to turn Iraq into something all Arabs can point to with pride as an example of what they can accomplish, then we need to let Iraqis do that work.

We want to turn this wounded culture from which so much poison flows into a place where people feel their efforts at self-improvement are worth making. That will turn them away from the dark paths of jihad.

If we paint their schools, they may smile at us. But maybe the goal we ought to have is not to turn them overnight into America's number one fans. The goal is to give them something better to do with their waking hours than hate us and dream up ways to incinerate us by the thousands.

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