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Jason Holliston
Thursday, July 17, 2003  
The Real Story in Iraq

If you watch the news on television (even the so-called Conservative Fox News) or read your news online or dead-tree, you'll see the assertion made that post-war Iraq operations are spinning out of control. Sometimes it's a subtle thing, like a bit of spin in a headline, and other times it's a flat out statement that the degenerating situation is turning into "America's next Vietnam". Part of this problem is the press' penchant for hysterics, as everyone knows that a bad-news story sells more papers and tunes in more watchers than a good-news story. But there's undoubtedly a leftist, defeatist, whining component, as well. In any case, to get the real story of what's happening in Iraq and get a picture in your head of the situation, you can either pick through the normal avenues of information and hope for the best, or you can search around for people that just want to tell it straight. Today, I've seen two columns that give you a much clearer picture or today's Iraq.

The first is a column in the New York Post, written by a reporter that spent several days pounding the streets and pressing the flesh around Iraq:

In the early days of the liberation, some mosque preachers tested the waters by speaking against "occupation." They soon realized that their congregations had a different idea. Today, the main theme in sermons at the mosques is about a partnership between the Iraqi people and the coalition to rebuild the war-shattered country and put it on the path of democracy.

Even the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr now says that "some good" could come out of the coalition's presence in Iraq. "The coalition must help us stabilize the situation," he says. "The healing period that we need would not be possible if we are suddenly left alone."

The second is a more detailed (and long) analysis of the state of the Iraqi Street, courtesy of the Weekly Standard:

AS I WALKED the streets of Baghdad at night, which in most districts of the city isn't a particularly dangerous thing to do, as I visited mosques and clerics in the Sunni and Shiite lands to the north and south, I picked up a fairly acute case of cognitive dissonance. Reading too much of the Western press before and especially during a visit to Iraq is mentally unbalancing. Though the problems in Iraq are enormous and the isolation of many U.S. officials in the Jumhuriyah Palace headquarters in Baghdad is surreal, neither the country nor its American administrators appeared to be sliding downhill into chaos. In most of Iraq--in the key areas of the country, in the Shiite south, the Kurdish north, and in Baghdad--just the opposite is happening. Productive energy and commerce are slowly returning to the streets, which is impressive given how long it is taking to rebuild a functioning nationwide telephone system. In mid to late June, U.S. officials--for all their clumsiness, lack of language skills, and enthusiastic ethos of "force protection"--appeared to be drawing closer to the Iraqi population, not farther away. This was especially true in the Shiite regions of Iraq, which are essentially everything from Baghdad south.

Both these columns, in my opinion, are almost pure reporting with detached analysis -- hardly any spin here. Refreshing, don't you think? Read them, and if your stomach is a bit queasy when you listen to all the stories of the situation spiraling out of control, this should rest it a bit.

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