Geraldo Rivera on Iraq 12/11
THE BUILDINGS THAT AREN'T BURNING IN IRAQ
"They have a saying in the news business," Geraldo Rivera related this week. "Reporters don't report buildings that don't burn." And with that introduction, he told a TV audience about the story that is being systematically denied to our entire nation: the success story of post-Saddam Iraq. Are we losing some soldiers each week? Yes. Is there some frustration in the public about electricity and water service? Yes. Are some Saddam Hussein loyalists scurrying throughout the land, making trouble? Yes. Has this opened a window for some terrorist mischief? Yes.
But that's all we hear. No wonder the country is in a mixed mood about Iraq.
If you hear about the buildings that are not burning, though, it is a different story indeed.
Rivera is no shill for George W. Bush. But Bush, Condi Rice and Colin Powell together could not have been as effective as Geraldo was Thursday night on the Fox News Channel's Hannity and Colmes program.
"When I got to Baghdad, I barely recognized it," he began, comparing his just-completed trip to two others he made during and just after the battle to topple Saddam. "You have over 30,000 Iraqi cops and militiamen already on the job. This is four months after major fighting stopped.
"Can you imagine that kind of gearing up in this country? Law and order is better; archaeological sites are being preserved; factories, schools are being guarded."
But what about the secondhand griping that the media have been so efficiently relating about power, water and other infrastructure?
"To say that Iraq is being rebuilt is not true," answered Rivera. "Iraq is being built. There was no infrastructure before; we are doing it. I just think the good news is being underestimated and underreported."
At this juncture, one must evaluate how to feel about the voices telling us only about the bad news in Iraq, whether from the mouths of news anchors or Democratic presidential hopefuls.
At best, they are under informed. At worst, their one-sided assessments of post-Saddam Iraq are intentional falsehoods for obvious reasons.
If I hear one more person mock that "Mission Accomplished" banner beneath which President Bush thanked a shipload of sailors and Marines a few months back, I'm going to spit. That was a reference to the ouster of Saddam's regime, and that mission was indeed accomplished, apparently to the great chagrin of the American left.
No one said what followed would be easy or cheap, and that's why the dripping-water torture of the cost and casualty stories is so infuriating. Remember we pay our soldiers whether they are in Iraq or in Ft Bragg, North Carolina.
We should all mourn the loss of every fallen soldier. But context cries out to be heard. Our present news media is not performing this task.
As some dare to wonder if this might become a Vietnam-like quagmire, I'll remind whoever needs it that most of our 58,000 Vietnam war toll died between 1966 and 1972, during which we lost an average of about 8,000 per year. That's about 22 per day, every day, for thousands of days on end.
Let us hear no more Vietnam comparisons. They do not equate. What I hope to hear is more truth, even if we have to wrench it from the mouths of the media and political hacks predisposed to bash the remarkable job we are doing every day in what was not so long ago a totalitarian wasteland.
Local elections are under way across Iraq, Rivera reported. "Where Kurds and Arabs have been battling for decades, things have been settling down. Administrator Paul Bremer is doing a great job."
So does Geraldo think his media colleagues are intentionally painting with one side of the brush?
"I'm not into conspiracy theories...there's just more bang for your buck when you report the GI who got killed rather than the 99 who didn't get killed, who make friends, who helped schedule elections, who helped shops get open for business, who helped traffic flow again.
"The vast majority of Iraqis are very happy to have us there... I would like to see a bit more balance." This needs to be reported to the American Public who are presently being duped. I expect the dominant media culture to nitpick Bush, and Democrats to blast him with reckless abandon. But when that leads to the willful exclusion of facts that would shine truthful light on the great work of the American armed forces, that level of malice plumbs new depths. Some call it - TREASON.