A few minutes ago, I attended an impromptu press briefing held by a senior coalition official. He reported that there have been a number of coordinated attacks this morning in Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi, and Baqubah. In Baqubah, the police station was briefly overrun, and CNN is reporting that similar attacks on police stations occurred in Mosul and Ramadi. The spokesman stated that he was not sure if the Anti-Iraqi Forces were still claiming control of the police station in Baqubah, but he contended that a combination of Coalition forces and Iraqi National Guard (the new name for what was formerly the ICDC) had the situation well in hand. He also stated that the Coalition had struck back with laser guided bombs against homes which had been used to launch attacks with small arms and RPGs. In characterizing the overall status, the senior spokesman noted that "the attacks have gone over their peak."
The briefing was held in the International Press Center, where it is difficult to hear because of the large fans lining cubicles. A reporter in the front row asked a question referring to the attacks as "successful." The Coalition spokesman rightly jumped all over this. He argued that anyone who is armed sufficiently could take over a police station for a limited time. "If you go in a with machine guns and RPGs to the police station at the corner of 8th and I in Washington, DC, you’re going to be able to take it over for a time." His point, of course, is that you are not going to be able to hold the position. In fact, you are probably going to die or be captured very quickly, which is just what is happening to the terrorists here. This coverage of attacks without perspective as to the results is something that has distressed for me about media coverage since I arrived in Iraq. A case in point are the incursions by al Sadr’s forces. Any time they actively engaged the Coalition either directly or by attacking targets such as police stations, they were easily dispatched with huge casualties. Yet to read the news accounts, the attacks were emphasized while the outcome was not. This plays directly into the hands of the terrorists, who I have argued on this page before are carrying out the attacks not merely to intimidate the locals, but to stir up a press which through negligent and reckless reporting creates the impression that the terrorists are achieving some kind of "success." The spokesman was correct in concluding that "[t]here is nothing that you would rather see if you were Zarqawi than the headline, ’Iraqi Transition Marred’" by violence. I offer a simple appeal to the press: if you are going to tell the story--tell the whole story. Tell the people how quickly the threat is repelled, not just that an attack happened. Tell the people how severe the losses were on the terrorists side, and take the time to explain whether the terrorists were able to achieve any lasting military objective. And while you are at it, tell the people how the average Iraqi is still seeking freedom, and not terror.