Progress in Iraq Takes Back Seat to Violence in Media, Rumsfeld Says
By Petty Officer 3rd Class John R. Guardiano, USN
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 26, 2005 The "solid progress" being made in Iraq seldom gets the same level of media attention as terrorist killings and beheadings there, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.
Moreover, the Iraqi people, he argued, are winning against the insurgency and, with the help of American and coalition forces, will prevail.
"The fact of the matter is that the progress has been solid," Rumsfeld told George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program "This Week."
"It's amazing, it's historic, what's taken place," he said. "Twenty-five million Iraqi people have been liberated, and they have now have a sovereign government. And they've had a successful election, and the hospitals and the schools are open, and they're making good progress on developing a constitution. And they're going to have a final election in December of this year."
Yet, none of these facts is well known to the American public, the secretary said. "They're not as newsworthy, apparently, because (they) don't get reported as much," Rumsfeld said. "What gets reported is that 10 Iraqis are killed (by) a suicide bomber, or an American soldier is killed."
The secretary said this is not the media's fault; it's just the nature of wartime reporting.
"War is a tough, difficult, dirty business," he explained. "And when it's reported, it leaves people with the impression -- correctly -- that it's a terrible thing. It's everybody's last choice, nobody's first choice."
Rumsfeld said this has been true throughout American history. "We know that this has been true in the Revolutionary War. We know it was true in the Civil War. We know it was true in World War I and World War II," he said. "If all people know is what they see on television or read in the press -- the negatives," he explained, then they don't see the progress that is being made.
Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, are the people with the most direct knowledge of what's transpiring in Iraq, and they "feel very good about the progress that's being made," Rumsfeld said.
Casey told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that only "one-tenth of 1 percent" of Iraqis are involved in the insurgency.
"For those of us who have spent many months in the field," Abizaid told the committee, "we see good progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We sense good progress against the extremism that once seemed so pervasive in the region. ... Progress in counterinsurgency and counter-terrorist work is not easily recognized. Setbacks, casualties and difficult problems undoubtedly remain ahead. ... We will need patience and strength to achieve success."
But while negative media coverage of war has been the historic norm, television and the modern media may have exacerbated the problem in recent history.
On the NBC News program "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert, the secretary noted that according to historian David McCullough, author of a new book titled "1776," if the American Revolutionary War had had the same type of media coverage as the Iraq war, then "there wouldn't have been a successful revolution."
As far as Iraq is concerned, "the progress is impressive," Rumsfeld said. "I think they're going to choose the path of lightness. The sweep of human history is for freedom. Look at what's happened in Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan and the Ukraine."
The secretary said the American people can be optimistic about a good outcome in Iraq, but the optimism must be tempered with an understanding of reality. "We have to recognize that it's a tough, tough, tough world, and there are going to be bumps in the road between now and then," he said.