Chairman Lists War on Terror Stories Not Being Covered
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Oct. 5, 2006 At each stop during a visit here yesterday, people asked Marine Gen. Peter Pace what stories are not getting out to the American people about the war on terror.
In response, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff listed the three most significant stories from the war on terror that are not getting coverage.
Pace said one of the most significant aspects of the war not getting coverage is the enormous number of women going to school in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Taliban in Afghanistan forbade women from attending school. Now, almost 50 percent of the students are girls, he said.
“That’s a huge change in attitude,” he said. “It also speaks well of the potential of a nation. Because I do not know how any nation aspires to greatness if it cuts itself off from one-half of its brain power.”
A second story not getting the coverage it deserves deals with health care. The health-care systems in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting better, the general said. “They are not great; it takes a long time to ‘build’ a doctor, but medical facilities are being built, expatriate medical personnel are returning and a great deal is going on,” he said.
The chairman said an often-overlooked aspect of the war on terror is what it takes for Afghan and Iraqi leaders to step up to their countries’ needs.
“Americans do not fully appreciate the courage of the individuals who are striving to lead in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Pace said. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his government and Iraqi President Jalal Talibani and his government are working to build systems in the face of tremendous opposition, he noted. They are also trying to emplace democratic systems in countries that have never had them, Pace said.
Pace said the reason many stories are not getting out has to do with the fact that news is a business.
“When the war first began, we had 24-hour coverage,” he said. Anyone in America could see or read many aspects of operations in Afghanistan or Iraq.
But over time, because news is a business, “less and less of the resources go to the war in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said. On television, less time is devoted to airing stories about the war as other stories come up. In newspapers and magazines, fewer column inches are devoted to the war. Also, in both cases, the media send fewer reporters to cover the story.
“News is a business, and the networks go with stories that attract attention,” he said during a lunchtime speech to the Kirtland Partnership Committee here. “So the good-news stories that might make it in a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week cycle might not make it in the 15-minute news cycle that the war has now. That’s just a fact.”
Pace said the military has to accommodate that fact. He said he has asked the military services to look at a program to allow servicemembers returning from Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa to have a few extra days of administrative leave to speak to their fellow citizens. “They wouldn’t be scripted or coached,” the chairman said. “(The servicemembers would) in their own words, explain their experiences to their fellow citizens – the good, the bad and the ugly. This will give their local hometown folks a flavor of what’s going on.”