It’s hard not to be cynical about Iraq. There is just too little independent, reliable reporting coming out of the country these days. I don’t speak Arabic and have no pre-war contacts, so I’ve always felt I have to be vigilant against narratives that sound too perfect — particularly since they seem to be spun by journalists like myself, who don’t speak the language and don’t have a background in the region, while the free-roaming Arabist types (Nir Rosen, Patrick Cockburn, Leila Fadhil) bring in all the bad news.
I know that in the U.S., where this human catastrophe has been politicised so thoroughly it makes us sensitive Europeans wanna gag, it’s fashionable to see the discrepancies in reporting as a result of some right-left divide, of those nasty liberal anti-war types wanting to see disaster around every corner. Maybe they do, but as long as there are gaping holes in our Iraq coverage, I’m not willing to accept any news about “turning points” or “end games” at face value. I mean, shouldn’t we be worried when those who walk the streets and listen to the people feel so pessimistic about the prospects for peace, while those who only work embedded with the military speak so enthusiastically about victory?
Okay, this turned into a pretty long preamble.
What I actually wanted to say was that I had mixed feelings about reports yesterday that AQI is on the ropes, that the Iraqi army is now leading the COIN effort, and that May is turning out to be the least violent month in Iraq since March 2004, whatever the hell that means.
Dr iRack has already posted his doubts about the demise of JAM, so I’ll just add two things:
- Of course Crocker and Petraeus want to advertise these statistics. They were preceded by two extraordinarily violent months when the death toll spiked. Instead of accepting everything they say we should ask why the specific numbers are again classified.
- No Western reporters were on the ground to cover either the offensive in Basra or the two operations in Mosul. So either you believe the MNF-I/Maliki line that everything went smoothly, or you read McClatchy and the Arabic press, in which case the picture is a lot less rosy.
UPDATE: If you’re hungry for a more intelligent discussion, look here.