Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Winning hearts and minds in Sadr City

I don't know which is more amazing: the fact that this is happening, or the fact that the article about it appeared in the LA Times.

I noticed the story via this link from Big Pharaoh, my favorite Egyptian blogger (he's also the only one I know, but I'm sure he'd be my favorite even if I knew of more).

So, things are going very well lately in Sadr City, that poor section of Baghdad that was thought to house an incorrigibly anti-American population, unreachable and potentially violent. Although the LA Times and Yahoo News have seen fit to spotlight the story, it certainly hasn't gotten the wide coverage one would expect from such an astounding turnaround. After all, just remember how much we heard about Sadr City when things were going badly there.

So, I'll do my small bit to publicize the good news. Here are some excerpts:

Crammed into armored Humvees heaving with weapons, Lt. Col. S. Jamie Gayton and his soldiers were greeted by a surprising sight as they rolled into one of Baghdad's poorest neighborhoods.

Men stood and waved. Women smiled. Children flashed thumbs-up signs as the convoy rumbled across the potholed streets of Sadr City...

We're making a huge impact," Gayton said as his men pulled up to a sewer station newly repaired with U.S. funds. "It has been incredibly safe, incredibly quiet and incredibly secure."

Sadr City has become one of the rare success stories of the U.S. reconstruction effort, say local residents, Iraqi and U.S. officials. Although vast swaths remain blighted, the neighborhood of 2 million mostly impoverished Shiites is one of the calmest in Baghdad. One U.S. soldier has been killed and one car bomb detonated in the last year, the military says.

The improvements are the result of an intense effort in the wake of the street battles last August with fighters loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr. Within a month, U.S. officials decided to make Sadr City a showcase for rebuilding, and increased spending to $805 million in a neighborhood long neglected under
Saddam Hussein..

The author, T. Christian Miller, than goes into the obligatory disclaimer about all the other projects around Iraq that haven't gone as well. But even he cannot restrain his excitement at the remarkable success of this one, when he returns to re-interview people who were complaining a short year ago, and finds them quite pleased with how things have been going lately:

At the newly repaired sewer station, a local family guarding it greeted Gayton like an old friend; he had visited several times before.

Haita Zamel showed Gayton how the local sewer authority was fixing a problem that had developed in one pump. She proudly showed off the small home that had been built on the site to replace a dilapidated trailer where her family of six once lived. She even asked Gayton for computer software to teach English to her children.

"When you tell me something, I know you'll do it," she said, clutching tightly at the white scarf covering her head. "To the last day of our life, we are with you. Us and all of our neighbors."

But I think this is my very favorite part:

Kadhem said that for the first time, he could imagine a future for his children better than his own.

"Things are different. Before, we felt afraid. Now, there is freedom and we feel there will be a solution and it will be better," he said. "At this stage, we have to endure.

"The change from a dictatorship to a democracy is not easy."

Kadhem, resident of Sadr City, seems to be exhibiting far more patience and understanding--and just plain common sense--about the transition and reconstruction process than a great many people in the US and Europe are showing.

It makes a neocon proud.


At 11:44 PM, September 07, 2005, Blogger Bookworm said...

Sad that the media let this lovely little bit of news slip by it. They've blinded themselves to so much that is good in the wake of the displacement of Saddam and his thugs and, after them, the death squads.

At 3:04 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

But that's typical of the outdated (formerly known as "mainstream") media...

At 6:24 AM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't we hear more stories like this in the mainstream media? Could someone have an agenda?

At 6:33 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger goesh said...

There are large swatches of peace and gradual development in Iraq which the media has no intent or interest in reportig. We all need to repeatedly remind MSM outlets via e-mail that we are not reading them or relying on them for news that is so biased it actually stinks.

At 9:00 AM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I see it, the US is playing for a tipping point in Iraq and the Middle East, when Muslims collectively reject violent jihad, authoritarian government, and terrorism, and embrace democracy because it is in their own interests.

Clearly this tipping point has been reached with millions of Iraqis, such as the Kurds and now those in Sadr City. Now we and our new friends have to stay the course...

At 10:36 AM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Iraqis were not typically anti-American prior to the invasion. It is not surprising that some areas -- espeically the Shi'ite areas -- are seeing a brighter future, now that Islam is central to the constitution, and the local clerics have substantial power.

I mean, even the Iranian hardcore had a press conference praising the new Iraqi constitution.

Why shouldn't the residents of Sadr City be relatively happy? Most of them got what they wanted.

At 11:22 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger Clovis said...

I assume all of you of military age (or with military-age children) are on your way to the recruiting office so you can go spend some time with "our new friends."

At 11:28 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger Brian said...

Mainstream media let this lovely bit of news slip by? What are you smoking? The original story appeared in the LA Times, which pretty much was a main stream paper. As far as other newspapers covering it, well a newspaper tries not to cover other people stories. You might see something in several weeks as they get reporters to cover the story. Stop whining about the MSM when you are quoting a story in the LA Times!

At 12:10 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok Paul, Goesh and the rest of you, time for remedial critical analysis 101.

Paul said, "Why don't we hear more stories like this in the mainstream media? Could someone have an agenda?"

The story said, "Sadr City has become one of the rare success stories of the U.S. reconstruction effort, say local residents, Iraqi and U.S. officials." Hmm, hard to come up with many more "stories like this" when they appear to be so rare.

Goesh said, "There are large swatches of peace and gradual development in Iraq which the media has no intent or interest in reportig [sic]."

The article says, "Unlike elsewhere in Iraq, where the reconstruction fell under the purview of a hodgepodge of U.S. civilian agencies, the American military provided sustained, focused leadership in a limited geographic area. That focus provided the oversight needed to coordinate the military's efforts with those of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Pentagon's Project and Contracting Office, the primary reconstruction agencies." It seems as if the Iraqis care less about "freedom and democracy" and more about water and electricity. The reason that there are so few stories of this kind is, as the article points out, because this is a fairly atypical example of reconstruction in Iraq.

At 12:25 PM, September 08, 2005, Blogger goesh said...

The Corps of Engineers recently completed its 1200th project, a school renovation. Discontent comes more from deprivation and lack of occupation than religious fervor.

Clovis - I already had my war a long time ago. I would, if young enough, enlist. I suspect a fair number here would not qualify for military service mostly by age and some possibly for health reasons. My extended family is likewise ineligible for military service, except possibly one nephew but he would take about a 60% cut in pay if he were to enlist. That's the nice thing about volunteering, isn't it?

At 1:59 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the redord there have been positive reports in the MSM about Sadr city for months. It might help if you read these papers daily instead of just imagining what theyy must stay.

The problem is that the Shiites do not necessarily like us, they have closer ties to Iran and they avoid making direct nuisances while going about their own business which includes building militias and imposing theocracies in much of the south.

At 2:42 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I assume all of you of military age (or with military-age children) are on your way to the recruiting office so you can go spend some time with 'our new friends.'"

How is is that someone thinks that it is possible or even desirable in 2005 America for someone to go down to a recruiting center and forceably enlist one of their adult children? That is just the most tired out, worthless, meaningless argument I've heard repeated ad nauseum in the last two years. Are you really telling us, Clovis, that you think it's all right for adults in 2005 America to be compelled by their parents to do anything? Are you saying you wouldn't raise an objection if your mother got it in her head to drag you down and forceably sign you up for something as benign as even the local garden club? Come on. That's just lame.

Along those same lines, are you requiring everyone who complains about the alleged poor response of the government to the hurricane in New Orleans to shut up unless they personally go down to Louisiana and join the National Guard or force their adult children to do so? I certainly hope you've had no complaints about the hurricane. If you don't live in Louisiana and aren't signing up for the NOPD or the NG you had best just shut up and go on your away. You haven't earned the right to speak...under your system, at least. Under the democracy that the rest of us live in it works differently.

At 4:09 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, anonymous of 2:59 PM and Joe Bob, I do read the MSM frequently, and listen to cable news quite often as well. My point is that the when Sadr City was full of turmoil and unrest it was a highlighted story--top headlines for many days. One could hardly avoid hearing about it at the time, over and over, ad nauseum.

The coverage of news like this--good news, a turnaround of the bad--is something that is hardly trumpeted in the way it should be, and in nothing approaching the way that the bad news was (and is) extensively and frequently publicized. It should be getting some sort of parity--and, by the way, I haven't read much about it on either side of the great Right/Left media divide. It's not a case of it being a "dog bites man" story, either--it's important, fascinating, and engaging.

To Clovis and others: the old "chickenhawk" argument has been discussed over and over on this blog. I refer you here if you are truly interested in reading one of many exchanges on the topic.

At 4:11 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops--that link in the previous comment about the "chickenhawk" discussion got messed up. I'll try to make it work this time: see this.

At 6:00 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The usual journo response is, "We don't report when an airplane lands safely."

Welllll, if you've been reporting the weather is catastrophic, the airport full of obstacles, the runways unmarked and potholed, and the pilots generally drunk, it might be NEWS to report that a plane, finally, landed safely.

At 11:19 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've come to hear the "chickenhawk" fallacy as evidence that the anti-war movement is out of good arguments against the war.

If Iraq were truly the disaster or moral outrage that they claim, they would be able to use facts and logic to argue their position, not emotional appeals and personal attacks.

At 9:09 AM, September 09, 2005, Blogger SF said...

Thanks for posting this article, neo. And a small hat-tip to the LAT for publishing the original story--surprising as it is to see good news in Iraq featured in that MSM organ.

And if you're a lefty/Dem visitor, how 'bout answering this question honestly: If Iraq were to somehow morph into a relatively well-functioning democracy (as democratic and corruption-free as, say, Chicago), and all but a couple of thousand U.S. troops were brought home--and the GOP was calling it a fabulous outcome-- would you honestly be happy?

At 11:26 AM, September 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


William Buckley asked the same sort of question during the Viet Nam war.

If you woke up one morning and there was peace in Southeast Asia BECAUSE WE WON, would you be happy?

Of course, his implication is that, no, not at all. It would be horrifying.

At 8:23 AM, September 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article, thanks for sharing! One of the key messages here, I think, is that it was the U.S. Military's actions on the ground and not the planning or priorities of the Pentagon that made this operation successful. There's probably at least two reasons why we don't hear more stories like this. One is that they're rare and two is that most of your journalists are holed up in the Green Zone. Those brave enough to go out and check out the worst parts of Bagdahd are probably pretty rare.

Funny, I've been hearing from the Right for months if not years now that the media doesn't cover all the good news in Iraq. How exactly is the Right so aware of all this good news if it's not being reported, and why rather than talking about good news, don't they simply report on it, just like this Blog did?

At 10:21 AM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you have to know where to look.
The wire services--and foreign media--do and put out a huge number of stories, including various institutions' press releases.
What the MSM chooses to run, and edit into or out of what they run, is the issue.

For example, not wrt the WOT, Reuters reports that one firm getting big contracts for Katrina relief has ties to the White House. Apparently, Bush's old buddy and former FEMA director, Joe Albaugh, is a director or consultant. Bad? That's the impression.
But they could have told us that the CEO of the firm is the head of the Louisiana Democratic party and was co-chair of Gov. Blanco's transition team.
They didn't.

As Terry Moran, of the White House press corps admitted several months ago, the big-time media have a bias against the media. That will color their perceptions--being charitable--and motivate them to lie like effing rugs--being realistic.

At 10:34 PM, September 14, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nuts. "Bias against the military."

Wow. No excuse.

At 5:51 PM, September 15, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

One could hardly avoid hearing about it at the time, over and over, ad nauseum.

NNCon is right.

Media Bias is not about disappearing stories that they don't like, it is about making it so that on a psychological level, you see the stories that they want you to see, and you don't see the stories they don't find interesting because they put it on page A16 or something.

It is the maximum propaganda technique they can get away using.

" How exactly is the Right so aware of all this good news if it's not being reported, and why rather than talking about good news, don't they simply report on it, just like this Blog did?"

How? Same way Able Danger found the hijackers, it is called open-source datamining. Or to put it in layman's terms, googling.

Read chrenkoff's collection of links about the good news coming from Iraq... did you notice where those links went to?

Sure, it is funny.

And the answer to why are they talking about it instead of doing something about it, is because the Right hates propaganda with a vengeance, the Right no longer knows how to propagandize, why they should propagandize, and they finally see propaganda as a dirty trick by the Left and the Terroists, something they are better than.

Course, they aren't, if they were better, they'd get in the mud with the rest of the folks, and twist the MSM around like a pretzel like Clinton did. This is a war going on, not a publicity contest, and in war you FREAKING NEED THE MEDIA. Whether they're on your side cause they like you and agree with you, or they're on your side cause you told them that if they aren't, the military would give Fox News the exclusives to any and all major military operations along with Militay assisted footage and Bomb/Camera Videos, doesn't really matter.

Everyone do me a favor and read this link about the Future of the Marine Corps. The military people should get a kick out of it, and most people who are still "confused" as heck over media bias will also understand something new.


MR. HOFFMAN: George Hoffman, adjunct faculty at George Washington University.

Mr. West, you mentioned the fact that we are losing the information war and I would agree with that. I think the reason we're losing it is because a lot of the press consciously decides not to report good things, individual acts of heroism, humanitarian activities, infrastructure improvements and things like that.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the worst kind of a press is a free press, except for all the others. We have to live with the press we have.

My question to you, sir, and also to General Sattler and also to you if you'd like to answer is, how do we put forward to the press all of the good things that are happening in a manner such that it will compel to report them?

MR. WEST: General Mattis quoting--has said the noblest deeds if left unsung go unnoticed. I believe for the United States Marine Corps, for instance, I came in because of my uncles but also because I always was reading his book Follow Me about the 2nd Marine Division. So we all have books as something we've gone back to.

That transparency, when we went in, when the enemy then attempted to come up with the back roll of civilian tragedy, of chaos in the streets, we had actual folks with cameras shooting, as Mr. West said, real-time footage that showed the streets were clear, there was no humanitarian crisis, it was mano a mano combat, it was tough, but there was not the civilian and collateral damage that was projected in the first one.

I'm a big believer, firm, firm believer, that you got to have the media with you. It's great. And the closer you work with them and the more transparent you are, expect to get the bad because it's going to happen, but demand that also the good be placed out there.

It's just hard when the fight ends, and now you go into the reconstruction phase that cataclysmic event--that combat is not there. So it's just human nature that the 91 rapidly fell off after we got to the southern side of the town and swept through.

Now you're building a town council. There's something that ought to be on the front page of the paper. It ought to be because it's critically important. We got the water out of the streets. The electricity is now in grid 4, it's heading to grid 5. These are all great things that motivate and energize the Iraqi people, but as hard as we want to try, those kinds of things don't stop you when you're clicking through your channel changer or make you grab a paper and buy it.

Sad to say it, but the Republicans are smarter, more competent, and wiser than the Democrats. And the military is smarter than both, wisdom and IQ wise.

But NEITHER, and I say neither the Republicans or the military, are simply RUTHLESSNESS enough to bend the MSM to the will of the American people. They have the power, so much power, but they're not willing to turn it on journalists. Only Democrats, like that Democrat appointed independent prosecutor, has the guts to jail a reporter for not telling him things he wanted to know.

Democrats do have more guts, if more stupidity. Harry S. Truman dropped the bomb. And he was a Democrat.

Doesn't mean I think ruthlessness is a character virtue, but it is something you need if you want to beat the enemy and the media, and the propaganda.


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