The media spin on Operation Swarmer

W. Thomas Smith, Jr., who recently penned this spot-on piece on the media’s irresponsible reporting on military issues (which I referenced last week) has written another insightful piece, this time on the media spin swirling around the recent US and Iraqi military offensive Operation Swarmer:

The latest criticism of the war in Iraq has become so politically manipulative, so disingenuous, so over-the-top that it is undermining a critical cause that we cannot, for a variety of global security reasons, afford to lose.

As I mentioned in my piece on irresponsible reporting, there is far too much emphasis on blatantly inflammatory words and pictures – any opportunity to focus attention on tired stories like Abu Ghraib or an angry politician’s loaded comments about “no WMDs” or an “impending civil war.”

Thanks to the short shrift given it by many members of the mainstream press, too few Americans appreciate or grasp the magnitude of the fact that the first session (since last December) of a freely elected Iraqi parliament convened on March 16: A result that would not have been possible had it not been for three risky albeit remarkably successful elections since January 2005.

And as far as the U.S. effort is concerned, it seems there is almost nothing the White House, the Pentagon, or for that matter any American rifleman on the ground can do that is good enough to garner so much as a one-line “attaboy” from many of our country’s largest newspapers and television news networks.

Let’s look at last Thursday, March 16, the day the Iraqi National Assembly opened in Baghdad and a high-profile “air assault” northeast of Samarra, as an example:

The earliest news leads in U.S. newspapers (particularly the online versions) read something to the effect of, “Iraqi and coalition forces today launched the largest air assault operation since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in southern Salah Ad Din province to clear a suspected insurgent operating area.”

They were legitimate leads, based largely on the U.S. Defense Department’s initial press release about Operation Swarmer, a “50-ship” helicopter assault aimed at seizing weapons caches, gathering intelligence, and nabbing or killing terrorists in the targeted area.

But a misinterpretation of military terminology resulted in many – perhaps most – Americans having an image in their minds of waves of bombers and fighters unleashing a 2006 version of 2003’s “shock and awe.” And those responsible for disseminating the news did not initially help much in that regard.

When I logged into my email Thursday morning, I had numerous messages from colleagues who – unlike me – are opposed to our efforts in Iraq. One reporter-friend asked, almost gleefully, “What are we doing now? Why are we launching a ‘massive’ bombing campaign in Iraq? So now we are bombing and killing lots of innocent civilians? Justify this!”

After responding to his message, I zipped off a note to editor Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online for posting on NRO’s The Corner. A portion reads:

“They [my email buddies] are confused by the term, ‘air assault.’ An ‘air assault’ is actually a helicopter-borne infantry assault. In this case, large numbers of helicopters are ferrying airborne-infantry soldiers to enemy targets.”

Fine. And it didn’t take long for the rest of the nation to figure that one out, too. But that wasn’t good enough.

Make sure to read it all.

The media does not knoweth what they speaketh. :- \

Hat tip: Betsy Newmark

4:15 pm: Edited for typos. That’s what I get for trying to post something quickly … what I wouldn’t give to be able to pay a proofreader ;) )

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