On the morning of July 1, the news was so good out of Iraq that the liberal Washington Post and New York Times almost failed to find something negative to report about it on their front pages.
For months, the Times and Post have specialized in taking anything bad that happens in Iraq–no matter how minor–and hyping it as major news.
But on June 30 nothing bad had happened in Iraq. Indeed, there had been a long string of good news:
- Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist Abu Mu-sab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian Palestinian, had overplayed his hand in a series of attacks that killed more than 100 Iraqis, thus uniting Iraqis in common cause with the United States against him.
- Radical cleric Moqtada al Sadr, the leading nemesis of the U.S. among Iraq’s Shiites, was so enraged by Zarqawi’s attacks he directed his militia to join in solidarity with Iraqi police against this non-Iraqi terrorist.
- U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer, who directed the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that controlled Iraq, surprised the world by handing over sovereignty to Iraq’s new independent interim government 48 hours sooner than scheduled. Bremer immediately boarded a plane and departed, leaving the Iraqis to govern themselves.
- Two polls showed that Iraqis supported their new government, considered internal security (i.e. killing terrorists) their highest priority, and optimistically looked to brighter days ahead.
- On June 30, the U.S. gave legal custody of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein to the newly independent Iraq, which promptly showed its resolve to bring him to justice by indicting him for mass murder.
On that day, no Americans were killed in fighting. Terrorists did not manage to murder a single Iraqi. No hostages were beheaded. No one was kidnapped. No new lurid photos could be found to remind us all again what had been done by a few soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison–last year.
The Post and the Times were stumped.
The Post could not spin Saddam’s handover as bad news, so it played the story on page A10. It ran only one story about Iraq on its front page–in the lower left-hand corner–lamenting, as the headline notes, that “Many Foreign Laborers Receive Inferior Pay, Food and Shelter” in Iraq.
Judging from the Post‘s coverage, the way contractors treat third-country workers in Iraq is a scandal that rivals the way the terrorist Zarqawi treated American Nick Berg when he tried to volunteer his services there.
The New York Times, more creatively, ran a front-page, above-the-fold analysis suggesting darkly that the newly independent Iraq may not give poor old Saddam a fair trial.
“Already,” moaned the Times, “questions have come up about whether the Iraqi Special Tribunal, relying on Iraqi law and American legal expertise, can produce credible, transparent proceedings or whether the result will amount to little more than victor’s justice–or victim’s vengeance.”
Victor’s justice? Vengeance? Mel Brooks could set this Times piece to music, and record it on the flipside of “Spring-time for Hitler.”
Yet, the Post buried (on page A19 of its June 25 issue) what may have been the most encouraging recent news from Iraq: A poll of 1,000 Iraqis, conducted June 9-19 by an independent polling firm commissioned by the CPA, showed that Iraqis want peace, not war. Most yearn for security and stability above all else and are hopeful their new interim government can deliver it to them. The poll showed:
- 73% approve of new Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who says he wants to crush the insurgents and foreign terrorists disturbing the peace of his country.
- 84% support new President Ghazi Yawar, who shares Allawi’s commitment to crushing the insurgents and terrorists.
- 82% support the U.S.-trained police who will work to enforce the peace.
- 70% support the newly forming Iraqi army that will track down and kill the insurgents and terrorists.
- 80% say the new government will “make things better” for Iraq.
These results roughly mirror another poll released last week by the International Republican Institute. It surveyed almost 2,000 Iraqis in all 18 Iraqi provinces and found that 65% believe things will be better a year from now. Also, 72% have a positive impression of President Yawar, and 51% have a positive impression of Prime Minister Allawi. Iraqis in this poll said the three most important issues to them are: security and crime (almost 70%), economic issues (almost 70%) and infrastructure (almost 65%).
These are areas where the U.S. can help an independent Iraq and build trust with the Iraqi people. That may not titillate the editors of the Washington Post and the New York Times. But it will advance the national security interests of the United States and vindicate the honorable and courageous service so many Americans have given in Iraq in the cause of an American victory.