A quote from the Boston Globe:
''There's so much negative information in the media," said Deborah Johns, a Roseville, Calif., mother of a Marine who is about to serve his third tour of duty in Iraq. ''If the building of bridges and roads and schools and power plants was portrayed in the media, it would make a huge difference."
Chances are some of our soldiers may in fact be building bridges and schools in Iraq. Why isn't this reported in the media? If it more stories about soldiers building schools and bridges were in the media reports, shouldn't that increase support for the war?
We'll examine both questions, in the order they were posed.
First, even a casual viewer of domestic news (national or even local) will discover that what is usually considered "news" by the people in charge of producing "news" tends to be items that are by definition NOT everyday occurences. Thus, while bloody crimes or politicians caught in some scandal make it onto the airwaves, a bridge or school being built, if it makes the broadcast at all, will certainly not lead the news, even in the smallest of markets.
Those wishing to see "human interest stories" from Iraq are disapointed due to the old adage of "Dog bites man, not news. Man bites dog, news." and its younger sibling, the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality. Would one really want to have a story about seven marine snipers killed in ambush to be squeezed out by a story about Army engineers building a bridge in a part of Iraq where the insurgency isn't as intense?
Put another way, if all we heard was good news from Iraq, would the families, friends, co-workers and spouses of the dead soldiers somehow not realise that the person they knew was killed? Would the roadside bombs somehow fail to detonate?
But let us accept that reasonable people have a right to expect as full a picture as possible of what is going on in Iraq, and that violence may be crowding out stories of schools and bridges being built.
Let's examine the second of the two questions...
If we were to discover that several schools and brideges have been built, doesn't that mean that our troops are doing much better and are more popular with Iraqis than our media wants us to believe?
Now, a careful reader will notice that the pro-war mother mentions not just schools and bridges, but power plants. That's the key to why the good news stories are completely irrellevant to the issue of whether the war is a good idea or a huge, tragic mistake.
Building power plants....and schools....and bridges.....
Is this mother trying to have us believe that Iraq, one of the most advanced modern countries in the region, did not have power plants, and schools, and bridges before we invaded?
In fact, what this mother probably means to say is RE-BUILDING power plants and bridges (both of which would be very probable military targets in the invasion of any country, and were targets of the Iraq invasion) and schools, which we can suppose were either destroyed by military action or in extreme disrepair due to a decade of sanctions. Viewd from this angle, our troops re-building things that country was instrumental in destroying is less than noble. Certainly, if al Qaeda was to offer to rebuild the WTC, Americans wouldn't say "Oh, how helpful of them!"
In any case, no amount of construction projects will bring back a dead Iraqi civilian, nor American soldier.
Nor can any Army engineer, no matter how talented and well meaning, build (or rebuild) enough bridges, power plants and schools to make this sorry episode in America's history anything but the obscenity that it is.