Whenever anyone — typically conservatives — criticize the media for not reporting on the successes the U.S. military has achieved in Iraq, the inevitable reply comes, “Well, what if there isn’t any good news to report?”
As a matter of fact, there is. And fortunately there are a few reporters and news organizations who are getting outside the Green Zone, talking to Iraqis in other parts of the country and finding a lot of success stories out there. On Saturday night at 9 P.M. EST, Fox News Channel will run a documentary called, Winning Iraq: The Untold Story, in which correspondent Greg Palkot, who spent six weeks traversing Iraq, reports the side of the story that is too often neglected.
First, Palkot runs through the checklist of successes that have somehow become mundane: the formation of an interim government, free elections, a large and growing military, a former dictator on trial, a popularly ratified constitution, and a second election coming up this month. But then as his travels through the country begin, Palkot looks beyond those and other familiar stories.
He reports that Haifa Street in Baghdad, nicknamed “Purple Heart Blvd.” a year ago because attacks against American and Iraqi forces were happening almost once a day, has experienced zero attacks in the last ten months — largely because Iraqi forces have taken over securing the area. Jonathan Foreman reported on the same phenomenon in this month’s Vanity Fair, and explained why the Iraqi forces have made the difference. “The previous week,” Foreman wrote, “[Iraqi National Guard] soldiers caught an insurgent when one of the [privates] overheard him speaking with a Syrian accent.” Reporting like this echoes similar — and similarly ignored — indications that Route Irish (the road to the Baghdad airport), which was once the most dangerous route in Iraq, has seen a dramatic reduction in violent attacks. As with Haifa Street, Iraqi troops made all the difference.
Palkot also takes us to the Iraqi stock exchange, where state-owned enterprises that have been privatized are now traded vigorously on the frenetic market floor. Palkot’s report doesn’t paint an overly rosy picture of the Iraqi economy. The violence has taken its toll, and unemployment is still at 27 percent. But economy is growing. Palkot cites Brookings Institution findings that the standard of living in Iraq has doubled since 2003, and the Iraqi economy is projected to grow by 16.8 percent next year. The post-Saddam dinar has held its value better than the U.S. dollar.
Palkot takes us to the south of Iraq, where Arab tribes who saw their villages massacred and habitats destroyed by Saddam Hussein are starting to rebuild their lives with the help of the U.S. and British forces. He also visits the Kurdish region in the north, where there is almost no violence, the people love America, and the future has never looked brighter. Symbolic of the future of this region is the Kurdish man who, as a successful developer, is overseeing the construction of a 23-building apartment complex which, when completed, will overlook the hills where he and his fellow rebels sought refuge during their wars with Saddam.
There are instances where Palkot seems to be trying a little too hard — I’m not convinced that Baghdad’s power outages occur because Iraqis are overusing their new appliances. And critics, as they said of President Bush’s speech on Wednesday, will say we’ve heard this all before. But any close observer of the media knows that, as one Marine memorably put it, the media tend to show us the sacrifice that Americans and Iraqis are making, but act perpetually confused as to what that sacrifice is for. Palkot and other journalists stand out from the rest by going beyond the casualty counts to show us that untold story.
People building new homes provide a motif that runs throughout the documentary. There is a theme of renewal and reconstruction. Perhaps the most promising statistic of all those Palkot presents is that by some estimates marriages have doubled since the fall of Saddam. That indicates optimism about Iraq’s future. It’s an optimism that is not shared by a majority of the top brass in the American media — an optimism that is largely an untold story. For one hour on Saturday night, however, Fox tells it.