If it Bleeds, it Leads: Media Mentality Misses the Big Picture

It has long been said that the mainstream media focuses only the bad things happening in Iraq and often, if not always, glosses over any reports of progress or positive news. By adhering to the “If it bleeds, it leads” mentality, the major news organizations miss many opportunities to share with the American public, and the world, events that are just as crucial to the future of Iraq as the success or failure of military actions against the various insurgent groups.

What follows are a few of the noteworthy news items to come out of Iraq in just the past week, although you won’t see these facts reported on your favorite cable news channel or in your favorite newspaper. No, to find these facts you have to do a little searching. A good place to start is the Multi-National Force-Iraq’s official newsletter, This Week in Iraq, available on the coalition web site.

According to the newsletter, construction is complete on 1.86 miles of feeder lines and the installation of overhead distribution lines in Baghdad Province, improving electrical services for more than 270,000 residents. In addition, the newsletter states, 52 water treatment units have been installed in the Karkh District of Baghdad Province, capable of producing nearly 106,000 gallons of potable water per day, or enough for about 78,000 residents. Remember, this is just in the past week and only in Baghdad Province. Similar projects have been completed and continue to be worked on in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

The newsletter goes on to say that in the facilities and transportation sector, there are 1,493 total projects of which 1,185 are complete, 231 in process, and 77 pending award. These projects involve medical facilities, schools, roads, and other critical aspects of the Iraqi infrastructure. In fact, the newsletter lists too many positive stories to be included in the limited space available here. Coalition forces throughout the country are working hard every day to repair and replace the infrastructure of a country that suffered from 30 years of neglect under Saddam Hussein and wars with Iran and two American-led coalitions.

Of equal importance to note here is the fact that many other “missions” occur every day in every part of Iraq. These missions are not “official” and are seldom reported in any forum. Soldiers from nearly every unit in Iraq consistently volunteer to leave the relative safety of their Forward Operating Bases to go into the deserts, villages, and cities on humanitarian visits to deliver food, shelter items, medical supplies, water, and clothing to Iraqis struggling to survive in a country devastated by neglect and war. I have personally participated in several of these missions, from delivering sports equipment and educational supplies to a school in Habbaniyah, to handing out candy to kids in villages and cities, to delivering basic necessities to bedouins living in the desert outside of An Nasiriyah.

There is never a shortage of volunteers for these missions because our soldiers know what the press back home chooses to ignore: that we are involved in a worthy cause that deserves the very best that America has to offer. At home, we focus on casualty “milestones” and on alleged atrocities committed by a rare few. At home we focus on an officer who refuses to obey lawful orders from his military and civilian leadership and on recruiting numbers that are not quite at 100-percent.

What we fail to see at home, our soldiers in Iraq are conscious of every day. That is why there are countless soldiers who volunteer to return to Iraq for second and third tours. That is why retention numbers for deployed units are the highest in the Army. That is why soldiers like Staff Sergeant Michell Caldwell re-enlist just hours after being wounded in a firefight and while still lying bandaged in a hospital bed in Iraq. You can read about this hero in the coalition’s newsletter as well.

At my last duty station, I spent countless hours as a Commander explaining the benefits of staying in the Army in an effort to keep quality soldiers in boots. Once we deployed to Iraq, however, eleven soldiers re-enlisted in just four months, a number that was normally my annual goal. Our soldiers who are deployed in harm’s way know their mission is just and their cause worthwhile. It’s a shame that the “good news” stories will never receive the air time that the bombs and the blood receive. There is more to the story than just what bleeds and leads, and our soldiers know it.

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