The headline for a piece in USA Today for 18 Jan. 2008, mostly reprinted in the Port Huron Times Herald for the same date, claims, "Military says 75% of Baghdad areas now secure." The article makes a series of assertions about how security has improved in that beleaguered city since the arrival of additional American troops. On the surface, these claims are probably more or less accurate; in much of Baghdad, street violence is down. This is obviously a good thing.
But the fact that the article stops there tells us volumes about what is wrong with the way mainstream American media report on Iraq. Tom Engelhardt has an excellent account in The Nation of what the media are too lazy or too corrupt to tell us. Let's take a brief look at just a few important issues not addressed in the media most Americans read or watch:
* Iraqi authorities say they will not be able to maintain security without American help until 2018. The president has admitted that is is the case.
* Baghdad has become a largely Shia city: see here and here. This is the real reason the violence is down. Those responsible for most of the ethnic killing have, for now anyway, won. Neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed. But this doesn't mean those driven from their homes won't try to come back. The momentary lull is fragile. Even if the Sunni don't try to return to their homes, declaring the current situation a triumph rewards aggression and ducks responsibility for enabling it.
* The Iraqi government has done virtually nothing to show it can actually govern. The recent legislation that appears to allow ex-Baath party members to return to government jobs is a sham. It provides no evidence that any sort of settlement between Shia and Sunni is in the works.
The Bush-Cheney surge has bought time. Iraq is not on the front page, and it's not seriously discussed by the presidential candidates of either party. The Unites States has brought unimaginable suffering, dislocation, and damage to Iraq. A momentarily diminished level of violence may keep us from thinking about Iraq for a while, but the unavoidable certainty that this invasion/occupation is the worst foreign policy disaster in American history is not going away.