April 10, 2007

The Stories They Don't Tell

As is typically the case for many media organizations in Iraq, CNN this morning chose a lede for their Iraq coverage focusing on the day's body count:

In two separate incidents, bombers in Iraq targeted a college district in Baghdad and a police recruiting center in Diyala province killing at least 15 people on Tuesday, local authorities told CNN.

Meanwhile, coalition forces pounded insurgent targets across Iraq on Tuesday, the military said. They launched raids in Anbar, in the west of the country, and Baghdad and continued their Operation Black Eagle push that began last week against Shiite militias in the southern city of Diwaniya.

That effort so far has killed 14 people and wounded 61 others, among them Shiite militia members, an Interior Ministry official told CNN.

This is hardly surprising. Body counts provide concrete numbers, even if those numbers don't tell the entire story of a war that they and other media outlets determined long ago was already lost. Sadly, this reliance on body counts tells only a fraction of the story of the events taking place in Iraq.

Five paragraphs into the story, we get a hint as to another part of the story of the Iraq War, one that they chose not to cover in detail.

Dressed in a black abaya -- a traditional Muslim robe, usually black in color, covering the body from head to toe -- the woman detonated her explosives belt in a crowd of about 200 police recruits, police and hospital officials told the Associated Press.

The police recruiting center targeted by this suicide bomber in Muqdadiya is located in the Diyala province, where insurgents have fled from security operations in Baghdad.

Iraqi police typically suffer far greater casualties than either Iraqi or American military units, and yet two hundred Iraqis were lined up to join.

Joining the Iraqi police is the most dangerous occupation in Iraq, with the IP suffering greater casualties day in and day out than either the American or Iraqi militaries. Iraqis who join the police not only take immense personal risks; their families are often targeted for retaliation by terrorists as well. It is far safer to remain civilian and avoid these risks... and yet they join, not just in Diyala, but in Ramadi, Karbala, Baghdad, and Fallujah.

Why do they join?

The answers will certainly vary from recruit to recruit, from province to province and from city to village, but the fact remains that they continue to join the most dangerous job in Iraq in large numbers.

It would be nice for CNN, the Associated Press, and other news outlets to spend some time asking these recruits why they take such risks not only with their own lives, but with the lives of their families.

Are they militiamen looking to infiltrate the police? Are they simply tired of the random violence that threatens their families and hoping to stop it? Are they merely looking for work, any work, no matter how dangerous that work may be? Do they actually think that joining the police might help bring stability to their war-torn cities and towns?

We do not know.

It is far easier for the media to ask the simple questions of who died where, and provide copy about orchestrated protests, or produce photos of suffering and death. "If it bleeds, it leads," has been, and continues to be, the mantra of a news media interested in covering only the obvious and superficial sotires of the day.

The deeper, inner struggles, the jihad of ordinary Iraqis who purposefully take extraordinary risks, goes unremarked upon... and still they come by tens and hundreds, from across Iraq. They join the police and don uniforms, knowing that doing so makes them certain targets.

I'd like to know why, but no one seems interested in telling their stories.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at April 10, 2007 08:48 AM

Unfortunately, this is common across the board. Most news outlets cover events, not ideas. Why? Because it's easier and cheaper.

That's why we need to read books.

Posted by: David Terrenoire at April 10, 2007 10:18 AM