It's getting harder to write negative stories about the situation in Iraq, but Jay Price and Qasim Zein of the McClatchy Newspapers did their best:
"A drop in violence around Iraq has cut burials in the huge Wadi al Salam cemetery (in Najaf) by at least one third in the past six months, and that's cut the pay of thousands of workers who make their living digging graves, washing corpses or selling burial shrouds," they wrote Oct. 16.
Nostalgia for the bad old days was also evident in the decision of The Washington Post to publish Tuesday an op-ed signed by 12 former U.S. Army captains deploring the situation in Iraq. Iraq's public infrastructure is in terrible shape, they said. Iraqi public officials are corrupt. U.S. troops just push insurgents from one place in the country to another. The Iraqi army and police are incapable of taking the insurgents on.
"As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division," they said. "We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out."
I don't doubt the former soldiers are reflecting honestly what they saw when they were in Iraq. But of the 12, only two were in Iraq in 2006. Five others served in 2005. Three served in 2004. Two served last in 2003. None have been in Iraq since Gen. David Petraeus took command and the troop surge began.
Things change in war. In October of 1942, the Nazis were winning World War II. By October of 1943, they were getting creamed. The situation in Iraq in October of 2007 is much different than it was when these former captains served there.
If the goal of The Washington Post were to inform its readers of the situation in Iraq now, one would think its editors would make more of an effort to publish the views of soldiers and Marines who are serving in Iraq now. Perhaps the Post chose veterans whose information is old and stale because those serving in Iraq now might not say what the editors of The Washington Post would like to have you hear.
"The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaida in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group," Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung reported in The Washington Post Monday.
It's not difficult to find soldiers and Marines who support that view. "All is well out here," a Marine sergeant in Fallujah emailed the military blogger "Blackfive" this week. "Peace is breaking out all over the place and no one knows what to do. I spent the day with (the regimental commander). We rode straight through Fallujah without incident and down to Amiriyah to check on a police transition team. The TTs are quickly becoming the main effort."
An indication of how dramatic the improvement has been in many places is the follow-up report by former Special Forces soldier Michael Yon last week on a Baghdad neighborhood which six months ago was a battleground that a battalion of the First Infantry Division was sent to tame.
"Once abandoned streets are now filled with families and entrepreneurs who continue to open new small businesses every week," Lt. Col. James Crider, the battalion commander, told Mr. Yon.
"We also recently completed work on a soccer field that is used nightly by the young people here," Lt. Col Crider said. "Much to our surprise, on the opening night, each team had '1-4 Cav' printed on the back of their soccer jerseys. It is not uncommon for us to see guys with these jerseys on walking down the street."
This anecdote is telling for two reasons: First, the young people (and their parents) evidently do not fear reprisals from al-Qaida or Shiite extremists for demonstrating support for the Americans. Second, the young people (and their parents) evidently regard the 1-4 Cav as friends and liberators, not as occupiers.
The military blogs are filled with such anecdotes. But as yet The Washington Post and The New York Times have not reported them, nor asked the bloggers to write op-eds for their publications.
In both the news and opinion pages of the nation's newspapers, the emphasis has been on the failures, real and imagined, of the Bush administration, the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. Australian journalist Andrew Bolt thinks there has been a failure by another group which ought to be getting more scrutiny.
"How is it that most of the Western media covering Iraq never saw success coming?" Mr. Bolt asked.