Marine Corps General James Mattis gave an extensive interview last week on the situation in Iraq. General Mattis is commanding general of Camp Pendleton’s I Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command. Read the whole thing. Key excerpts:
Our strategy approach to this remains pretty much the same. This is the U.S. approach: Get the security situation under control, the violence down. Get the Iraqi security forces trained and picking up more of the load. And third, assist and facilitate the Iraqi government becoming capable of meeting needs of the people. These things happen fast.
But if there’s one point I would make strongly, it is this, Mark: that violence and progress can and do coexist. You see the blasts, you see the IEDs, you see the cameras on them out there. And that is a legitimate point.
But it is interesting to see in the background people driving by, looking at it the way we look at a car accident. Kids with backpacks on their backs walking by and looking at the blast site, but life is going on.
The enemy, Mattis notes, has successfully denied Western media the opportunity to cover the war:
I was talking to a lieutenant in Haditha, he told me that because they are now all connected nowadays in their FOBs, he could read stories about Haditha. He said, ‘I guarantee you there has not been a reporter in Haditha in my last two and a half months here.’
We’re seeing, I think, an unwitting passing of the enemy’s message, uncritical, unwitting passing of the enemy’s message because the enemy has successfully denied the Western media access to the battlefields.
I’m not sure what Lloyds of London is charging now, I think it’s over $5,000 a month insurance for a reporter or photographer to go in. But the murder, the kidnapping, the intimidation means that, in many cases, we have media folks who are relying on stringers who are Iraqi.
Now you can have any kind of (complaint) about the American media or Western media you want, but there is at least a nod, an effort toward objectivity. The stringers who are being brought in, who are bringing in these stories, are not bringing that same degree of objectivity.
So on the one hand, our enemy is denying our media access to the battlefield, where anything perhaps that I say as a general is subject to any number of interpretations, challenges, questions, but the enemy’s story basically gets there without that because our media is unable to challenge them. It’s unwitting, but at the same time, it can promote the enemy’s agenda, simply because there is an apparent attempt at objectivity.