The Obama administration, and NBC, have been telling us for the past couple of weeks that on August 31, 2010 the war in Iraq ended – kaput. Actually, the war is not over. Many of the 50,000 US soldiers that remain Iraq, and the mercenaries we’re paying big bucks to fight for us, will be engaging in combat missions alongside Iraqi soldiers.
What the US government has decided to do is reclassify the 50,000 American soldiers as “trainers.” But according to reports, these “trainers” will be going out on missions with Iraqis and they’ll be armed for combat. Perhaps these armed soldiers will be merely demonstrating how to kick down doors and engage in a firefight, but they will undoubtedly be kicking down doors and engaging in firefights.
The standards editor for the Associated Press, Tom Kent had this to say about the situation.
Many AP staffers are producing content that refers to the situation in Iraq. It might be a local story about Iraq veterans, an international diplomatic story that mentions the Iraqi conflict or coverage on the ground in Iraq itself.
Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.
To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country’s future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.
As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”
However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.
In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can’t predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.
And Salon’s Glenn Greenwald chimed in with this about NBC’s exclusive coverage of the end of combat operations in Iraq.
The ability of the Pentagon to shape coverage through controlling access, offering embedding, and doling out exclusives is too well-known and well-documented by now to require much discussion. The problem, however, is that it remains irresistibly enticing for many media outlets to submit to it. The fact that NBC/MSNBC was the only television news outlet with video of the “last combat brigade rolling out of Iraq” was a major coup. The only way that coup matters — the only way the journalists covering this event “exclusively” can feel as though they’re doing something important — is if they vest the event with historic significance, accomplished by touting it as “the end of America‘s Iraq combat mission,” exactly the message the administration wanted disseminated.
The fact that this phrase — “the end of America‘s Iraq combat mission” — is more propagandistic than anything gave no pause. The withdrawal of 100,000 troops from that country since Obama’s inauguration is not insignificant, and it’s a good thing that he’s adhered to the withdrawal schedule. But, as Landay explained, 50,000 troops is a huge number — it’s what Rumsfeld originally envisioned as the occupying force to be used three months after the invasion — and it’s inevitable that they will be in combat. And that’s to say nothing of the large number of private-militias which remain — paid for by American citizens — as well as the so-called “private army” which the State Department is currently assembling, to be deployed in that country. That’s why AP refuses to use these misleading terms “even if they come from senior officials.” That, and because they weren’t the ones gifted with the “worldwide exclusive” coverage by the Obama administration and its Pentagon.