CHESTER HAS MOVED!: The Latest Naysaying from the New York Times

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Latest Naysaying from the New York Times

Today's front page New York Times article, entitled Military Analysis: A Goal Is Met. What's Next? is an excellent example of aggressive naysaying and frazzled handwringing. "Victory in Fallujah? Meaningless!" the Times seems to proclaim, as it proceeds to offer example upon example why the coalition's brilliant attack will make little long-term difference. The twists and turns in this bit of reporting are amusing to observe. "American military commanders say the weeklong assault that has wrested most of Falluja from insurgent control has achieved nearly all their objectives well ahead of schedule and with fewer pitfalls than anticipated. "But where do the United States and the government of the interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, go from here? "In the coming weeks, the two allies must still combat a resilient and dangerous insurgency operating in most of Iraq, accelerate a huge economic reconstruction effort and lay the groundwork for elections to be held in January." Is this news? Can this truly pass for the summary of the Times' analysis? Everything in the final paragraph was true before the attack -- and no one thought it would not be true afterward. More: "But enormous obstacles remain to meeting these military, economic and political targets. "The Falluja operation will be a military success, but whether it's the key to political success will remain to be seen," said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Armed Services Committee who visited Iraq on Friday and Saturday, in a telephone interview. "The insurgents are working hard to derail this, and commanders are expecting widespread violence leading up to the elections in January." Does the Senator think that the initiative truly lies with the insurgents, when their primary base of operations is now crawling with US Marines and Soldiers? Does he think that American commanders will sit by idly while insurgents attempt their derailment of the election? "Military commanders point to several accomplishments in Falluja . . . "But American and Iraqi officials still face daunting tasks in the aftermath of retaking the city." Has any US official, military or otherwise, stated that the war is won? Again, the "daunting tasks" that remain have been on everyone's radar screen for some time. "American commanders say they expected that the fight for Falluja, coinciding with the end of the holy month of Ramadan, would set off a surge in violence across the country. But the scope and size of the attacks in Mosul last Thursday stunned American officers who were scrambling Sunday to regain the initiative." "Our experience is that, after battles in which they lose many fighters, the insurgents require some days to gather, treat their wounded and try to figure out what to do next," Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, charged with controlling northern Iraq, said Sunday in an e-mail message. "Our job is to work to not let them rest and to not allow them time to reset." Where in this quote does Brig Gen Ham show that he is "stunned" and "scrambling to regain the initiative?" Does it not appear more likely that the violence in other parts of the country was expected to take place somewhere, and that its extent has been less than expected? "In Baghdad, where attacks were increasing even before the Falluja offensive, Army soldiers said insurgents in at least one part of the capital had shifted their tactics this week, massing in limited numbers in their attacks on Americans, instead of shooting from the shadows and rooftops, or carrying out ambushes with roadside bombs." Certainly, this blogger is not the only one who thinks this to be great news. The insurgent tactic shift described is easier to defeat than a roadside bomb or sniping. Though the Times chooses to characterize this shift as grave, could it not signal desperation on the part of the insurgents -- "Come on brothers! Those bombs and sniping aren't working!" "Overall, yes, the anti-Iraqi forces have been more aggressive or stupid, depending on one's perspective," Sgt. Rowe Stayton, an infantry fire-team leader in northern Baghdad, said Sunday in an e-mail message. He said his troops killed 15 insurgents and wounded 6 others, without suffering a single casualty." Again, great news. See above. How did this quote make it into the article? Times, your editors are slipping! "But commanders say they are baffled over how to combat an effective intimidation campaign that insurgents are waging against Iraqis, from political leaders and police chiefs to the women who do the laundry for troops at American bases." "People are affected every day by criminality," said Senator Reed, a former 82nd Airborne Division officer. "The situation has not - is not - turning around." Which commanders are baffled? Senator Reed is not a commander. He has only been there for two days (see above). Perhaps it is Senator Reed who is baffled. "The good news is that significant numbers of Iraqi security forces are standing their ground and fighting all over north-central Iraq," Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the First Infantry Division based in Tikrit, said Saturday in an e-mail message. "Our hard work is paying off." "But not everywhere. Last week, scores of police officers in Mosul fled their stations under attacks, allowing militants to loot half a dozen stations and steal police vehicles, uniforms and hundreds of weapons." Does Gen Batiste have responsibility for Mosul? If not, then what is the assessment of the general who does? So the insurgents hit Mosul. Are we to believe that our generals expected no attacks, anywhere, as a result of the Fallujah operation? How will the New York Times downplay the successful prosecution of the next battle in the counterinsurgency campaign? How will the New York Times downplay successful elections in January? The clock is ticking for the insurgency. Every day that passes is one step closer to elections. Every military operation that displays the brilliant planning and execution of that in Fallujah (and there will be more to come) depletes the oxygen on which the insurgents thrive. Reading the contortions in this story, meant to make panic out of bad news, bad news out of neutral news, and neutral news out of good news, are like watching a man reach around his a** to scratch himself. UPDATE: 11/16/04: An Alert Reader has mentioned that I should be careful about criticizing Senator Reed because he is a West Point grad and a former officer in the 82nd Airborne. My criticism of this article which references Senator Reed is not a criticism of his service or his experience; quite the contrary: if Senator Reed has some expertise as a former Army Captain in the late 1970s that he can bring to this discussion, then surely the Major General Division Commanders on the ground in Iraq have an equal or larger amount of insight to provide. Yet only one was quoted for the article and his assessment was neutral to positive. See the above post again -- the story references the thoughts of commanders, then quotes Senator Reed, who was not there long enough to get over his jet lag. If Senator Reed's opinions are offered as expertise, I ask the New York Times to instead interview and fully quote the opinions of the Division or Regimental commanders who have been there for months.


Blogger lugh lampfhota said...

The NYTimes could have posted a story about how the US military soundly defeated an insurgency in an urban center without resorting to shelling and bombing a city to rubble and losing hundreds of soldiers (as in Grozny). This battle was historic and will be a case study in military schools.

But the moonbats of the Democratic party and their propaganda arm in MSM can't even contemplate that America is capable of success in any endeavour. Tis much better that they pull those shades down tight and soldier on with the forces of chaos and tyranny in the world. Democrats need their heros; Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam, Arafat and Zarqawi to contrast with evil America. And THAT is why they're sitting on the sidelines of American political power.

November 15, 2004 at 3:54 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Unfortunately, this is no big surprise from the NYT. I'm actually a little surprised that they didn't put more "doom, despair and misery" into the article.

It is because of the MSM that people come read blogs. As a matter of fact, I come specifically to your blog to read an intelligent, stick to the facts analysis of what is going on in Fallujah and the rest of Iraq.

Keep up the good work Chester!

By the way, great analogy at the end!


November 15, 2004 at 5:43 AM  
Blogger KeithJamesMc said...

Fallujah is important not to crack the will of lunatic fringe who are fighting to death, but to prevent them gaining shelter in the civilian populations...

This fragment of news from the AP wire gave me great heart.
"In the insurgent-heavy city of Ramadi, 70 miles west of the capital, heavy fighting erupted on Monday between militants and U.S. forces, residents said.

Sunni clerics at several mosques called on residents to kick out bands of armed men who have come from outside the city, claiming that the clashes inside Ramada are having a negative impact on the economic situation of citizens."

There is no doubt that the insurgents will try and establish a base elsewhere, if they are given no safe harbour, then there position will be impossible...

From BBC news:

"US and Iraqi forces have traded gunfire with rebels across Baquba, 65km (40 miles) north-east of the Iraqi capital.

The clashes began at about 0800 (0500 GMT) when a bus carrying about 20-40 insurgents arrived in the town, a US sergeant told AFP news agency.

The rebels used rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire near a traffic circle and police station in the town.

The insurgents were killed in gun battles and the air strikes. Four US soldiers were wounded.

In one skirmish, "1st Infantry Division soldiers received fire from a mosque," a US military statement said.

Iraqi police stormed the mosque and found a weapons cache including rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and ammunition, the statement said.

November 15, 2004 at 6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The negative spin had started even before the Marines moved in. I listened to a BBC correspondent pre-emptively pooh-pooh a Fallujah victory on the grounds that the bad guys would all get away and Fallujah really didn't matter. It's as if they and the NYT shared an advance spin script.


November 15, 2004 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger cjr said...

Anthoney Cordesman(CSIS.ORG) has been writing a lot about Iraq over the last 2 years. I highly recommend is stuff.

November 15, 2004 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger PureData said...

The NYT is not accountable in any way for what it writes. Its writers and editors and owners do not suffer any consequences for getting stories wrong or not providing all the information. They are essentially given a blank check to write anything they want to.

The lack of this feedback loop for news has always troubled me.

November 15, 2004 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Y.H.N. said...

Question to those of you who know about such things.

"had shifted their tactics this week, massing in limited numbers in their attacks on Americans, instead of shooting from the shadows and rooftops, or carrying out ambushes with roadside bombs."

My very limited knowlege of such things suggests to me that in the face of superior fire power the enemy should scatter, only massing when they detect weakness. Is not the massing of guerillas a sign that they are freer to move and operate in larger numbers? Would not a rational doctrine suggest that they keep up with the IED's as their most effective means of inflicting casualties? If they have been so hurt by US forces is this not the time to go to ground, to reestablish chains of command and lines of supply and communication?

Nothing would indicate to me that this is (on any scale) Dien Bien Phu. Is it then a minature tet offensive in which the enemy is burining through men and resources to achieve a nominally political objective?

Is the massing a sign of limited ability to maneuver? Could it be that the terrorists now have to travel is small bands in order to coherse the assistance and shelter they once were granted freely?

November 15, 2004 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Alaska Paul said...

The NYT has not learned the lessons from Election 2004: You cannot spin a story to influence an outcome. If you do, you gradually become irrelevant. There are too many checks and balances showing up to allow this any more. Old dogs just do not learn new tricks.

The attack on the terrorists in Fallujah is a hard lesson to learn for the Sunnis, but they are beginning to learn. Since the fall of Saddam, they lost their place in the catbird's seat. The terrorists they harbored or ignored in their town, instead of being assets, are becoming liabilities. The Sunnis may not be on the govt's side, but they may cease harboring terrorists.

The terrorists lost a major staging base for attacks when they were driven out of Fallujah. Mounting spectacular attacks will be increasingly difficult and dangerous, as men and materiel, as well as safe houses and refuges are used up.

I see a steady, systematic, degradation of terrorists assets and abilities. The only unknown is how much Iran is willing to put into the meat grinder to disrupt the allied effort.

November 15, 2004 at 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Political victory is always the end-point, while military victory only the means to achieve that. The naysayings in our MSM definitely postpone the end-point as it gives our enemy hope to keep fighting, to hang in for a political victory. It was interesting that Chester referenced Mao's work on Guerilla Warfare. Actually (I am from China) Mao was about at the point of being totally exterminated militarily in 1935, reduced to about 1/10 of the original troop strength and encircled. Unfortunately some of the Nationalist Generals bought into the lies being propagated by the left and revolted to force a reconciliation, which saved Mao's almost extinct guerilla force. We need to make sure that does not happen politically here. Thank God for the election result.

November 15, 2004 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger USMC_Vet said...

Outstanding rebuttle in the only way to do it, line-by-line.

i wrote a rebuttle just like that to Andy Rooney's tripe earlier in the year (before I had a blog of my own). "Deconstructing Andy Rooney: A Line Item Veto" No one wanted to publish it because of the style in which it was written...too long.

But the style was exactly as you have done here, Chester. The most effective rebuttle method.

Similarly effective style here:

Great job, Chester.

I think I will open it and post it just for kicks, in case any of you are interested.

November 15, 2004 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger USMC_Vet said...

I would like to see more of this style employed here, Chester.

You know 'they' are reading The Adventures, just as they read Belmont...silently.

Challenge them.

November 15, 2004 at 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Has any US official, military or otherwise, stated that the war is won?"

I remember this one time where some dude jetted onto an aircraft carrier. He hopped out of the plane and declared "Mission Accomplished" while everyone clapped and cheered as if the war was over.

I think that guy was a government official of some kind. I'm doubt he'd ever have made it in the military. Didn't really seem the type.

Seems like that was all a very, very long time ago, though, so I could easily be mistaken.

November 15, 2004 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Grumpy Old Man said...

Most important is to show we aren't going away, as we did to Shiites and Kurds in 1991.

1. Reelection of Bush was a big part of that.
2. Falluja payback for corpse desecreation incident and destruction of biggest enemy base a step forward. Fight us and you die, important lesson.
3. I'm still concerned that we and Allawi don't have enough forces to respond to widespread attacks or to hold territory. So we have to hunt and kill massed enemy wherever they appear.

November 15, 2004 at 6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I recall the "mission accomplished"* and noticed how quite a few people opposed to the war seized upon it to spin like mad and try to use it to "prove" the Iraq campaign a failure when things didn't immediately go perfectly.

But then, I paid attention to the little speech that government official made back then. I'm guessing those spinning didn't listen to the speech, or are hoping that they can trick people who didn't listen to the speech into thinking something was said when it actually wasn't.

Patrick Chester
(No, I don't think I'm related to our host here.)
*(In case anyone wasn't paying attention, methinks the "Mission Accomplished" sign was for the carrier which had a mission of providing air support for OIF. Something tells me it's proximity to California at the time might indicate that mission was accomplished.)

November 15, 2004 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger PureData said...

Fallujah: "Mission Accomplished"

November 15, 2004 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Pancho said...

Senator Reed is a US Military Academy grad and a Ranger. I wouldn't discount his statements to much just because they appeared in the NYT.

November 15, 2004 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

The New York Times has been the maiden for many a terrorist. This is includes the infamous Felix Dzerzhinsky who lead the New York Times to spin stories that 10 million people did not die under Stalin's iron fist.


" was reported a few months ago that a KGB graveyard 40 miles from the city had just been found with over 60,000 bodies; all had the signature of the KGB in the back of the head, the single bullet hole.

"Felix Dzerzhinsky's statue going back up in Red Square? This is like a statue of Himmler being erected in the Tiergarten in Berlin. Although "Iron Felix" sent to their deaths more people than Himmler, for some reason Dzerzhinsky's name isn't known as well. But the KGB had a department known as Department 6, the Disinformation Branch, which did a tremendous job of coverup. Even the New York Times fell for it when Walter Duranty, the Times bureau chief in Moscow, said that 10 million didn't die under Stalin's first five-year plan; Duranty even got a Pulitzer for writing the coverup."

see: 'Free Association'
Ron N. - San Francisco

see 25% down:

Source story:

I quit reading the New York Times years ago.

November 15, 2004 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

lugh lampfhota,
But you are still with me in your willingness to have expended a few more bombs to save some precious soldiers lives?

November 17, 2004 at 5:26 AM  

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