Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, the U.S. military spokesman in
Baghdad, earlier this week took reporters to task for being too negative. According
to NPR, he wrote that:
As I review news
coverage of Iraq, I thought it would be helpful to provide you with my
perspective ... Iraqis are embracing their version of democracy."
There is political
debate as party leaders work to form a new government. The population has been
united in its commitment to representative government, just as it was united in
its rejection of violence and attempts to ignite sectarian violence. Are we
witnessing political rhetoric? To be sure. Isn't that natural following a close
Reporters responded with alacrity. The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse wrote back, in a reply to all:
You say that Iraqis are'embracing their version of democracy.' I expect you might have quite a hard
time finding someone at the market who would describe his or her relationship
to Iraq's democracy in this way. Four
months after the election, with no new government in sight, the majority of
people I have spoken to are deeply frustrated with their experience of
democracy. Surely, they ask, democracy is about more than that one day every
four or five years, when we go to put out crosses on a ballot paper? Surely it
is about the ability to hold our representatives to account and make them work
on our behalf? This is not the experience most Iraqis have with democracy so
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, in reporting on all this,
added a comment of her own. She noted that she has spent most of the last eight
years in Baghdad. She wrote that:
This was probably my
last trip to Iraq for awhile, and I've spent six weeks moving around the
country talking to regular Iraqis far removed from the politicians and military
Many have told me how
disappointed they are by the direction Iraq is headed.
It has been four months
since the parliamentary elections, and the parties are still bickering over who
gets to form a government. Electricity is terrible, the phone networks don't
work, and most basic services like water and sewage are patchy at best. Iraq is
constantly indexed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Hundreds
of thousands of people remain displaced.
And there is still
violence, every single day. About 4,400 American service members have given
their lives in Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died.
Both Iraqis and
Americans are still being killed, though in vastly reduced numbers."
General Lanza is entitled to his opinion,
but this was stupid of him for a couple of reasons. First, the reporters in
Baghdad generally know Iraq far better than he ever will. Many of those still
there have been there for years. And most of them get around the city far more
than he ever will. The U.S. military should avoid anything that smacks of happy
talk in Iraq. They tried it for several years and it didn't work.
than 400 people were killed or wounded by bomb blasts in recent days.