There seem to be two sides to every story about Iraq

Published 6:59 pm Monday, May 14, 2007

A positive attitude can’t win a war, but it helps. Instead, defeatism reigns supreme here at home. Nowhere is the inherently negative criticism of the war more evident than in the recent attacks on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the initial backers of the Coalition troop “surge” in Iraq.

Now I am one of the last people who want to whine about “the liberal media.” It’s a boring complaint, one that begs readers to skip the rest of the article; but also, it’s not entirely true and produces few fruitful discussions. Fact is, there are some brave and honest people from both parties reporting from war zones. And they deserve respect and an audience, as their jobs share an amount of danger akin to the jobs of the servicemen and women they are reporting on. But said reporters should not let their bravery blur the distinction between the facts and their opinions.

CNN’s Michael Ware went overboard recently when he vented on-air about former Vietnam prisoner of war John McCain, questioning his credibility. In an angry rant, Ware told “Situation Room” host Wolf Blitzer, “Well, I’d certainly like to bring Sen. McCain up to speed, if he ever gives me the opportunity. And if I have any difficulty hearing you right now, Wolf, that’s because of the helicopter circling overhead and the gun battle that is blazing just a few blocks down the road.”

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Ware, a supposedly objective reporter, added: “I mean, Sen. McCain’s credibility now on Iraq, which has been so solid to this point, has now been left out hanging to dry. To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Sen. McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is, and he and I can go for a stroll.”

McCain was to be in Baghdad the following week, but Ware dismissed McCain’s congressional delegation, essentially calling it smoke and mirrors for the American people.

What precipitated Ware’s anger at the senator? McCain, speaking from the United States at the time, had insisted the surge was making progress — not changing the face of Iraq — but showing concrete signs of progress. My own instinct was to worry that McCain overstated his case when he said, on Bill Bennett’s morning radio program, there are neighborhoods in Iraq that are safe to walk through, the very statement that so enraged Ware. But just because good news is coming from a region currently — and historically — immersed in tragedy, doesn’t diminish the credence of those facts.

And though I hesitate to question Ware — who’s on the ground in Iraq — the truth, I suspect, is most likely closer to what one Marine told W. Thomas Smith Jr., from National Review Online: “It’s not all doom and gloom here. There are some good, progressive things happening, which are rarely reported, and I will explain in the coming days. But there also are a lot of bad things happening that don’t make the nightly cut.”

A delicate mix of both good and bad is the reality of the ongoing surge in Iraq. Media, politicians and citizens must now recognize the few truths — good or bad — we receive from Baghdad and stop the uninformed, partisan finger-pointing.

(Kathryn Lopez is the editor of National Review Online ( She can be contacted at