Repeated suggestions by the White House and friendly commentators that the news media's selective displays of terrorist attacks in Iraq are warping American public opinion seem to belie several unclassified assessments of the situation produced by the U.S. government itself.
In fact, just two weeks ago the Bush administration publicly released a detailed report stating that "even a highly selective" inventory of the terrorist attacks inside Iraq "could scarcely reflect the broad dimension of the violence" there.
Here are some salient excerpts.
In Iraq, "A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued."
"Insurgents and terrorists killed thousands of citizens ... Using intimidation and violence, they kidnapped and killed government officials and workers, common citizens, party activists participating in the electoral process, civil society activists, members of security forces, and members of the armed forces, as well as foreigners."
"Bombings, executions, killings, kidnappings, shootings, and intimidation were a daily occurrence throughout all regions and sectors of society. An illustrative list of these attacks, even a highly selective one, could scarcely reflect the broad dimension of the violence."
"Bombings took thousands of civilian lives across the country during the year."
"Former regime elements, local and foreign fighters, and terrorists waged guerrilla warfare and a terrorist campaign of violence impacting every aspect of life. Killings, kidnappings, torture, and intimidation were fueled by political grievances and ethnic and religious tensions and were supported by parts of the population."
"Insurgents and terrorists targeted anyone whose death or disappearance would advance their cause and, particularly, anyone suspected of being connected to government-affiliated security forces."
"All sectors of society suffered from the continued wave of kidnappings. Kidnappers often killed their victims despite the payment of ransom. The widespread nature of this phenomenon precluded reliable statistics."
In several important respects, this report contradicts the thesis of the current White House public relations campaign on Iraq - to convince Americans that the "reality" in Iraq is far better than the constant stream of bad news they see on their televisions every night.
If anything, the State Department's candid assessments would seem to indicate that things might be far worse than the press is currently able to report.
The State Department seems to know what's going on. Maybe if they told Bush it'd help. Nah, why bother? Lyin's like breathin' to him.
There's considerably more in the Trib article. Go read.