Look at this very odd article
It's a Nightly News 'reality check' with the headline: "Violence surges even as conditions improve."
It reads like a classic example of the media's desire to find balance in cases where there really isn't any balance to be found.
The piece starts by noting Iraqis' skeptical reaction to Prime Minister Allawi's speech today, specifically with regard to the fight against the insurgency and how successful it's been.
"What he's saying isn't true. I can't even name an Iraqi city where there aren't clashes," says one Iraqi man-in-street.
The piece then goes on to describe the spiralling level of violence and the fact that insurgents are now increasingly targetting Iraqis themselves, which is presumably not an improvement, especially if you're Iraqi.
The reporter even notes that a good deal of reconstruction money has had to be diverted to security.
Then come the improvements. First there's a bulleted list of updates on reconstruction ...
Electricity: There is more than under Saddam but demand is up 80 percent, so it's still rationed â four hours on, two hours off.
Water: U.S. officials say there's no clean drinking water in all of Iraq because of sewage contamination.
Oil: The biggest problem is sabotage, keeping overall production short of the three million target, at 2.6 million barrels a day.
Jobs: A major improvement â one year ago, 60 percent of Iraqis were unemployed. Today, it's almost half that â 30-40 percent.
So there does seem to be more electricty. And unemployment has come down.
Or has it?
As it happens, in a piece
in the Washington Post
today, Jessica Matthews -- who knows a bit about these things -- says the Iraqi unemployment rate still "may be 60 percent."
And just a few days ago the AFP said
that estimates of Iraqi unemployment range from 20% to 60%. So perhaps no one has any really good idea.
In any case, the reporter then notes these
Iraqis no longer live under the oppressive scrutiny of Saddam's government. The giant busts that once adorned Saddam's palaces have been torn down like his regime â giving Iraqis something unquantifiable â their freedom.
Another freedom â the press. There are now about 200 independent newspapers; under Saddam there wasn't a single one.
Setting aside the sculptural improvements, freedom, or here more specifically the overthrow of a brutal authoritarian regime, is unquestionably a good thing. But you can't call this an 'improvement' in this context since Saddam's government was overthrown 18 months ago. And it's not clear that Iraqis have become more free
'Freedom', at least at this level of abstraction, must be seen as a post-Saddam baseline.
In some measure they've probably become less free
since creeping Islamization has reduced the rights of women in certain areas and brought de facto
bans on drinking alcohol.
But the real point is that the unquestionable good of the end of a dictatorial government can't be pointed to as a sign that conditions are improving at the same time that violence surges, right?
Take a look at the piece
yourself and tell me if the reporter doesn't struggle to find a single measure by which conditions in the country are improving or a single anecdote that would justify his headline.