This week in Washington

Published 10:33 am Monday, September 29, 2003

By Staff
Jo Bonner Congressman
Last week, President Bush visited the United Nations to address attendees at the annual gathering of the General Assembly.
In the face of growing criticism from world leaders, who argue for a hasty turnover of control in Iraq to an elected body, and from criticism here at home that the United States is spending too much time and money in that region of the world, the president gave a strong speech defending both the invasion of Iraq and our current reconstruction efforts.
In the days since his speech, the media has continued to highlight – and seemingly advocate – the belief that our presence poses more of a threat to long-term stability in that region than pulling our forces out now. Greater focus continues to be placed on our failures than our successes, and about plummeting morale among the troops and declining confidence in the administration.
Indeed, as many in the UN hall said both directly and indirectly, the problem is one created by the United States and one which we in turn must solve.
I have many problems with that line of reasoning. The facts about the good work being done in that region are increasingly coming to light, and in the weeks ahead I intend to direct our focus to the many positive strides being made in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Points of disagreement
The current situation in Iraq and the goal of a stable, democratic government are hardly a matter simply for the United States. This is made obvious by the fact that 31 nations have committed military personnel to restoring order in Iraq.
I mentioned in an earlier column the recent Zogby International poll showing the Iraqi people are much happier and much more optimistic about the future of their nation than they were during the 30 years of rule by Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party loyalists.
These aren't simply the opinions of men and women speaking to pollsters – the signs of significant progress have also been witnessed by nearly four dozen members of the House who have traveled to Iraq since the end of the war to examine first hand the changes being made.
The argument that the costs of rebuilding Iraq, both financially and in terms of manpower and support services, rest solely with the United States is also troubling to me. When the oil was flowing and the dollars were being counted, many nations around the world were more than eager to have a presence in Iraq.
Now that there's real work to be done, however, they are strangely absent. It's almost the same as watching children at play: when one little child has the great new toy or video game, he or she is everyone's best friend. But when that toy breaks, those same friends are suddenly nowhere to be found.
Moreover, one need go no further than the attacks against Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel and even numerous ethnic groups within Iraq over the past thirty years to find proof that ensuring a strong and peaceful Iraq is not a problem for only one nation.
A final thought
The network media's determination to focus attention on bad news is certainly not new; bad news and tales of misery bring viewers, viewers bring ratings, and ratings bring revenue.
In short, bad news equals profit.
But do the American people profit from only bad news? It's easy to see why the public in this country feels we are headed down a dangerous road by continuing to remain in Iraq.
In a recent editorial in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Democrat Congressman Jim Marshall, a friend and Mobile native who is now representing Georgia's Third District, presented perhaps the most eloquent statement on the danger posed by reporting only the negatives.
During a recent visit he made to Iraq, Marshall had the opportunity to talk with numerous officers and enlisted men, as well as Iraqi citizens, and was very strong in his praise of the work we and our allies are performing.
Moreover, he was very strong in his criticism of how our efforts in Iraq are being harmed by media coverage. As he said, "I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed. It is not balancing this bad news with the rest of the story, the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy."
We've all heard many times that perception is everything. The situation in Iraq is no different.
Reminder: Academy Night
I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of my upcoming Academy Night for parents and students who may be interested in obtaining information on attending one of our nation's five service academies.
The event will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 in the auditorium of UMS-Wright School in Mobile and it is expected that representatives from all five academies – the United States Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy – will be in attendance.
I would encourage anyone interested in obtaining more information about pursuing educational and career opportunities through the military, Coast Guard or merchant marine to come to this event. If you have any questions or would like more detailed information, please don't hesitate to contact my academy coordinator, Dixie Patrick, at 690-2811 or 1-800-288-8721.
Please call or write whenever we can be of service.

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