Old Media Lies About Basra

We’ve all heard about the recent uprising in Iraq by forces under Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. All seemed to be doom and gloom for the Iraqi government if you believed the reports coming from Old Media. But, if you are anything like me, you don’t have alot of faith in Old Media and therefore took the reports with at least a few grains of salt.

I was right to salt down those reports. The truth eventually comes out and since Old Media refuses to report it, it is up to those of us on the Internet to bring the truth to the masses. The truth about the recent in-fighting in Iraq has come out and we can fianlly see what really happened. Despite reports that the Iraqi security forces were heading for complete failure and the Maliki government was suffering a major embarrassment, the Iraqi government has actually won the battle.

From Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Bill Roggio writing for The Weekly Standard:

Virtually every media outlet declared the Basra operations a military failure before a week had passed. A New York Times headline blared that the “Iraqi Army’s Assault on Militias in Basra Stalls” on March 27, two days after the launch of operations. Two days later–just four days after operations began–Britain’s Independent noted that “the Iraqi army and police have failed to oust the Mahdi Army from any of its strongholds in the capital and in southern Iraq.” And six days after the onset of operations, the Guardian was reporting that “the Iraqi army had made little headway in Basra and large swaths of the city remain under the Mahdi Army’s control.”

To be sure, the Iraqi security forces’ performance in Basra is best described as mixed. However, they did not run into a wall. The Iraqi military was able to clear one Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhood in Basra and was in the process of clearing another when Sadr issued his ceasefire. The ceasefire came on March 30, after six days of fighting, and was seemingly unilateral in the sense that the Iraqi government made no apparent concessions in return. By that time, 571 Mahdi Army fighters had been killed, 881 wounded, 490 captured, and 30 had surrendered countrywide, according to numbers tabulated by The Long War Journal. Thus, an estimated 95 Mahdi Army fighters were killed per day during the six days of fighting.

Don’t you find it interesting that Old Media outlets like AP, Reuters and The New York Times completely missed these little facts about the operation? Why would they paint such a skewed picture rather than report the truth?


The Iraqi security forces were at their best in the smaller cities in Iraq’s south. The Mahdi Army suffered major setbacks in Hillah, Najaf, Karbala, Diwaniyah, Amarah, Kut, and Nasiriyah. The security forces drove the Mahdi Army off the streets in those cities within days. The casualties taken by the Mahdi Army in Baghdad, Basra, and the wider south surely played a role in Sadr’s tactical decision to call a ceasefire.

That’s another thing that didn’t get reported. Sadr called for the cease-fire. The Iraqi government did not offer it.

The press was equally insistent that Maliki’s move to secure Basra was a political embarrassment for him, with Sadr emerging the victor. The day after Sadr issued his ceasefire, Time claimed that “the very fact of the cease-fire flies in the face of Maliki’s proclamation that there would be no negotiations. It is Maliki, and not Sadr, who now appears militarily weak and unable to control elements of his own political coalition.” The Associated Press portrayed Maliki as “humbled within his own Shi’ite power base.” And a second Associated Press report stated that “a strict curfew is ending in Baghdad, U.S. diplomats are holed up in their green zone offices, al-Maliki is resented and the private army of Muqtada al-Sadr is intact.”

But the fact is that the Maliki government did not agree to the nine-point terms for a truce that Sadr issued, nor did it sue for peace or promise that operations would cease. Instead the Iraqi government called Sadr’s order for his fighters to pull off the streets a “positive step,” and insisted that operations would continue. “The armed groups who refuse al Sadr’s announcement and the pardon we offered will be targets, especially those in possession of heavy weapons,” Maliki said, referring to the ten-day amnesty period for militias to turn in heavy and medium weapons. “Security operations in Basra will continue to stop all the terrorist and criminal activities along with the organized gangs targeting people.”

Subsequent to the ceasefire, the Iraqi military announced it was moving reinforcements to Basra, and the next day pushed forces into the ports of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr. Iraqi special operations forces and special police units have conducted several raids inside Basra since then, while an Iraqi brigade marched into the heart of a Mahdi-controlled Basra neighborhood on April 2. And two days after Sadr called for a ceasefire, the government maintained a curfew in Sadr City and other Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad. None of this would be happening had Maliki simply caved to Sadr.

Old Media seriously screwed the pooch on this story. Is it any wonder why we don’t trust them?

And to answer our question from above:

It isn’t entirely clear why the media leapt to the conclusions that it did about the Basra operations. Perhaps impatience coupled with a lack of knowledge about military affairs was the biggest factor. Perhaps, tired of six months of generally positive reporting about the surge, journalists were gleeful to announce that the situation on the ground was deteriorating. Or perhaps a negative angle was irresistible in light of General David Petraeus’s upcoming congressional testimony.

Whatever the reason, the press has done a major disservice to readers by misreporting the events in Basra.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

The Press Botches Basra
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Bill Roggio
The Weekly Standard
April 4, 2008

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