Both CNN and the WaPo Play Up ‘Bitter’ Soldier’s Words on Iraq

The mainstream media’s long march against the Iraq War continues unabated. On October 27, the Washington Post ran a front-page story with an attention-grabbing headline taken from a quote by an American soldier serving in Iraq: "I don’t think this place is worth another soldier’s life." Two days later on October 29, CNN’s Jack Cafferty on "The Situation Room" used the same quote in his "Question of the Hour:" "What does it say about the conflict in Iraq when troops there are saying things like, 'I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life.' Our soldiers are saying that stuff."

The Post story, written by Joshua Partlow, detailed the experience of American soldiers in a neighborhood of Baghdad called Sadiyah, which is known for its slide into sectarian violence over the past 14 months. The piece seemed to be tailored to put a negative spin on the recent drop in violence across Iraq. For example: "While top U.S. commanders say the statistics of violence have registered a steep drop in Baghdad and elsewhere, the soldiers' experience in Sadiyah shows that numbers alone do not describe the sense of aborted normalcy -- the fear, the disrupted lives -- that still hangs over the city."

At the end of the article, the sentiment was reenforced by another quote from a soldier patrolling Sadiyah:

Those who patrol the neighborhood every day say the fight has left them tired, bitter, wounded and confused.... The American people don't fully realize what's going on, said Staff Sgt. Richard McClary, 27, a section leader from Buffalo. "They just know back there what the higher-ups here tell them. But the higher-ups don't go anywhere, and actually they only go to the safe places, places with a little bit of gunfire," he said. ‘They don't ever [expletive] see what we see on the ground."

The context of the "money quote" that was used in the Post’s headline doesn’t make it clear whether the soldier - Sgt. Victor Alarcon - was referring to the neighborhood of Sadiyah or to the entire country of Iraq.

Next month, the U.S. soldiers will complete their tour in Iraq. Their experience in Sadiyah has left many of them deeply discouraged, by both the unabated hatred between rival sectarian fighters and the questionable will of the Iraqi government to work toward peaceful solutions.

Asked if the American endeavor here was worth their sacrifice -- 20 soldiers from the battalion have been killed in Baghdad -- Alarcon said no: "I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life."

Yet, Cafferty, in his "Cafferty File" segment, which came nine minutes into the 5 pm Eastern hour, made it clear that he thought the soldier meant the entire country.

CAFFERTY: To say that our troops have performed heroically is an understatement. But we'd better begin listening to what some of them are starting to say. The 'Washington Post' had a terrific piece over the weekend about a battalion of soldiers serving in a southwestern part of Baghdad. They had been deployed for 14 months in a district torn apart by increasing levels of sectarian violence, and some of them are downright tired, weary, bitter, and skeptical. When one of them was asked if the U.S. effort in Iraq was worth their sacrifice, he said this: 'I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life.' That's a quote. Twenty soldiers from that kid's battalion have been killed in Baghdad.

So here's the question: what does it say about the conflict in Iraq when troops there are saying things like, 'I don't think this place is worth another soldier's life.' Our soldiers are saying that stuff. E-mail caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile.

The "tired, weary, bitter, and skeptical" line is a parphrase of the subtitle of Partlow’s article: "After 14 months in a Baghdad district torn by mounting sectarian violence, members of one U.S. unit are tired, bitter and skeptical."

Note that the original Post article uses the phrase "many of them [the soldiers]" and Cafferty uses the phrase "some of them." While there is no doubt that service in Iraq takes its toll on soldiers’ physical, mental, and emotional well-being, you’ll rarely find either the Post or CNN focusing attention on those who are less "bitter and skeptical" about their service in Iraq. It would only take away from the impact of their negative spin.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center