Assume for a moment you were writing an article about how the United States had fewer troop mortalities in Iraq this July than in the last eight months. Would you do your best to present this as good news?
Well, the Associated Press' Sinan Salaheddin either woke up on the wrong side of the bed Tuesday morning, or didn't fully comprehend that when it comes to military casualties, on your team less is better.
Maybe Salaheddin thinks AP stands for "absurdly pessimistic," as despite the uplifting headline "U.S. Toll in Iraq Lowest in 8 Months," after mentioning it again in the opening paragraph, the article quickly rained on any optimism the reader might have been briefly feeling (emphasis added throughout):
President Bush's nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meanwhile, acknowledged that slow progress in Iraq is hurting America's credibility and emboldening Iran's regional ambitions.
While steady progress has been made on the military front, Iraq's political factions have made only limited headway in achieving reconciliation, said Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, who has been nominated to replace U.S. Gen. Peter Pace as the nation's top military officer.
In fact, in an article that, from the title, one would think would be about the declining death toll, and how things from a military standpoint might be improving in Iraq, the piece devoted seven of the first nine paragraphs, and more than 50 percent of the total print space, on political problems in the embattled nation.
And, when Salaheddin finally elaborated on the reduced death toll in July, it was curiously pessimistic:
Also Monday, a U.S. Marine was killed while conducting combat operations in the vast Anbar province west of Baghdad, the military said.
The attack raised to at least 75 the number of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq in July, the lowest number since November 2006, when at least 70 U.S. deaths were reported. The monthly toll topped 100 in April, May and June.
In all, at least 3,652 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.
The No. 2 commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, expressed cautious optimism about the downturn last week. He said casualties had increased as U.S. forces expanded operations into militant strongholds as part of a five-month-old security crackdown aimed at clamping off violence in Baghdad, but were going down as Americans gained control of the areas.
"It's an initial positive sign, but I would argue we need a bit more time to make an assessment whether it's a true trend," he said.
Hmmm. So, this was the lowest death toll since November, and since before the surge began. You couldn't find someone to quote who thought this was really good news, Sinan? Or that it was proof that the surge was working?
Oh. That's right. The surge wasn't even addressed in this piece. Instead, it was referred to as a "five-month-old security crackdown."
And, of course, Salaheddin nicely avoided any reference to President Bush having orchestrated this "five-month-old security crackdown" against the wishes of the left and their media minions.
I guess it's verboten at the AP to connect the president with good news in Iraq regardless of how much your article downplays it.
What a disgrace.
Of course, it will be interesting to see how the broadcast networks report this tonight, and how they rain on it as well.