First Reports

Posted by Lex, on April 15, 2008


We staff weenies have a saying: “The first report is always wrong. The second report is a lie to cover the first report. The third report seeks to shift the blame for the first and second reports. The fourth report asymptotically approaches the truth as a function of the time taken to generate it.”

Which is why I yawned when I read the first and second reports coming out of Basra, which the domestic news media predictably spun as a Failure of Bush’s Failed War Policy of Fail. Maybe al Maliki rushed the plan, and maybe some of his forces behaved poorly. But at the end of the day, the Iraqi Army controlled the ports so critical to Basra’s economy, ringed the city’s Sadrist neighborhoods and Mookie’s goons sued for peace. You don’t have to be perfect to win, just less imperfect than your opponent. And at the end of the day it matters who fades away, and who is left standing on the field.

Along comes Agence France Presse to report at last the apparently astonishing fact that not only is the IA pretty much in charge of the place, the residents of Basra actually prefer not to by terrorized by mask-wearing thugs:

Three weeks after Iraqi troops swarmed into the southern city of Basra to take on armed militiamen who had overrun the streets, many residents say they feel safer and that their lives have improved.

The fierce fighting which marked the first week of Operation Sawlat al-Fursan (Charge of the Knights) has given way to slower, more focused house-by-house searches by Iraqi troops, which led on Monday to the freeing of an abducted British journalist.

Residents say the streets have been cleared of gunmen, markets have reopened, basic services have been resumed and a measure of normality has returned to the oil-rich city.

The port of Umm Qasr is in the hands of the Iraqi forces who wrested control of the facility from Shiite militiamen, and according to the British military it is operational once again.

And it only took three weeks.

Before I became a staff weenie – back when I had some self-respect – and before our mission recorders became so effective, we used to debrief  our dogfights on a white board. We had a saying about that, too: “First guy to the white board wins the fight.” It always seemed that the guy with the marker pen in his hand seemed to get the first shot off, at least in reconstruction. Didn’t really matter what had actually happened – the version that made him feel good was the one that made it to the board.

I’m feeling some of that here too.


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