Often times I have bemoaned the coverage of our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq by our media. I’ve repeatedly pointed out the wealth of words for every setback, the ignoring or twisting of any success, the near void that is the coverage of our heroes and the harsh brass trumpeting of our villains and their misdeeds.
I’m man enough to admit that I have also overlooked an important piece of our efforts — the contractors. Callimachus at Done with Mirrors has a personal tie to the scene and brings us an up-close-and-personally-bitter look at this unreported story.
My friend, Kat, worked in and around Iraq for roughly two years, for a U.S.-based contractor doing reconstruction work there.
I’ve picked up bits and pieces of her story as she’s written to me from abroad, but recently she’s been back in a place with regular Internet access and some time on her hands, and I finally got to ask her some questions and she got to write some full answers. We’ve talked a lot about her experience over there, and the more I read the more I wanted to tell it. She gave me permission to distill down some of her letters and our chats into a post.
Reconstruction is the eternally under-reported third leg of the Iraq story (the other two are overthrow of Saddam and removal of his threat, and establishing a stable Iraqi popular control of the country). It was part of what we went in there to do, and its success or failure is part of the full measure of success or failure of our entire operation.
Yet on this important story, our media blew it. Who can name a single contractor who did work in Iraq, besides the one that begins with “H” and maybe Blackwater USA? How many people can describe accurately the relationship between Halliburton and KBR? How many faces of Iraq contractors did you ever see in the news, except the ones who got kidnapped and beheaded? How many were the subject of news stories, or were quoted in any of them?
With that intro, Callimachus essentially hands the reigns over to his contractor friend. At times, it’s a tale only an accountant would love. At others, when the job description fades and the emotion seeps in, it becomes a personal tale that must be read but you’ll probably never find in newsprint. Here’s a little tidbit:
I know that in comparative numbers there really won’t be enough of us coming back from Iraq to confront or challenge the MSM. Even if we all gathered together in Washington for a week to bitch and moan about it, we still couldn’t assure that we were covered. We know you’ll never know what we did.
So what many of us are left with is a really nasty taste in our mouths. It’s hurt me almost as much to be telling this as it has been to live through it, and I know I’m not alone in my feelings. I feel so very sorry for and protective of the soldiers and marines who protected me. Theyâ€™re all my little brothers now, and I feel the same towards the inexperienced Iraqi soldiers who put themselves in harm’s way for me.
Okay, one more:
Beyond a couple of poorly received White House briefings that went all but completely ignored, I never saw a thing mentioned about the massive reconstruction projects underway in Iraq. There were no fact-filled and hard-hitting stories on those jobs. By and large, the US and European publics are completely clueless about the rebuilding process and the complexities that have been involved in it. Because the press ignored it completely.
Instead they waited like vultures for the first monetary discrepancies to hit, under Halliburton of course. Because of Dick Cheney, itâ€™s what everybody on the left was wanting to hear, and nothing else mattered. The press lept on that with full claws fully extended, never paying a momentâ€™s notice to the realities of large-scale construction projects.
Within weeks of my arrival in Iraq, I knew exactly what would happen to US public opinion if media coverage continued as it was at the time.
Seriously, go read it already. Hat tip to Gates of Vienna.