The New York Times reported this week that in recent fighting in Basra, more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen “either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts.” Iraqi military officials said this included “dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is trying to spin the mass desertion as a minor blip –- and an exaggeration by the media. Yesterday, on Hannity and Colmes, Gingrich accused the “American media” of having “stunning bias” in its coverage of the recent militia fighting in Basra:
GINGRICH: Let me give you an example, Alan, of the stunning bias of the American news media. 15,000 Iraqi troops went in to Basra, 1,000 of them didn’t fight very well. 14,000 of them fought very well and, in fact, were defeating the militias. Guess what the report essentially was in the elite news media? It was the 1,000 that didn’t fight very well. And the 14,000 that were risking their lives on behalf of their own country, without American forces present, didn’t get very much credit.
Gingrich is trying to equate desertion with not fighting “very well.” And while Gingrich believes that the sour performance in Basra is an example of liberal media “bias,” even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the war’s strongest supporter, focused on the “disappointment” in Basra in the hearing yesterday:
McCAIN: What’s the lesson that we are to draw from that, that a thousand Iraqi police deserted or under-performed?
PETRAEUS: Well, one lesson, Senator, is that relatively new forces — what happened was in one case, a brigade that literally had just come out of unit (inaudible) fielding was pressed into operation. The other lesson is a recurring one, and that is the difficulty of local police operating in areas where there is serious intimidation of themselves and of their families.
McCAIN: Suffice to say it was a disappointment.
Today, Petraeus again discussed the operations, saying “the fight itself was hastily done with many units unprepared for battle,” according to the AP.
Does this show the “stunning bias” of McCain and Petraeus?