A Tragedy the World Does Not Know

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Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi addressed a joint meeting of Congress and delivered a message of thanks to America from the Iraqi people. He wanted Americans not to doubt the progress for freedom that was being made in Iraq. Allawi said, "It is a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding." Of course, much of the media simply passed off Allawi's remarks as those made by a puppet of the United States.

It's truly disturbing that if we went entirely by the news provided by the mainstream media, we would be convinced the prognosis for success in Iraq is hopeless. But there are sources where the truth is getting out. Let me mention two you ought to know about.

Rick Leatherwood is a Christian missionary and president of Kairos International. He spent the last 18 months in Iraq and says in a press release that the international media is misleading the world about what is actually happening over there. I received my copy of the press release from Bob Stevens, head of the office for the U.S. Center for World Missions in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Leatherwood says the hooded terrorists that CNN, the BBC, and Al Jazeera are interviewing and passing off to the world as the Iraqi people are not from Iraq at all. Instead, he says, they are from Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or somewhere else, but not Iraq. How does Leatherwood know this is the case? He says it's possible to tell in the same way we know if someone is from Boston or Texas. "Accents," says Leatherwood. Yet the media makes these terrorists appear to represent the will of the Iraqi people.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Leatherwood declares. "Nevertheless because CNN and Co. have told this lie loud enough and long enough, people around the world now believe them and have a negative view of the Coalition-led invasion ....The media has skillfully misled the world into thinking Iraqis are against America, and people the world over have become discouraged and disheartened by believing their lie."

Since arriving back in the United States, Leatherwood has made it his mission to tell as many people as possible, and wherever possible, the truth about the war effort. Like an evangelist of old, Leatherwood often stands up in a restaurant, cafeteria, or airport, and starts to tell a crowd about his experiences. Invariably, there's a hush that comes over the room when he begins by informing everyone that he's been working in Iraq for more than a year. Then the restaurant or gathering will break into spontaneous applause as they hear from him how the Iraqi people are truly grateful to America for delivering them from Saddam Hussein. He then tells everyone how he has worked closely with the U.S. military and watched our armed forces conduct themselves in an "exemplary fashion, exhibiting patience, kindness and sensitivity to the Iraqi people."

"The truth is," says Leatherwood, "we can all be very proud of U.S. forces." And once again, the crowd typically breaks into applause.

Another source saying the media isn't giving us the straight scoop about what's happening in Iraq is Sgt. Danielle Fritz of Middlesex, North Carolina. Sgt. Fritz served in Iraq with the U.S. Army Reserve between April 2003 and March 2004. I consider Fritz a very reliable source because I know her well. At one time, she was a parishioner of mine when I was a pastor.

We've all heard about Abu Ghraib and some of the other atrocities committed by a few American soldiers. The media has spared no efforts in getting those stories to us. But I bet you haven't heard much, if anything, about the tremendous humanitarian efforts by American military personnel.

Recently, Sgt. Fritz talked with me about her experiences and said her unit took on the task of helping several orphanages that were badly in need of repairs. Refrigerators, she said, needed replacing and holes in the ceiling needed fixing. So Fritz's unit got to work.

Although the predominate religion in Iraq is Islam, that didn't stop Sgt. Fritz and her unit from celebrating Christmas by providing the Iraqi orphans with gifts during the holiday season in 2003.

"We brought them whatever we could for Christmas. We brought them a bunch of toys and clothes," she said.

When asked about the news media's coverage of the war in Iraq, Sgt. Fritz said the spin just isn't accurate. She agrees there are serious battles with insurgents attempting to keep Iraq from achieving democracy, but strongly disagrees with any insinuation that the Iraqi people don't want the U.S. there.

"Everywhere we went, thousands of Iraqi people would come to see us," Sgt. Fritz said. "All of the people I met and saw were so grateful we were there. They pretty much wanted to give us anything they could to thank us."

In his press release, Leatherwood writes: "This war in Iraq might have been over 10 months ago if those trying to bring freedom to Iraq had not had to overcome the efforts of the media as well as the terrorists. As it is, the media has encouraged the insurgents and has undermined the Coalition at every turn .... Here lies a tragedy the world does not know."

Certainly what the world does not know can hurt it. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "The men with the muck rakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society; but only if they know when to stop raking the muck." Indeed, it is time for a little less muck raking by the media and more accurate reporting concerning the war on terror in Iraq!