The news out of Iraq today is bad -- a car bomber killed 12 and wounded 41 this morning -- but a Newsweek reporter says the underlying story may be worse. In an interview with Foreign Policy, Rod Nordland, the magazine's chief foreign correspondent and former Baghdad bureau chief, says that conditions in Iraq are "much worse" than they're described in the U.S. press.
The reason? The Bush administration does a "great job of managing the news," and the military has begun to crack down on embedded reporters who might otherwise offer a clear assessment of facts on the ground. "Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously," Nordland says. "They want to know your slant on a story -- they use the word 'slant' -- what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don't like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn't happy with the work they had done on embed."
Still, Nordland says that reporters "get out among the Iraqi public a whole lot more than almost any American official, certainly more than military officials do." And he says that there's only so much the administration and the military can do to hide the reality that Iraqis are facing. "It is certainly hard to hide the fact that in the third year of this war, Iraqis are only getting electricity for about 5 to 10 percent of the day," Nordland says. "Living conditions have gotten so much worse, violence is at an even higher tempo, and the country is on the verge of civil war. The administration has been successful to the extent that most Americans are not aware of just how dire it is and how little progress has been made. They keep talking about how the Iraqi army is doing much better and taking over responsibilities, but for the most part that's not true."