The long search for good news on Iraq

Four years and 3,217 dead Americans later, the White House finds comfort in a free daily from Denver.

Published March 19, 2007 1:51PM (EDT)

Four years into a war that was supposed to take "weeks, not months," the White House has a message for you: It's all going rather well, actually.

Today's "Morning Update" -- the daily e-mail to reporters in which the White House Communications Office distributes pro-administration press clippings -- offers up the happy, happy spin in rapid-fire succession: "National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley Says The War Has Given Iraqis 'A Chance To Take Responsibility For The Future Of Their Own Country' ... Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice Says The Iraqis Have A 'New Government That Is Committed Now To A Better Life For Its People' ... Defense Secretary Robert Gates Says 'Iraqis Are Meeting The Commitments That They Have Made To Us' As The New Security Strategy Is Implemented ... Most Iraqis Believe Life Is Getting Better. "

The White House attributes that last bit to something called the Denver Daily News. We'd never heard of the Denver Daily News before -- the two big papers in Denver being the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post -- so we did a little digging: It turns out the Denver Daily News is a small daily distributed free on the streets of the Mile High City. Among journalism junkies, it may be best known for a 2005 typo in which it referred to New Jersey as "Jew Jersey."

The Denver Daily News piece cited in the White House "Morning Update" was written by reporter Peter Marcus, who relies on a poll from Opinion Research Business, a British outfit that describes itself as "one of the UK's leading bespoke corporate and issues-led market research companies."

ORB's findings on Iraq:

"One in four (26 percent) Iraqi adults have had a family relative murdered in the last three years, while 23 percent of those living in Baghdad have had a family/relative kidnapped in the last three years. ... [T]he poll shows that despite the horrendous personal security problems only 26% of the country preferred life under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein, with 49% preferring life under the current political regime of Noori al-Maliki. As one may expect, it is the Sunnis who are most likely to back the previous regime (51%) with the Shias (66%) preferring the current administration."

The Denver Daily News' headline: "Iraqis Happy."

Why did the White House reach all the way out to a free daily in Denver for its poll results on Iraq? Maybe the explanation lies in headlines like these: "Poll: Fear, Anger, Stress Grip Iraqis," "More Than Half of All Iraqis Say It's 'Acceptable' to Attack U.S. Troops," "Iraqis See Hope Drain Away," "Few Iraqis Trust U.S. Forces Four Years On." That's the Associated Press, ABC News, USA Today and Reuters, respectively, on a new poll of Iraqis conducted for ABC News, USA Today, the BBC and ARD German TV. Its not-ready-for-the-"Morning Line" findings: Only 26 percent of Iraqis say they feel safe in their neighborhoods, and 51 percent say attacks against U.S. troops are justified, up from just 17 percent in 2004. For the first time since the war began, fewer than half of Iraqis polled -- just 42 percent -- say life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that Denver Daily News reporter Peter Marcus was responsible for the paper's "Jew Jersey" mistake. In fact, that typo was the responsibility of Denver Daily News editor Tad Rickman. The post has been corrected, and War Room regrets the error.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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