An Unbalanced Picture of Iraq

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, September 23, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: A bipartisan group of members of Congress have just returned from Iraq and they seem to be in agreement, Democrats and Republicans alike, that the news media are not telling the whole story of what's going on there.

One member of that group was Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall of Georgia who joins me now.

Congressman, welcome.


HUME: I think anyone in America reading the kinds of headlines that we have been seeing in our major newspapers and seeing in the news coverage…there you see the cover of Newsweek, So what's Plan B? How Peace Became So Elusive. These are just a sampling of U.S. soldiers' persistent resistance. You get the idea.


HUME: I want to read to you part of an e-mail we've just received from one of our Washington correspondent Molly Henneberg, who was in Iraq before and just gone back.

And this is from her e-mail to friends and colleagues.

What a difference three months makes. Yes, there is still violence here, but oh, my goodness, this place feels like a city again.

The city looks, seems so much more alive. More traffic, more stores open, more people coming and going. More parties. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of problems here, but the infrastructure, this country appears to be getting its act together.

How does that comport with what you saw in your delega…congressional delegation?

MARSHALL: I guess I should say to start out with, the reason I went on this trip is because there is a real disconnect between the impressions you are left with about our progress over the news media and the word we were getting from Department of Defense representatives. I wanted to see for myself.

HUME: So you wanted to go see who was right.

MARSHALL: Right. It's Vietnam (search) deja vu. I was a recon sergeant in Vietnam and went through this process of trying to deal with a guerrilla war. It is a very difficult thing to do and could be that things weren't going well.

Well, I came away with the impression that things are going well. Certainly a good bit better than seems to me, the overall American seems to thinks.

And the important thing is for Americans to understand that the news media tends to dwell on the negative. It happens in your own hometown, the typical TV show, the typical newspaper article focuses on murders and rapes. And that's what you're seeing right now. What you don't see is the progress.

HUME: Isn't there a different, though, really in what you see at home? If you and I hear a story about murder and rape or outbreak of violence in some American city, we kind of know because we live here what that is. And we fit it into a certain perspective. But we don't really have perspective or context on Iraq, do we?

MARSHALL: Well, that's an interesting observation. What I'd say is that you if you take news media at home and you…however you handle it personally, in trying to assess what's really going on. And then take that and apply it to the situation over in Iraq, same sort of thing's happening. There are an awful lot of good…there's a lot of good news that could...

HUME: Give me examples.

MARSHALL: Well, we are reconstructing an awful lot of schools. Troops that I talked to said money is ammo. With money, which is being districted to brigade and battalion level, a lot of Americans don't even know that.

We are hiring Iraqi contractors, working side by side with Iraqis, reconstructing schools. Imagine thousands of them, by the way, imagine effect on the kids. What that does is it builds relationships; the relationships lead to intelligence, cooperation, information, saves lives. Saves lives for our troops.

There are a lot of positive things going on. It would be nice if the news media had a more balanced picture of what's going on over in Iraq. And I understand the bad sells, the good doesn't.

As far as our involvement is concerned, it's important that we maintain our resolve, that Iraqis are willing to come forward and fight alongside of us. And the two of us together can actually win this thing.

HUME: Now, apart from the obvious negative effect of having people misinformed in this country, what are other dangers you see from this kind of coverage that's been going on?

MARSHALL: Well, it is a guerrilla war. And if we don't appear to have resolve, then Iraqis are going to be a lot less likely to cooperate with us, a lot less likely to be willingly in the Army and willingly out there, going after the guerrillas.

We can't force freedom on the Iraqis. The Iraqis have to take it for themselves. They can distinguish one from another. We can't do that. We can't read the street signs. We don't know the language. They do. They can go in there and deal with this guerrilla situation.

It's not like Vietnam. In Vietnam, you had the Chinese and Russians...

HUME: Right. Behind them.

MARSHALL: Behind them. You don't have anything like that here. We can take care of this as long as the Iraqis step forward. They're less likely to step forward if we're pessimistic. We're more likely to be pessimistic if we're getting a lot of negative news coverage. And that's the connection.

HUME: Congressman Marshall, thank you for joining us.

MARSHALL: Thank you, sir.

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