(CNSNews.com) - A group of veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom said Thursday that U.S.-led coalition forces are getting the job done when it comes to defeating insurgents and helping Iraq establish a democratic government -- despite the U.S. news media's negative portrayal of the conflict.
"I am not here to debate the choices that were made, only to tell you that today, the job is getting done" in Iraq, Marine Corporal Richard Gibson said during a news conference hosted by the conservative group America's Majority at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Gibson based his optimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq on several factors, including the strength of coalition forces. "The old Iraqi army was no match for what we, the Marines, had to offer and neither is the insurgency," he said.
However, "we were not there as conquerors but as liberators," Gibson stated. "That was our mission."
Gibson also pointed to what he called two "tipping points" in the ongoing conflict that took place during 2005. "These junctures are decisive indicators of coalition victories over the insurgency," he said. "Most Iraqis understand them, but most Americans do not."
The first "tipping point" occurred last March, when the number of Iraqi security forces on the ground surpassed those of coalition troops, he said. Then on Dec. 15, Iraqis elected their first national four-year legislature with a turnout that was impressive even in the central and western areas of the country, where rebels are the strongest.
"This obviously strengthened the government, but more subtly, it splintered the insurgency," Gibson asserted, noting that the two primary insurgent groups - leftovers from the Baathist Party of former dictator Saddam Hussein and members of the terrorist al Qaeda network -- have different political goals.
"The Baathist diehards simply want power. They hope to wait the coalition out; then re-assert their traditional dominance over the Shi'a and the Kurds," he said. "But al Qaeda in Iraq wants an Islamic theocracy.
"As long as the coalition remained the primary target, the Baathists and al Qaeda could operate together, but that has changed with the growth in the numbers and confidence of Iraqi security forces," Gibson added. "The insurgents are no longer dealing with an occupation army but with the forces of an elected government -- and these forces are extremely popular."
Gibson found another sign of progress in Iraq in an unlikely place: the daily death toll in that nation.
Human rights organizations that have counted civilian deaths in Iraq since January 2003 estimate that between 25 and 28 people are killed each day, he said. While that total may sound horrific to Americans, it is a huge improvement over the 70 to 125 deaths that took place daily when Saddam Hussein ruled the country.
"A lousy day under the coalition yields a body count far under the Baathists," Gibson stated. "In Baghdad today, terrorists may kill you with an ill-timed IED (Improvised Explosive Device), but the Baathist secret police no longer comes to your door, takes your relatives, puts them in a cell, tortures them, kills them and then bills you for the bullets."
Also, American casualties are declining as U.S. troops are withdrawn and Iraqis step up to defend their country, Gibson said. "According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, U.S. military deaths declined from 714 in 2004 to 673 in 2005. The number of U.S. wounded declined from 7,990 to 5,639. That's a 27 percent decrease in U.S. casualties over a one-year period.
"And this year, U.S. casualties are running 62 percent lower than 2005," he added.
Richard Nadler, president of America's Majority and host of Thursday's news conference, agreed with Gibson's analysis of the Iraq war.
"In both tactical and strategic terms, coalition troops and Iraqi patriots are winning the war," Nadler said. "A terror-sponsoring, totalitarian apparatus state is being replaced, piece by piece, by the elements of civil society -- free speech, free association, democratic elections and a market economy.
"And if the press will not report it, then the men who accomplished it will," he added.
The news media's depiction of events in Iraq was the focus of another speaker at the event -- J. D. Johannes. The Marine sergeant noted that the history of wars is usually told by the victors, but the story of Iraq "is being written by the losers."
Johannes, who has served as both a soldier and a reporter in Iraq, said that the terrorists' main battlefield is America and to win here, they need help from an unusual ally: the U.S. news media.
One method insurgents use to manipulate reporters is to intimidate them into staying in their hotels, he said. Unwilling to risk venturing out into combat, the journalists are forced to rely on local "stringers," who often pass along hearsay or propaganda instead of confirmed facts.
Johannes cited the example of a minor battle that lasted only 30 minutes but was reported as a major conflict that caused high coalition casualties. The general who was involved in the fighting later said that he and his forces had been victorious on the ground, but the terrorists "had won it on CNN."
Nadler said that such instances of lazy or inaccurate reporting are what led his organization to initiate its "War on Words Project" to help veterans get out the message about "the war they, along with Iraqi patriots, were clearly winning," even though it is regularly portrayed by the news media "as a quagmire or another Vietnam."
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