(CNSNews.com) – The number of reporters embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq declined dramatically after the surge in U.S. troop strength went full force last year and violence in the country, including U.S. casualties, started to decline.
As a consequence, there have been fewer reporters in the field with U.S. troops in Iraq this year to report on the successes those troops have achieved.
In the period since the surge began in January 2007, according to data that the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF) provided to CNSNews.com, the number of embedded reporters in Iraq peaked in September 2007 at 219 and declined to a low of 58 this June.
That is a 74 percent drop in embedded reporters in 9 months.
September, the month the number of embedded reporters peaked, was the same month that Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, testified in Congress that the surge strategy was working and that violence was decreasing in the country.
At the time, Petraeus’s testimony was met with derision by some prominent Democratic members of Congress.
“The reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief," Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y), then a presidential candidate told him. “In any of the metrics that have been referenced in your many hours of testimony, any fair reading of the advantages and disadvantages accruing post-surge, in my view, end up on the downside.”
"I ask you to take off your rosy glasses," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told Petraeus. "We are sending our troops where they're not wanted, where there's no end in sight."
The largest single-month drop off in embedded reporters came between September and October 2007—immediately following Petraeus’ congressional testimony—when embeds fell from 219 to 78.
The military generally considers an embedded reporter someone who stays with a unit at least overnight.
“An embed can be from one day to six months or longer,” an MNF spokesman told CNSNews.com. “Also, the same reporter can do one to maybe 20 embeds in one month. These numbers do not include the short periods in which units bring reporters in exclusively for interviews or press conferences.
“I think the appropriate distinction is that if the reporters are covering the operational unit or they reside with the unit overnight, then they are classified as an embed. If they are covering a media event such as a press conference and do not rely on the unit for shelter, food, etc. they are not included these numbers.”
So far in July, there have been 59 reporters embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq, up slightly from June, but significantly down from the 165 reporters embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq last July.
The dramatic decline in embedded reporters generally coincided with a dramatic decline in U.S. casualties in Iraq. In June 2007, when the surge in troops reached full force, the number of U.S. casualties in Iraq began to significantly drop. In May 2008, for example, U.S. casualties in Iraq were 84 percent lower than in May 2007. In June 2008, they were 75 percent lower than June 2007.
Cheney sees ‘less reporting’ in Iraq
At the National Press Club in June, Vice President Dick Cheney drew attention to what he believed was a lack of press attention to the progress in Iraq.
“I see just in general less reporting, less interest,” he said. “The fact is that people have got other things to worry about. And there have been a lot of other issues to cover. I mean, we're in the middle of a presidential campaign. That's big news. Gasoline prices are $4 a gallon. That's big news. So it doesn't receive as much attention. Good news never does. That's just the way our system works.”
“But I do think — I think the surge has been enormously successful,” he continued. “And anybody who looks objectively at where we are today in Iraq would have to conclude that we're in far better shape than we were just a couple of years ago.”
Reporters Embedded in Iraq by Month