On the front page was a story titled From Allied to Alienated. The story is about a disillusioned Shiite cleric who says that U.S. forces — initially welcomed as liberators — have worn out their welcome by (as the Times puts it) “failing to fulfill their promises for democracy, political empowerment and reconstruction.”
The Times also ran a story titled What A Bomb Can’t Do, which has a rare story of good news from Iraq: a tale of Marines sitting down for tea with a sheik near Fallouja. The story shows the efforts Marines are making to win hearts and minds to the idea that Americans are really trying to make things better:
The sheik had some concerns and asked for a meeting.
The Marines were eager to curry the sheik’s favor.
Waging war is a wholesale business: whole cities, whole armies are subdued at once with speed and fearful weaponry.
But winning hearts and minds is retail, done one heart and one mind at a time.
And so the lieutenant, the major, the Marine lawyer, the Marine lawyer’s assistant, two translators and 15 combat troops — who were needed in case of an ambush — loaded into a convoy of Humvees.
Convincing someone of your good intentions is labor intensive. During war, the saying is that you should never send a squad of Marines to do what a 500-pound bomb can do; during the struggle for a lasting peace, bombs can be useless, even counterproductive.
The meeting in the farmhouse in this village outside Fallouja was only one of dozens of such meetings, in tiny homes, in government offices, along roadsides, in tumble-down rural villages, anywhere and everywhere, as the Marines try to convince a leery and war-weary Iraqi populace that the United States is their friend.
Nice story. You should read it all.
So what’s our beef?
Simple. Whereas the first story was Column One on the front page, the second story — the good news — ran in the Calendar section, where they run the comic strips and advice columns.
And we wonder why polls show that Americans don’t think things are going well in Iraq.