Good News in Iraq Attracts the Bad Guys, General Says

By Mark Finkelstein | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, chief spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, on Thursday suggested there's a reason why Americans don't hear as much good news as bad news from Iraq.

Caldwell told Cybercast News Service, ""Every time we get ready to talk about a good-news story [about a specific area where U.S. troops are operating], we go through a deliberative process, asking ourselves, 'Are we putting the Iraqi citizens at risk?'

He said the U.S. doesn't want to give the enemy more targets. "We know that as soon as we announce [good news], the insurgents will that, in order to discount it." He said the enemy is doing what it can to prove that Iraq is in turmoil and that security isn't good.

Caldwell made his remarks in a conference call from Baghdad. He was taking questions from reporters located in the United States.

News reports from Iraq during the month of October were indeed discouraging, with daily reports of sectarian violence.

This week, the Associated Press reported that more than 1,000 Iraqis died in various October attacks, the highest monthly death toll since the AP began tracking civilian deaths in April 2005. The report said the number was probably underestimated.

And a number of U.S. media outlets noted that more than 100 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq in October - the fourth-deadliest month of the war, reports said.

During Thursday's press conference, Caldwell was asked to comment on press coverage of the war - specifically, a segment that aired on the 'Today' show on October 28, in which NBC reporter Richard Engel asked a US soldier if he worried about dying.

Engel also asked soldiers if they worried about their women back home being faithful to them while they were away.

Caldwell told Cybercast News Service, "I don't think that's something that needs to be asked about. It really should not be in the public domain. I don't think these people should pry into people's personal lives."

In a recent profile of Engel in the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz quoted the NBC reporter as saying, "I think war should be illegal...I'm basically a pacifist."

In other comments on Thursday, Caldwell:

-- Noted that the Iraqi military is adding over 18,000 troops to its forces, resulting, in a 10 percent increase in combat troops.

-- Described Iran as being "unhelpful," particularly in terms of supplying weapons to Shiite elements in Iraq. He also estimated that every month, 50-70 foreign fighters infiltrate Iraq from Syria.

-- Mentioned that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is making efforts to bring a variety of domestic leaders and organizations into the political fold, including Shi'ite leader Muqtada al Sadr and his militia.

(Mark Finkelstein is heading to Iraq later this month and will report for Cybercast News Service from Baghdad and Fallujah.)

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