We noticed a jarring transition in a Baghdad-based story by the New York Times’ Marc Santora last week. The focus of Santora’s 300-word piece was the appearance online of “graphic new video of Saddam Hussein’s dead body, apparently taken shortly after he was hanged” and posted online by “a group sympathetic” to Saddam. The penultimate paragraph describes the video, also online, of Saddam’s hanging. And then, almost as an afterthought, comes the final paragraph (emphasis ours): “In daily violence, more than 20 people were killed in attacks across Iraq on Monday. In one episode, gunmen ambushed a bus bringing workers to Baghdad international airport, killing four passengers and wounding nine. Elsewhere, five members of one family were killed in the Dora district of Baghdad.”
“In daily violence” as a transition, a lead-in to a three-sentence summary of the day’s destruction? We understand the Times had to get the “daily violence” in its news report somewhere and that every bloody incident in Iraq can’t receive A1 treatment. (There’s more than a whiff of editor induced, deadline driven, paper of record-ness in this knit we’re picking.) And none of this is meant to imply that the press has stopped covering the horrors of Iraq (see today’s front page of the Times). Still, the longer the war drags on and the more the story becomes How The Hell Do We Extricate Ourselves From This Mess, the greater the temptation to minimize, in ways large and small, the fact that 94 people are dying on average every day over there.