The story also does something that all good journalism should strive for -- it illuminates the whole by dealing in particulars. By that we mean that its description of the clown-like behavior of this particular Iraqi unit does as much to show us the operational readiness of the Iraqi Army as any descriptive piece that charts how many Iraqi units are capable of operating on their own, or how close they may be to operational status. We can't assume that every Iraqi Army unit would act like this one when it is forced to fight, but if we assume that this is one of the units deemed ready to be in the fight, things hardly look promising.
That's exactly right. Even more, CJR is able to help fit some pieces of the reality puzzle together, by contrasting the Times account with alternative descriptions on CNN:
. Vice president Cheney grunted last night on CNN (in a profoundly disconnected interview that sounded like it could have been conducted in 2004), that "there's more and more authority transferred to the Iraqis all the time," and Lt. Col. Avanulas Smiley of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division, who was the commander of the mission, said, "This was an Iraqi-led effort and with that come challenges and risks."
Clearly, if this was an Iraqi-led effort (the Iraqis couldn't even show up on time, disappeared at will, and seemed more interested in looking at CDs than doing their job), then Cheney and Smiley's standards for "authority" and "leading" are pretty low.
Speaking of Cheney, CJR has another post analyzing the kerfuffle raised when Wolf Blitzer asked Dick Cheney how he felt about criticisms of his daughter's decision to have a child with her partner. Cheney attacked the question as "out of line". Why (oh why?!) is it out of line to a ask Cheney about his daughter while it's okay to discuss just how deeply (traitor) Barack (un-American) Obama was indoctrinated in Wahhabism?