Target Centermass

3/28/2006

The Knife in Our Back

Filed under: — Gunner @ 1:00 am

Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.

—Napoleon Bonaparte

If defeat finds us in Iraq, I will already tell you where the blames lies — our media and the perversion of the journalistic field that I have loved since childhood. There will be no need to dust for prints on the hilt of the blade in the back of our efforts, though there will be finger-pointing aplenty and smug ‘I-told-you-so” assertions from the self-fulfilling media prophesiers.

Frustrations of press coverage and the apparent willingness by the media to undermine our efforts and enable our enemies are growing ever easier to find … as long as one doesn’t rely overly much on the media.

Altering perceptions of Iraq

Perception is everything. And when applied to the war in Iraq, perception, public opinion, and a far-reaching press are all variables that could ultimately have a hand in any setback or defeat for U.S. and coalition forces in that country.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m all for free speech. If anything, that is the single most important element of our free society. It is one of our essential individual freedoms, and it protects other freedoms.

I do, however, have concerns about false and deliberatively inflammatory propaganda aimed at manipulating audiences. I am not suggesting that any press – good or bad – be quashed. What’s good or bad is open to interpretation anyway. But I think we should recognize the difference between news (including reported facts, analysis, and opinion) and propaganda.

Seriously, read the whole piece to see how falsehoods are being spread by our enemies, while our media seemingly choose to subject a skeptical eye only toward our own government and military. As an example, I point you to the Guantanamo Koran-abuse stories, based solely upon allegations of detainees trained to make just such claims and happily ran by several major American media outlets. Too bad about the lives lost in the resulting bloodshed — I’m sure the subsequent retraction made everything all better.

Hat tip on this column to Dr. Rusty, who adds the following [emphasis in original]:

The most important variable in defeating an enemy is that they believe they will lose. Rarely will people fight for a cause that they believe will ultimately fail. That is why we must believe we can win, and why we must convince the enemy that they will lose. And that is why propaganda is such a positive tool. Unfortunately, most people believe that propaganda is somehow bad since it allegedly distorts reality. It can, but so can “unbiased” news.

Rumsfeld: U.S. gets low marks in ‘battle of ideas’

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Monday after visiting the Pennsylvania site where a hijacked airliner crashed on September 11, 2001 that the United States deserves poor marks in how it has waged a “battle of ideas” with groups like al Qaeda.

[…]

“If I were grading, I would say we probably deserve a D or a D-plus as a country as to how well we’re doing in the battle of ideas that’s taking place in the world today. And I’m not going to suggest that it’s easy, but we have not found the formula as a country,” Rumsfeld said at the war college.

Rumsfeld said there are many moderate Muslims and relatively few Muslim “violent extremists,” and the United States must find ways to encourage and support the moderates.

“Every time the United States tries to do anything that would communicate something positive about what we’re doing in the world, we’re criticized in the press and in the Congress, and we have a reappraisal and say, ‘Oh, my goodness, is that something we should be doing? How do we do it in a way that is considered acceptable in our society?'” Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld brought up the ongoing practice by the U.S. military command in Iraq to pay Iraqi news organizations to run pro-American stories secretly written by U.S. troops in an “information operations” task force.

Some lawmakers, including Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed concern that paying foreign news organizations to plant pro-American stories might undermine U.S. credibility.

“They were not lies that were being put in the paper. They were accurate,” Rumsfeld said. “But the fuss and the concern in the country (the United States) has just been, you know, a frenzy over it.”

Rumsfeld did not say whether or not he believed the practice was proper. He said last week the Pentagon would review that question.

It should be noted that waging a campaign of ideals is understandably quite difficult when the horrendous actions of a few, such as those Americans who perpetrated the infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib, are trumpeted broadly and hammered repeatedly. Little told, if ever, is the fact that the military actually released the story and had begun investigations prior to the media’s sensationalistic feeding frenzy. Prosecutions don’t receive weeks of frontpage coverage. Saddam’s own history with Abu Ghraib, the legacy that should truly be attached to the complex, is essentially omitted from press coverage.

Even less is told globally or nationally of the progress and humanitarian successes of our troops. Yes, papers will tell the tales of good deeds done by their regional National Guard units or local boys in uniform. Still, the average American is left with the notion that, yeah, our folks are okay but the overall is a mess.

Needless to say, the military rankles at such poor coverage.

Fast Facts Not the Story

It is easy to rush to judgment, and to failure, about Iraq if you focus on isolated facts and fail to see the whole picture.

Fact: there are car bombs killing scores of civilians in Baghdad.

Fact: terrorists are murdering Iraqis at rates not previously seen. We continue to see the targeting of Iraq’s innocent men, women and children, causing a 75 percent increase in the number of civilian casualties.

These are disturbing facts. Taken in isolation they can paint a distorted picture of what is actually going on in Iraq.

Any loss of life is tragic. However, these incidents need to be placed in perspective to understand what is happening here.

Fact: violence is not widespread in Iraq. Three of Iraq’s provinces, Baghdad, Al Anbar and Salah ad Din,account for nearly 75 percent of all the attacks. The other 15 provinces average less than six attacks daily and 12 average less than two attacks per day. That does not erase what is happening in Baghdad, but it does put it in perspective.

Fact: 70 percent of Iraq’s population live without incidents.

Here is what you are not seeing. Operations last fall in the Euphrates River Valley effectively cut off the major routes for weapons and suicide terrorists. As a result we are not seeing as many of those attacks. The terrorists have to save up for an attack. Since last fall there have not been any “re-attacks” in major cities like Fallujah or Tall Afar by the coalition and Iraqi Security Forces to drive out the terrorists.

Why? There are now more than 241,000 trained and equipped ISF members patrolling the streets and neighborhoods of Iraq – 100,000 more than we had last January 2005. In total, about 75 percent of the planned Iraqi Security Forces are out on the streets and in the fight across Iraq. ISF are in the cities and in the lead.

Due to the increased presence of the ISF and the security measures put in place by the Iraqi government, we have not seen any horrific attacks like the 2004 suicide attacks in Baghdad and Karbala against the Arba’een pilgrims. Also, there is increased emphasis on security in Baghdad. Operation “Scales of Justice” brought in more than 600 U.S. forces and additional Iraqi forces to Baghdad allowing more patrols and checkpoints in the city. Recent operations like “Swarmer” and “Northern Lights” were based on intelligence telling us where to find suspected terrorists and caches. Intelligence also led to the recent rescue by British, Iraqi and American forces of three christian activists kidnapped in November.

Violence that was once widespread is now relegated to three provinces. Terrorists who once roamed freely are now severely constrained. Coalition and ISF operations are placing unrelenting pressure on the terrorists.

Viewed in isolation, a single event can seem overwhelming. However, taken in perspective you can see the noose for the terrorists is tightening as long as we are not distracted, or disheartened, by the desperate acts of the terrorists.

All of this as March, 2006, draws to a close, a month trending to be among the lowest in terms of American military deaths in the three years since the invasion. Has this fact been made clear to the American public by our media? Well, no. Instead, the gist of coverage has shifted from the inevitability of a successful guerrila campaign to the inevitability of a civil war. The media is doing all it can to stay ahead of events without covering the full story, dead set on being ready in the event of American failure to say we told you how things were falling apart while, intentionally or unintentionally, helping things to fall apart through their myopic coverage.

So jaded was I by coverage of our efforts against radical Islamist terror, so certain was I that some whose mission it is to inform the American public and the world of the news were, again intentionally or unintentionally (I’m obviously hedging here, though I feel some have made their motivations quite evident), slanting and cherry-picking their stories in hopes or assumptions of a pending American defeat, that I created an “Our” Media category on this blog.

Why must the burden fall upon a few conservative magazines, the military and the milblogging community to get out a story that the mainstream media chooses to ignore? Why, when the name of Abu Ghraib is uttered in American circles, does the image of photographs of a few American soldiers-gone-bad far overshadow the true bloody history of the prison under the despotic Saddam regime? Why are noble private humanitarian efforts, such as Spirit of America and Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids, only covered by the likes of Michael Yon? Why are the words of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and SecDef Rumsfeld subjected with a fine-tooth comb while the opposition, such as pro-retreat Congressman John Murtha (D-IsForDefeat) and Gold Star mom Cindy Sheehan, see no such scrutiny for their oft-bewildering statements? Most importantly, why is the American military — a force whose arms, equipment, protection, training, professionalism, efficiency and success in the battle are unrivalled in history — starving for support from their own citizenry for their endeavors and sacrifices in the field and in danger of potential political defeat merely by roadside explosives and carbombs while experiencing a casualty pace diminished by the whole of military history?

Should we fail in Iraq, the source of the that failure is clear in my mind. It will not be the mission, nor will it be the planning for the campaign or its aftermath. It will not be the conduct of our troops, nor will it be the lack of their successes. It will not be the strength of our enemies, nor will it be any weakness of will on the part of our current leadership. Simply put, it will be message, and subsequently those who control the spread of the message. I’m talking about a message that doomed our efforts in Viet Nam and, with today’s standards, could’ve killed our efforts in World War II after the bloodshed of D-Day or Iwo Jima or the North African invasion of Operation Torch, surely a move that would be classified by modern media as a misdirection from the war waiting in Europe in much the same manner as Iraq has been deemed as a sidetrack to the war on terror (never mind that documents slowly coming out seem to justify the concerns about Saddam’s links radical Islamist terror) .

That said, the media sold advertisements and their version of events. Let the chips fall where they may; it is our grandchildren who will have to live (or die) with the outcome.

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