As promised in earlier entries, I've started a 'treatise' on the media and its coverage in Iraq and the Middle East, and gathered some examples. What you are about to read may be long, certainly boring, and in no way definitive, but hopefully enlightening because I can almost guarantee you ain't seen it over here...
My civilian job requires me to travel in and out of various countries in the Middle East, and I try to read as much local content (in English) as possible, in order to better understand how we as Americans and what we do are viewed and (mis?) understood. Let me tell you, what the MSM doesn't try to convey is almost criminal, in my mind. Well, ok, IS criminal if Uncle J were the judge (and executioner). Won't get an argument out of me.
With the upcoming 'surge' (this is the SECOND one, BTW) one can easily draw comparisons to Op al Fajr in Fallujah. Doing so will bring up some likely scenarios that I've included in this posting.
Read on, if you dare...
To start out, let me just say the myopic views of our MSM in no way cover what the normal or average person in the ME views. Not even close. Most published reports convey a far different view, as long as you are not including the rags like al Jazeerah or some other jihadist-leaning pub. Most governments (excluding Iran and Syria) consider other aspects and situations in the ME much more threatening to overall peace than Iraq (as long as the coalition is there- remove them and that equation changes drastically).
For example, the murder of a Christian Lebanese last fall was of far more concern to your average ME'r at the time. Did the MSM convey this? Hardly. They were too busy making it look like Hisbollah may have been justified. Or that it was a result of US interventions. Whatever- murder is murder, folks.
While many of them consider that US-Israeli affairs contribute significantly to instability, its not the end-all. Radicalism, economics, and their own internal government actions contribute as much, if not more, to the conditions. That said, they fully realize that blaming the US /Israelis is far more politically convenient than dealing with the situation directly.
What does this have to do with the media? Everything! When reading thru publications, even government-sponsored ones, you get a better understanding of what the locals really have on their minds. For example, in Kuwait, the possibility that the government was going forgive nearly every loan in the country (covered by the significant cash reserve they have) was FAR bigger news. Anyone here read that? Think if the US said ''we're going to pay off all of your housing and car loans and let everyone start fresh..'' wouldn't push a fist-fight between Putin and Bush off the front page?? Be a close call...
One former Oil Minister recently called the statements by Saudi clerics denouncing actions against Sunni's in Iraq as ''..full of ignorance and extremism besides being a continuation of al-Qaeda’s ideology." This man himself is Sunni, yet he sees the statements as being wrong.
The point I'm trying to make with this is, 'balanced news' as defined by our MSM is nowhere near that. My observations in the ME press tells me that not only is the coverage of Iraq myopic and one-sided, the coverage of the ME in GENERAL is highly suspect- and serves to undermine the US as a whole, period. Don't think of it as only Iraq-focused. I know, I know, they gotta sell papers, but wouldn't the TRUTH sell just as many?
And this is just in the mainstream press. Let's take this to another extreme- what does your average ME'r have access to in other outlets? While I'm all for freedom of the press and 1st amendment rights, if we printed examples of these publications in USA Today or NY Times, for example, things would be vastly different. That's the problem- these high-circulation rags won't publish it, and its a damning example of their failures to undertand, or help the US public understand, what we are facing.
For example- Egyption weekly 'Roz al-Yousef' calls for the execution of Bush to atone for the deaths of Iraqi's. Islamic websites are covering the best way to attack coalition checkpoints in Iraq, and even include a map of them. Sites include hundreds of bombings and attacks of coalition people, as well as of IP and IA stations. Yet, for some reason, our media is 'ashamed' to tell the stories of our Soldiers and Marines who save their comrades, as if it were too 'John Wayne-ish'. I'm not talking about publishing videos of US activities, just honoring those that have sacrificed so much. BUT, they will tell you how many of them have died- but not tell you that some died while taking food or medicine to an outpost or hospital.
One site that I can send you to that translates and analyzes such sites is www.memri.org and www.memriblogs.org.
Folks, there are books published on establishing the Islamic State of Iraq (published by Al-Furqan) and why that state "...is necessary and commanded by God." Think these insurgents are just 'freedom fighters' trying to just get rid of Americans? Think Taliban, and you'd be closer to the truth.
How can we affect our media? What can we expect? Man, these are shaping up to be THE questions of the year- and as I've stated, the Nov 2004 battle in Fallujah would be the prime example of what to expect.
Back then, the debate raged over how the media should view the activities of the coalition, and what the DoD use of media should be. While I'm of the opinion that 'meddling' of DoD in the media should be absolutely minimized, this opinion is shaped also by the feeling that our own media shouldn't be working against us. Or even appear to be. Information is as much a tool of warfare as bullets- and in some cases, more important and lethal. I'm not calling for the wholesale implanting of propaganda and false stories in major media, but when the generals call for and need an 'information front' the media should fully realize what its use is for. It can save lives- and isn't that what we all want?
Back then, an LA Times quote said "The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world," one senior defense official said. "What's at stake is the credibility of people in uniform." What about the credibility of the media?
Here's a quote worth remembering: "The worst outcome would be to lose this war by default. If the smart folks in the psy-op and civil affairs tents can cast a truthful, persuasive message that resonates with the average Iraqi, why not use the public affairs vehicles to transmit it?" asked Charles A. Krohn, a professor at the University of Michigan and former deputy chief of public affairs for the Army. "What harm is done, compared to what is gained? For the first year of the war, we did virtually nothing to tell the Iraqis why we invaded their country and ejected their government. It's about time we got our act together." Has anything changed in this quote in the intervening 2 years?
So what can we expect? How about these:
--Hydrogen bomb killed wife and children
--Americans amputate arms and legs of insurgents...
--A ''City of Hell''...
These are actual 'quotes' taken from Insurgent 'media' during Op al Fajr in Fallujah. Does anyone think we'll see anything less with Baghdad? What should we do, just let it 'go'?
Its time we got a voice, and let it be heard.... that our media has failed us as much as the politicians.