Friday, December 01, 2006

what we have here is a failure to excommunicate

It was mentioned in class on Wednesday that there have been some questions as to the authenticity of news coming out of Iraq. Now, this isn't the old "MSM only tells us the bad news" story. This is something more troubling: the MSM if carrying stories designed specifically to misinform the American public.

Situation in this case, is that several news stories - involving kidnappings, murders, US airstrikes killing civilians, and most notoriously the 6 Sunnis dragged out of their mosques and burned alive while coalition troops watch - have come from a fictitious source: one Captain Hussein. The AP has been running stories from this "source" for the past two years, and then yesterday CENTCOM and the MOI issued the following release:

For example, we have some of the respected news outlets that deal with news fast and have a relation with many TV channels and the media in general, who distributed a story quoting a person called Jamil Hussein. Afterward, we searched our sources in our staff for anyone by this name-- maybe he wore an MOI uniform and gave a different name to the reporter for money. And the second name used is Lt. Maythem.

However, all of you know that the ministry of interior has a large public affairs office and its official spokesman, and we are ready to answer any questions you may have. Therefore, you should contact MOI PAO for all your needs to get real, true news. Based on that, we strongly deny any relation with those two names. In order to serve you better and strengthen the relationship with MOI, do not take statements that have no meaning and do not represent any official. We would like this note to be helpful to you and any statement made by those persons to be ignored.

Problem seems to be, that every time there is a report from this Captain Hussein, noone is able to verify the story. Witnesses at the scenes of these various scenes have been likewise unable to give a straight answer.

More information and analysis of that particular story can be found here, here, here, here and here. And if you're convinced that Malkin or conservative weblogs are tainted, untrustworthy wells of information, there's always The New York Times.

Does this mean that the AP and the MSM are against America? Hell no. What it means is that there is some serious information warfare going on in Iraq - and the enemy is doing a hell of a job. Just as terrorist attacks play on the weaknesses of a democratic, liberal populace by intimidation, this sort of information warfare plays on those same weaknesses by exploiting the strength of freedom of the press in the United States, and a democratic citizens' desire for news and information. It's no crime for the press to have a bias one way or the other - that's inevitable. But it's bad when we don't have the intelligence to counteract these claims.

We have the same situation with the fictitious account of the Holy Quran being flushed down the toilet at Gitmo. The story was retracted by Newsweek. Some now alleged that the incident never really occured. Either way, the story was used to agitate more anti-Western sentiment and grab a few more recruits for the Islamic fundamentalist and Islamist cause.

Even now we have the story of the six imams taken off a Minneapolis flight last week. That's seeming more and more like a staged event, with some suspiciously exagerated praying and activity almost designed to attract air marshall attention: like requesting seatbelt extensions and then pocketing them, moving from seat to seat, etc.

This goes back to the issue of civil war in Iraq. There is a serious effort on the part of the enemy in Iraq to incite as much violence as possible. Even ABC News is picking up the story that Iran is - almost without a doubt - directly supplying weapons to Shiite insurgents, and that Hizbollah has provided training for around 1,000 of al-Sadr's estimated 40,000-strong militia.

It seems to me, that if the CENTCOM needs to cooperate more with the MSM. That doesn't mean using the media as a mouthpiece. That won't fly, thanks to the blogosphere, who fanatically check each story for any crumb of suspicious data. We have a heavy media presence in Iraq, and we need it scrutinizing more than US troops body counts. We need to take advantage of the enemy fascination with our media technology. If they want to be on camera, let them be on camera. Bring the same coverage of terrorist- and insurgent-caused civilian casualties to Arab households. The enemy wants our cameras in Iraq, and right now, they control what gets reported and gets filmed. It doesn't have to be that way.

We may not be able to dominate the enemy in an information war, but we can do a better job than we're doing now. That means holding the AP accountable for checking their sources. If there are reporters who insist on carrying stories about 6 Sunnis being burned alive, when we're not sure if there was even one, sent that reporter home. In the US, even our freedom of the press has limits. There ought to be reprecussion for calling out "Sunni on fire" in a crowded theater of war.

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