Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fake But Accurate

When I ponder how America's reputation could be worsened in much of the world despite our extreme efforts to fight the cleanest war ever fought, you have to consider how our war is reported. Much of the world that gets its reporting from European or Arab press sources, and based on their reporting you'd think that we are slaughtering Iraqi civilians every day with glee and on purpose. The truth is that we fight carefully, risking our own lives to avoid civilian deaths, and that civilian deaths at our hands are extremely low.

Unfortunately, the world has no way of knowing that reports of atrocities are largely fiction. Consider the report that six Sunnis were burned alive by Shia death squads. A witness is quoted--an apparently trustworthy officer of the Iraqi police. But "Capt. Jamil Hussein," does not in fact exist. Well, to be more exact, he is not a captain (or any other rank) in the Iraqi police. But he is a regular source for stories of atrocities that AP publishes. As an apparent English speaker, he may very well be a captain of Saddam's former regime. And he is fighting his part of the war through AP. There are many more Captain Husseins, I dare say. The Baathists were the ones educated to speak English. Our reporters need to interview English-speaking Iraqis. The Baathists know this. Our reporters either don't know, don't care, or are eager to cooperate. Quite simple, really.

But the truth is not the point. For our Sunni terrorist enemies inside Iraq whose hope for victory is pinned on inspiring enough fear in Iraqi Sunnis to get them to support the Sunni-based terrorists, it doesn't matter whether horrible attacks take place, just that the Sunnis believe they take place.

Oh, and the Sunnis must also believe that they cannot trust the government's security personnel over Sunni terrorists, so the original report had Iraqi soldiers standing by doing nothing while the innocent Sunnis were set ablze.

Some might say we might as well fight dirty since we are portrayed that way. But it would still be wrong. And just as important, it wouldn't work. We'd stop ourselves long before brutality could suppress the insurgency. We simply couldn't carry on a traditional mass murder campaign long enough to work.

So we must get better at information warfare. We must find a way to keep the enemy from using our free press as their own weapon system targetting our home front. Even if we had more reporters who think we deserve to win, this would be an issue since the European and Arab press are the very worst offenders, making even CNN look like jingoistic Patriots.

We have to find ways to rapidly refute propaganda and ways to keep such propaganda from getting on the air in the first place since our responses take too long and never receive the same attention.

Right now, much of the world thinks we kill indiscriminantly and the fact that they are totally wrong is totally irrelevant to how they react.

UPDATE: Let me correct something. I didn't mean to state that the Shias are not committing atrocities against Sunnis. They are. I was conflating my frustration at the common view that our soldiers are brutal when that is a total lie with the fake reporting exposed of the latest purported Shia crime. Still, the Sunnis must not think there are enough really sensational Shia crimes to inspire Sunni fear if theBaathists have to make up Shia crimes so often.