Al Qaeda Has Mastered Media Manipulation in Iraq

In my column in the Examiner I take a look at how Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have mastered the art of media manipulation in Iraq.

An aspect of the war on terrorism that gets too little attention, yet is as important as any other, is the media war. Whether they realize it, members of the mainstream media are participants in the war on terrorism, and nowhere is that more evident than in Iraq.

Blogger Bill Roggio, who has embedded as a journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan, says the enemy’s documents reveal that much of their strategy revolves around manipulation of the media. An enemy unable to beat us on the battlefield is employing a strategy of attacks planned specifically for maximum media coverage and effect.

Roggio recently told the Christian Science Monitor that most mainstream media reporters “display a lack of knowledge of counterinsurgency and the role the media plays in an insurgency’s information campaign.” He says al Qaeda and insurgent groups frequently choose their targets to get specific media coverage they desire.

He cited the way a suicide attack in the Anbar province was reported as an example. “U.S. success in Anbar was immediately negated when al Qaeda conducted a suicide attack in Ramadi in early May, and The Associated Press ‘reported’ that the attack dealt ‘a blow to recent U.S. success in reclaiming the Sunni city from insurgents.’ Al Qaeda conducted the attack to generate such an opening paragraph.”

Until the media start reporting the war in more complete context, it will be impossible for the public to accurately gauge the success or failure of “the surge” or any other aspect of the war in Iraq.

News of even significant progress in any region of Iraq can be silenced with one strategically placed bomb or beheading. Unfortunately, media manipulation is one aspect of the war the terrorists appear to have mastered.

Update: Wow, I wish I had seen this article before writing my column. (Link via Lucianne.) It is some pretty powerful stuff. Here is an excerpt, but read it all.

A tired and disgusted Iowa soldier fired off an e-mail a few days ago, telling family and friends how things are going in Iraq.

A Blackhawk helicopter pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Jim Funk has flown more than 80 combat missions since he arrived there in October.

He described his Boone-based unit’s successes after 5,000 hours of flying out of LSA Anaconda, a huge American base north of Baghdad. He talked about the tragedies he and his fellow Iowans have witnessed and his worries of becoming complacent as he goes on mission after mission.

His greatest frustration? The performance of the people who deliver the news to the American people.

I’ll let him say it, in his own words, in the letter, which found its way to me:

“Hello media, do you know you indirectly kill American soldiers every day? You inspire and report the enemy’s objective every day. You are the enemy’s greatest weapon. The enemy cannot beat us on the battlefield so all he does is try to wreak enough havoc and have you report it every day. With you and the enemy using each other, you continually break the will of the American public and American government.

“We go out daily and bust and kill the enemy, uncover and destroy huge weapons caches and continue to establish infrastructure. So daily we put a whoopin on the enemy, but all the enemy has to do is turn on the TV and get re-inspired. He gets to see his daily roadside bomb, truck bomb, suicide bomber or mortar attack. He doesn’t see any accomplishments of the U.S. military (FOX, you’re not exempt, you suck also).

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