MIAMI -- I made a major mistake in a hotel room this week. Not the Eliot Spitzer kind of mistake -- but with a television remote. While changing for a late dinner, I tried to tune in to Fox News Channel, but the electronic device took me instead to MTV and some kind of "reality show." For a few minutes as I dressed, I was treated to several attractive young American women discussing their relationships. The most oft repeated sound in this conversation was "Duh!" -- a word that does not appear in my dictionary. But now I know what it means.
After conferring with several young people at our New York bureau, I was informed that "Duh!" is simply modern shorthand for "No! Really?" or "You just figured that out?" Well, if that's the case, this week should be giving the masters of the mainstream media plenty of "Duh!" moments about the campaign in Iraq.
On Monday, the potentates of the press finally discovered a study completed last month by Harvard University researchers about what we have been saying for years: There is a direct connection between adverse U.S. news coverage about Operation Iraqi Freedom and intensified attacks on civilians and coalition forces in Iraq. "Is There an 'Emboldenment' Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq" shows that negative media coverage and adverse commentary by U.S. political luminaries produce a statistically measurable increase in enemy activity.
To produce the study, analysts researched the number of insurgent attacks and fatalities per week from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 until January 2008. They also examined the number of "anti-resolve statements" per week by U.S. politicians from November 2004 to January 2008 and American public opinion polls on the war from November 2004 to January 2008.
The researchers found "a positive correlation" between spikes in war-critical statements in the media and the number of attacks and fatalities. They also showed that attacks increased between 7 and 10 percent following a spate of anti-resolve statements by leading political figures.
The authors of the study, Radha Iyengar and Jonathan Monten, baldly state, "We find that in periods immediately after a spike in anti-resolve statements, the level of insurgent attacks increases." Well, Duh!
This carefully researched study verifies what many of us who have spent months in the field concluded long ago: The drumbeat of negative news coverage about events in Iraq and the careless commentary from the political left in Washington have increased the danger for U.S. troops and our allies.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.