One of the favorite topics of discussion in the media and among Iraq war critics is whether or not the Bush administration has properly prosecuted the war, but the topic I have yet to hear discussed is whether or not the anti-war left and the media in America have properly prosecuted their roles during the war in Iraq.
With Bob Woodward’s book, State of Denial, in the news, and the recent declassification of the April 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, the topic of how things are going in Iraq, whether we are more or less safe, and whether or not the action there has led to the recruitment of more terrorists, is a hot topic.
Not being debated, though, is what the status of the war in Iraq might be today if Democrat leaders and the media had conducted themselves differently. If all the successes of American troops in Iraq had been reported as studiously as the setbacks, would terrorists have been able to convince their young, impressionable followers that they were winning? If it were clear to the Iraqi people that politicians in D.C. were committed to finishing the mission in Iraq, would the attitude of the people there be different? If politicians and anti-war activists had not accused our own troops of engaging in torture, and worse, would world opinion, and specifically the opinion of the Iraqi people, be different?
There is no question that statements made by Democrats such as Ted Kennedy, John F. Kerry and John Murtha declaring Iraq a failure and accusing U.S. troops of improper behavior has affected their morale. One only needs to read the milblogs or talk to a soldier or Marine personally to know that. Now more than ever before, deployed U.S. servicemen and women have access to news from home via computer email and satellite television that simply was not available a generation ago. They often know in “real time” when a congressman takes to the floor of the House or Senate to declare our “failure” in Iraq and their opinion that it cannot be won and that the best course of action is to cut and run (pardon me, “redeploy”).
We also know that the people of Iraq, and even the terrorists living in caves in Afghanistan, have access to U.S. and world media. What is not known, but can be somewhat surmised using common sense, is how much the tone and emphasis of anti-American media has affected the morale of the terrorists and aided in their ability to rally followers.
When U.S. politicians and those in the media throw out lines that get repeated by terrorists in their recruiting material, it is time to consider the consequences of those words and actions. Terrorists have quoted from Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 movie and Osama bin Laden even used one of the left’s favorite criticisms, President Bush’s reading of My Pet Goat to schoolchildren on September 11, in one of his 2004 pre-election statements. A recent statement by al Quaeda leader, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, was in many respects amazingly similar to statements regularly made by prominent Democrats.
If anyone took the time to study it, I wonder if it might even be determined that some actions of Democrats and the media resulted in more jihadists being recruited than otherwise would have. In portions of the recently declassified NIE, the line quoted most frequently in news reports was that the war in Iraq had become a “cause celebre” for jihadists. I can’t help but wonder if the rallying cry was a result of the war itself or if it was the result of the media interpretation of the war presented through anti-American media outlets like BBC, al Jazeera and CNN International as a losing effort in which Christian American troops were torturing and murdering innocent Muslims?
Iraq war reporting has not been traditional, because the war has not been. That is no excuse, however, for one-sided reporting. When there have been months of decreased violence in Iraq or handovers of large areas of control to Iraqi troops it is hard to find it reported prominently, but when there is one month of increased violence it leads the news. When the war is going well, it is simply not considered news. When there are setbacks in the war, they make page one headlines. If you think about it, that approach runs counter to the very definition of “news.”
“Dog bites man” is not news, but “man bites dog” is. We have been told by Democrats and the media that we are losing the war in Iraq, miserably. Since that has become the conventional wisdom, shouldn’t it be bigger news when things do go right there, such as when violence decreases or when we round up leaders of a significant terrorist group? I am not saying that U.S. casualties should not be reported prominently, or that increases in violence should not be reported, but only that the successes we experience in Iraq should receive more coverage than they have.
When the public (including the terrorists) are given the impression that U.S. politicians have lost the will to fight in Iraq, and when they are led to the conclusion that terrorists in Iraq (and Afghanistan for that matter) have won the war on terror, there must be an impact on their behavior, including their ability to recruit. Hopefully one day that debate will take place.