WaPo, The Zarqawi Coddler?
Information warfare is an important weapon in our arsenal becaues it helps win support at home and turn Muslims against the bloodthirsty power-mongers that are ripping Iraq apart.
One of our better efforts at information warfare has been to highlight the role of al Qaeda in Iraq and its mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He has used terrorism and the killing of fellow Muslims in his efforts to destabilize the country, and to the extent we and our Iraqi allies can paint him as a vicious Lebanese intervener, it is helping to keep Iraq intact in the face of the ongoing insurgency.
Be that as it may, WaPo has had enough. Labeling as "propaganda" our efforts to show Zarqawi for the brute he is, today's high-profile WaPo story claims we've over-stated his importance in Iraq:
The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. ...It's moments like this that our media make me want to puke. Here, they've taken one talk by one officer detailing one aspect of one campaign, and have turned it against our entire war effort.
For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi's role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.
Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi's role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.
Worse, they want the military to be utterly, uncompromisingly, perfectly fair and balanced in its information efforts, a standard they fall far, far short of themselves. War is hell, and it's not the place for "fair and balanced" information warfare.
What exactly are Zarqawi's redeeming characteristics that are going unreported? He's a brute; he's a foreigner; what else is there to say? And what's wrong with encouraging Iraqis to hate the Islamofacists who are destroying their country?
WaPo is correct in quoting Col. Harvey that the Baathists are a great threat to the stability of Iraq. But if Col. Harvey had lectured on our efforts to discredit the Baathists, and had said that we "enlarged their stature" as we supposedly have done with Zarqawi, then WaPo would have exploited that for their anti-Bush, anti-military, anti-war agenda.
It is the military's obligation to "enlarge the stature" of the bad guys so they have a harder time finding a safe haven. The media may think it's their obligation to write stories about it, but they should know that stories like this undercut the war effort, indirectly put soldiers at risk ... and make papers like WaPo look petty, vindictive and stupid.
Tags: Washington Post, Zarqawi, Iraq, Baathist, Information warfare