Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who Are Those Guys?

News that six Sunnis were doused with kerosene and burned alive sickened me before I learned from conservative bloggers that it probably didn’t happen. There’s no evidence and only one questionable source. The Associated Press stands by its story, but given what’s becoming commonplace in mainstream wire services, I would bet a week’s pay it’s false.

The AP claims its source is “Captain Jamil Hussein” of the Baghdad Police and they’ve published several stories since last April based his information alone, each an alleged incident of Shiite violence against Sunnis. Trouble is, nobody but the AP seems to know who this guy is. The Baghdad Police don’t. The US government doesn’t. The Iraqi government doesn’t. Does the Associated Press itself know? Conservative bloggers have challenged the AP to produce him, but so far nobody’s been able to actually see “Captain Jamil Hussein.” The mainstream media - big-city broadsheets, network news and big weekly newsmagazines - are ignoring the story or suggesting that it’s “agenda-driven” by the “right-wing blogosphere.” What could bloggers possibly know? They don’t attend cocktail parties with Katy or Matt so why should anyone take them seriously? CENTCOM has officially asked the AP for a retraction.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about two Lebanese ambulances allegedly rocketed by Israeli warplanes. That probably didn’t happen either. The story was initially released by the Lebanese Red Cross, then spread by the Associated Press. After more than four months, the AP still hasn’t admitted its mistake, if it was a mistake. I’m beginning to have doubts about that. I suspect the AP knows its stringers come from the other side.

Why doesn’t the AP just produce “Captain Jamil Hussein” and let him be vetted? That would clear it all up, wouldn’t it? Maybe it’s afraid of scrutiny since one of its cameramen - a man named Bilal Hussein - was arrested by the US military inside an Al Qaeda bomb factory a few months ago. Old Bilal was producing remarkable photos he couldn’t possibly get without very close access to Al Qaeda terrorists. He took close-ups of “insurgents” firing rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, presumably at American soldiers, and also took staged shots of terrorists standing over the just-executed body of kidnapped Italian hostage Salvatore Santoro. When old Bilal was finally arrested in that IED factory, he had bomb residue on his hands. The AP is indignantly trying to get him released, even using Democrat Congresswoman Louise Slaughter to carry AP water on the floor of the US House.

When I say I have my doubts that all these shoddy AP stories are mistakes, am I implying that the Associated Press intentionally publishes enemy propaganda? That would be a serious charge. Al Qaeda’s former head guy in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (he’s in Paradise with his virgins now thanks to the US Air Force), said his number-one goal was to foment civil war between Sunnis and the Shiite majority as the best way to destabilize Iraq and force Americans out. Considering we’re at war, do AP stories and photos “provide aid and comfort to the enemy”? That would be treason, wouldn’t it?

Over the weekend of November 25-27, NBC’s Matt Lauer decided to start calling the Iraq theater of our war against Islamofascism a “civil war” and cited the “six Sunnis burned alive” story as a tipping point in his decision. Soon, other media followed his lead. On Monday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan did too. Is the “burned-alive Sunnis” story true? Very doubtful. Is it influential? Most assuredly. Is that a problem? You bet it is.

As columnist and author Michael Novak wrote in “National Review Online” two weeks ago: “Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military; psychological, not physical. The main purpose of war is to dominate the way the enemy imagines and thinks about the war. Warfare is not, these days, won on a grand field of battle. Nor is it won by the force that wins series after series of military victories. Nor is triumph assured by killing far higher numbers of the enemy. The physical side of warfare no longer holds precedence. The primary battlefield today lies in the minds of opposing publics.”

Our military has made mistakes. So has our Commander-in-Chief. So has every military and every commander in every war ever fought in the history of the world. The biggest problem we face is that our mainstream media, which is more powerful that it’s ever been, focuses on nothing but the mistakes as if they want us to lose. When not doing that, they’re illegally publishing classified information that hurts us and helps our enemies. Thanks to our media, America is losing on the most important front - the propaganda war. Our enemy couldn’t possible beat us on the battlefield, but they’re beating us in our own media with the willing assistance of the Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, NBC News, etc. If Novak is right that “The primary battlefield today lies in the minds of opposing publics,” and I believe he is, we have to ask ourselves: Is our mainstream media trying to persuade our public mind that we’re losing? I strongly suspect they are, and that’s the great tragedy.

Americans must demand the Associated Press produce “Captain Jamil Hussein” and let the vetting begin.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,

I am sketchy on this, but I hope you'll shed some light. Didn't the govts on this side of the Iron Curtain engage in propaganda via radio, with the help of the Catholic Church and anti-communist activists, that eventually lead to the breakdown of communism? Wasn't a similar operation(s) carried out with the help of the Resistance in WW2?

To your knowledge, are we taking this fight today, to the minds of like-minded people in the Middle East, similar to WW2 and the Cold War? I don't recall having seen/read anything in the mainstream media that says that we are trying to communicate the values of liberty, equality, freedom and opportunity to the masses in the Middle East. A prime eg is Iran. We have a huge chunk of that nation under the age of 30, that looks upto the West and the US, in particular. They like our values and way of life. We have to reach across and foment that suppressed sentiment, in Iran. Could we send radio signals acros from our military bases in Iraq and on the Gulf, and engage in propaganada?

On the flip side of it, Al Qaeda has done an excellent job in communicating their message to their base, to the so-called moderate Muslims (what a misnomer!), in terrifying western masses (and manybe influencing elections, like in Spain and the US?). They even had the gall to start an Al Jazeera in English and broadcast their propaganada. We should be the ones doing this, not they.

Sriraj

12/7/06, 1:02 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

Sriraj,

The US broadcasted propaganda across eastern Europe and into the Soviet Union continuously in several languages through something called “Radio Free Europe.” In turn, the Soviets built jamming stations to try and block the signals. The Soviets used propaganda extensively within their territory, and if some citizens were stubborn the Party would “purge” those who were not “politically correct.” That’s where the term originated. Those not amenable to change through propaganda were imprisoned in gulags, killed outright, or if they were too famous in the outside world to exterminate they were committed to “insane asylums” to keep them quiet and isolated. The communist Chinese did similar things when they came to power after WWII. The worst of it was during Mao’s “cultural revolution” in which he turned the society upside-down in an attempt to exterminate “bourgeois” attitudes in the population. The Soviets also used propaganda in countries they targeted in Africa, South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia.

We could use more propaganda aimed at Muslims around the world, but especially in the Middle East. According to Americans with Arab background, what we’re doing in Iraq is ham-handed and ineffective. We have to expect the other side to use propaganda and they’re much more effective than we are. With their petrodollars, the Saudis fund madrassas, or Islamic schools almost everywhere including Europe and in the United States. They pound a Wahhabi message continuously and effectively to the point where Arab expatriates in Europe tend to be even more radical than the average Arab in the Middle East.

Bush is famously inarticulate, but could have designated someone, some agency, to get the message out about what we’re facing. It’s not a war on terror; it’s a war on radical Islam. He only just started with the Islamofascist line, but it’s been too little, too late.

A recent film called “Obsession” is making the rounds and I recommend it. It used the old Frank Capra WWII model of using our enemy’s own words against them. Just as Capra used Nazi propaganda films against Nazis, “Obsession” shows clip after clip of imams exhorting their people to kill Americans and Jews and clips of how they train little kids to be suicide bombers. It’s excellent. We need to do much more of it.

“60 Minutes” showed an Arab/American FBI agent recently who is exasperated about the appalling lack of knowledge of our enemy in the senior FBI officials running our anti-terror operations here and abroad. They didn’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, for example. We have a lot of work to do here and that’s where I’d start - here in America. Most people don’t have any idea what we’re up against. Jewish groups on campuses are trying to show “Obsession” but are being blocked by Muslim student groups. “Obsession” is powerful. Check it out at http://www.obsessionthemovie.com/

12/7/06, 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,

Call it preaching to the (m)asses, but if you could keep passing out those nuggets (I didn't know of Mr Capra's efforts! I only knew him for Mr Deeds.., It Happened..., It's A Wonderful..., etc) for newbies like your truly, we'd really appreciate it. Learning history this way is so much more fun and personal.

Sriraj

12/9/06, 8:12 AM  

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