President Bush on Sunday hailed the formation of a unity government in Iraq, making the announcement in person so that at least some of the media covering the White House would be forced to pay attention to it. This is good news, of course, and there is much more good news out of Iraq. But there’s no counting out the terrorists, who can always depend on the media to make them seem more formidable than they actually are. In this battle, one thing is clear: America must be able to neutralize the pernicious influence of Al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV channel that now wants to expand into U.S. and Western media markets with an English-language broadcast.
Not only is progress being made in Iraq but there’s hard evidence that the terrorists are desperate. A captured al-Qaeda document indicates that the insurgency in Iraq is badly hurting, unable to control territory, and left with only the brutal and random killing of civilians. In addition, polling information suggests that unlike most of the Arab world, Iraqis do tend to view the American-led coalition as liberators rather than occupiers.
The al-Qaeda document discovered by U.S. forces in Iraq shows that al Qaeda in Iraq is desperate and lacks public support. The document reveals that “The Mujahideen do not have any stored weapons and ammunition in their possession in Baghdad,” and that they can only make their presence felt through sniper fire and “planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government.”
It is obvious that the terrorists are depending on the media?including OUR media?to win the war. The enemy document states, “The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media?”
This is why the power and influence of such outlets as Al-Jazeera must be exposed. The media are directly responsible for inciting the enemy to kill Americans and Iraqis. And it is in the media?not on the military battle field?that we are losing this war.
However, on the surface the news about public opinion in the Arab world is somewhat confusing and contradictory. According to Richard Nadler, president of Americas Majority, a non-profit think tank, writing in National Review magazine, there is a wide gulf between how Iraqis view what has occurred since Operation Iraqi Freedom, and how the rest of the Arab world views it.
The points of reference are surveys conducted by Zogby International between 2002 and late 2005 in six Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. In Iraq the views have been measured by the International Republican Institute, the Gallup Organization and Oxford Research International.
In the six nations surveyed, 77 percent believe Iraq is “worse off after the war,” and only 6 percent disagree. But in Iraq, most of those surveyed approve and consider their lives better in post-Saddam Iraq, by a margin of 52 percent to 29 percent. By a margin of 48 percent to 18 percent they expect their lives to improve more in the next year.
To the question, “Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the U.S.-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?” 77 percent say yes. That figure includes 91 percent of Kurds surveyed and 98 percent of the Shiites.
One Zogby survey found that the non-Iraqi Arabs, by 58 percent to 9 percent, viewed the war as having brought less democracy to Iraq, while 74 percent of Iraqis approved of the moves toward democracy. It said that 66 percent, including 89 percent of the Shiites, viewed last December’s elections as “free and fair.”
The Iraqis want the Coalition forces to leave, but not immediately, as proposed by some Democratic politicians. They want us to leave over a two-year or more timetable, so that a democracy and security can be established.
The survey results, however, pose a dilemma: why are people in so many Arab countries opposed to the U.S. liberation of Iraq and the sponsorship of a democracy there? And why are many Iraqis, by contrast, hopeful? The explanation for this disparity of views lies in the influence of the media, and the media choices available. Al-Jazeera is the number one choice for news for 45 percent of Arabs, and the second choice for most of the rest. Before the war, Al-Jazeera was a friend of the Saddam Hussein regime. After the war, it conspired with the remnants of the regime and al Qaeda. These facts are demonstrated in the person of Mohammad Jacem al-Ali, Al-Jazeera’s first managing director who was exposed in captured film and documents after the liberation of Iraq to have been doing Saddam’s bidding. All of this is highlighted in Accuracy in Media’s latest video production, “Terror Television.”
Al-Jazeera has clearly been hostile to American and Coalition interests and the liberation of Iraq. As noted in Nadler’s article, Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, accused Al-Jazeera of inciting hatred, and Falah al-Naqib, the Sunni interior minister in the interim government, temporarily closed down the channel’s Baghdad bureau. He said it had become “the voice of terrorist groups” and that it strengthened the position of kidnappers and hostage-takers.
While Al-Jazeera is available in Iraq, the country has also seen an enormous growth of other media since the U.S. liberation. Iraq, Nadler notes, has grown from “three TV stations, three radio stations, and ten newspapers?all state owned?to 44 commercial TV stations, 72 commercial radio stations, and over 100 independent newspapers,” with points-of-view all across the political spectrum. Plus, there is wide access to the Internet. That means that the hateful message of Al-Jazeera has been to some extent counteracted by other media.
Al-Jazeera’s sordid history and background are among the reasons we oppose its new English-language network being carried on U.S. cable and satellite systems. This is a channel that has demonstrated that it functions, in effect, as a front for terrorists. Al-Jazeera International will have some new names and faces, including a former beauty queen, but it is being funded by the same crew responsible for the “old” Al-Jazeera. There’s no reason to believe it has turned over a new leaf and has now become a “professional” and “legitimate” news operation. It has blood on its hands?the blood of brave Americans who have sacrificed their lives and limbs for a free and democratic Iraq. We must never forget that.