Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has recognized that the most important battles in the war on radical Islam are being fought in the newsrooms of the U.S. and foreign media. What’s more, he admits the enemy is winning.
In a frank and honest assessment of where we stand internationally, Rumsfeld said in a speech that while the terrorists “have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age,” those committed to freedom and democracy have not.
Rumsfeld said that while the terrorists have established “media relations committees” and have proven to be “highly successful at manipulating opinion elites,” the U.S. has been slow in developing communications strategies. He said a strategic communication framework must be put in place.
The terrorist strategy is quite simple. “They plan and design their headline-grabbing attacks using every means of communications to intimidate and break the collective will of free people,” he said.
He added, “They know that communications transcend borders-and that a single news story, handled skillfully, can be as damaging to our cause and as helpful to theirs, as any other method of military attack. And they are doing it.”
Satellite dishes, Rumsfeld noted, are all over the Middle East, including Iraq. “Regrettably,” he said, “many of the news channels being watched through these dishes are extremely hostile to the West.”
Referring to Newsweek’s false Koran-in-the-toilet story, he quoted the old adage that “A lie can be half way around the world before the truth has its boots on.” He explained, “We saw this with the false allegations of the desecration of a Koran last year. Once it was published in a weekly news magazine, it was posted on websites, sent in e-mails, and repeated on satellite television and radio stations for days, before the facts could be discovered. And, in those first days, the false story incited anti-American riots in Pakistan and elsewhere, and human beings were killed in the ensuing riots.”
Rumsfeld was also critical of media which expect “perfection” in the conduct of U.S. forces but do not apply the same standard to the enemy or to themselves.
He said, “Consider for a moment the vast quantity of column inches and hours of television devoted to the allegations of unauthorized detainee mistreatment at Abu Ghraib. Compare that to the volume of coverage and condemnation associated with things like, for example, the discovery of Saddam Hussein’s mass graves-which were filled with literally hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.”
Rumsfeld is absolutely correct. We have a biased media that is manipulated by the enemy that works against U.S. interests.
But it could get worse before it gets better.
One of those satellite channels he warns against is preparing to launch Al-Jazeera International, an English-language venture targeting English-speaking Muslims in the U.S. and other countries.
What will the U.S. do about that?
Or will the Administration do nothing on the ground that Al-Jazeera is based in the country of Qatar, an “ally” in the war on terrorism? And are they just like our allies in the UAE?