Accuracy in Media

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was fired even though he did everything possible, with the military he had been given, to win the war in Iraq. That became clear when General Abizaid subsequently testified that the number of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq was about right. The key failure in Iraq was the inability to combat the enemy in the critical area of global communications. But that wasn’t Rumsfeld’s job.

It was to Rumsfeld’s credit that he had also been outspoken in urging more aggressive action in this equally important, if not more important, area. But that was an area where the U.S. State Department had taken the lead. And its idea of fighting the information war was putting an official named Alberto Fernandez on Al-Jazeera to denounce U.S. policy in Iraq as stupid and arrogant. Rumsfeld would have fired Fernandez. But State Department official Karen Hughes, an old friend of the President’s, did not. In fact, she stood behind him, saying he had only made a mistake.

After he was fired, Rumsfeld gave a speech at Kansas State University, where he described, in diplomatic language, the need to fight the enemy in the realm of information and ideas.

“Our military cannot lose a battle in Afghanistan or Iraq, but our military cannot win all alone. They need the help of the other departments and agencies,” he said. I think one of the implications is that the State Department has failed our troops.

In fact, Rumsfeld declared: “? another area that government needs to be strengthened is in communications. Today’s global, 24-hour media presents new challenges for a government that operates on a-on a very different schedule. Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, al-Zawahiri, has said that, quote, ‘More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media.’ This is the number two al-Qaeda leader explaining to his people that it’s not so much only on the battlefield today, it’s in the media.”

He added, “The enemy we face has skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age, but for the most part, our country and our government have not yet completed the adjustments that will be necessary. The enemy is fast, with headline-grabbing attacks. By doctoring photographs, lying to the media, being trained to allege torture in their training manuals, the enemy successfully manipulates the free world’s press, a press that they would never allow to be free-and they do so purposefully to intimidate and break the will of free people. We need to understand the ruthlessness, the skillfulness of this enemy.”

And now they have Al-Jazeera International at their disposal.

What is the response of the State Department? According to Voice of America: “?the U.S. State Department says Al-Jazeera is considered the most free and unfettered broadcast source in the Arab world.  And the White House website continues to provide transcripts of interviews that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave the network in her previous capacity as National Security Advisor.”

Is the State Department aware that the channel has been banned from Iraq by the new democratic government because it has fanned the flames of sectarian violence and civil war?

The policy of accommodation toward Al-Jazeera is being conducted not only by Rice but Bush friend Karen Hughes, under secretary in charge of public diplomacy. They still have their jobs.

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