In a recent column, historian Victor Davis Hanson wondered whether “we could lose this war at home without being defeated by the enemy on the battlefield.” That is what happened in Vietnam and it is happening again, in part because the White House refuses to wage an effective war in the battlefield of propaganda and ideas.
In the same piece, Hanson referred to the battle of ideas, noting, “In an era of global communications, the fact that al Jazeera looks more or less like a splashy Western media outlet gives an impression of credibility and cloaks its propaganda.”
The President himself frequently talks about the impact of enemy propaganda. But the administration is engaged in a “state of denial” when it thinks it can dilute the enemy’s propaganda by appearing on the enemy’s propaganda organs, foremost among them Al-Jazeera. That is the strategy of Karen Hughes of the State Department.
In a development that is only surprising in terms of being open about their propaganda victories, Associated Press has reported that Iraqi-based terrorists have praised Al-Jazeera television in an audio message posted on the Internet, saying the Arab satellite station served the fight against the Americans.” AP explained, “The speaker was not identified on tape but a statement alongside it said it was the head of the Islamic Army in Iraq, and that the recording was issued to mark the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.”
AP said that the Islamic Army in Iraq (IAI) is believed to include former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, his intelligence service and former army officers. The group’s spokesperson, Ibrahim al-Shammari, “is a frequent guest on Al-Jazeera, advocating Iraq’s right to fight against foreign forces he has called occupiers.”
This is consistent with the fact that Al-Jazeera’s first managing editor was found to have been acting as an agent of the Saddam Hussein regime.
According to the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, the IAI has been “implicated in several gruesome beheading deaths” and has murdered French journalists, Pakistani contractors, an Italian journalist, and Macedonian citizens working for a U.S. company.
While Al-Jazeera International (AJI), the proposed English-language channel, is being advertised as independent of the “old” Al-Jazeera, the Arabic version, it has been reported that Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, “the royal owner of al-Jazeera,” has elevated Waddah Khanfar, the Arabic channel’s managing director, “to the position of director general” of AJI. “This put him in overall charge of AJI,” reports Faisal Bodi, who is described as a leading commentator on Muslim affairs.
Ibrahim Helal, who has been appointed deputy managing director of news and programs at Al-Jazeera International, is the former editor-in-chief at Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language channel. Helal is a prominent advocate of Al-Jazeera broadcasting an Arabic perspective and showing graphic and bloody images that incite Arab audiences.
Until the Bush Administration decides to confront Al-Jazeera and its spin-off, Al-Jazeera International, a military victory in Iraq has to be considered far more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.