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The Free Congress © Commentary:

The Fourth Estate - A First-Class Liability
By Rachel Marsden
April 3, 2003


The war in Iraq hasn't even been underway for two weeks, and already some media types have declared the US-led effort an abysmal failure. And judging by the public reaction to these reports--particularly on Internet message boards such as Yahoo! News--a lot of people are swallowing holus bolus the garbage they're being fed by a highly confused, agenda-driven, frighteningly ignorant media. If it was up to these people, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would have a fork in him by now. As far as they're concerned, he's already blown the war. It's as though this is some kind of reality program, and they want the instant gratification of being able to dial up a 1-800 number and vote ol' Rummy off the show.

The problem is that these critics are not dealing in reality; Rumsfeld is. The "embedded reporters" traveling with front-line soldiers are partly to blame. During the first few days of the war, the viewing public was bombarded by images of allied tanks with pedals to the metal, rolling triumphantly and unimpeded through remote and unpopulated desert areas. You could practically smell the testosterone through your TV set when an "embedded", frighteningly orgasmic CNN reporter gushed about how much "fun" the war was so far. The networks showed footage of Iraqi soldiers surrendering by the thousands to allied troops, and small pockets of Iraqis cheering the arrival of American and British soldiers. It was media manipulation at its finest.

The media has set up its viewers to witness an easy offensive that would be met with little resistance and few challenges. On cue, Hussein loyalists would supposedly roll over and play dead upon arrival of allied forces, and the Iraqi people would rise up against Saddam Hussein at first sight of the red, white and blue. This is what the public was conditioned to expect. Anything less would be deemed a failure in the eyes of these viewers, who had been molded into "armchair field marshals" by the liberal-dominated mass media.

When the quick and easy victory didn't materialize within a week, all hell broke loose. Cue the "plot twist". The media proceeded to phase two: the big letdown. Last week, the New York Times suggested that the US blew the entire war when it didn't kill Saddam Hussein on the first day of the invasion. Then this past weekend, MSNBC's man in Iraq, Peter Arnett, went on Iraqi TV to announce to the enemy that the US war plan has failed. The April 7th edition of New Yorker Magazine reports that Rumsfeld is now paying the price for wanting to "do the war on the cheap." The suggestion here is that somehow things would have been a lot different if Rumsfeld would have ordered even MORE troops over to Iraq early on--to sit and pick sand out of their equipment in the middle of Nowhereville, Iraq, instead of resting up at home until they were actually needed. Forget Tommy Franks, Rumsfeld, or those guys at the Pentagon--we all know that when it comes to planning and assessing military campaigns, media blowhards, newspaper editors, and network executives are the real experts!

Reality check: This is no Vietnam, people. Not even close. Vietnam lasted 12 years and there were countless US casualties. So far, this war has only lasted 12 days, and casualties have been minimal. When Rumsfeld said that this war would be relatively short, I doubt that even HE figured the progress would be THIS rapid. Allied forces are now less than 50 miles from Baghdad. They gunned it there in those tanks in record-time. Sure, most of the resistance allied troops will face will be located in and around the city, but commanders report that troop readiness is at 90%. These brave men and women are ready to do what they signed on to do in this war, and it's a real slap in the face to them for the media to keep suggesting that hiccups in the military supply line, and a few guerrilla tactics on the part of Iraqis, are capable of derailing the soldiers' efforts. Any little snag in American military planning is being blown sky-high to help further the liberal media agenda.

Any suggestion that the Iraqi people would have risen up against Saddam Hussein as soon as the Americans arrived is nothing but a media-fueled fantasy. The Iraqi people know better than to blindly trust the Americans. Previous US administrations have let them down before, and the consequence was nothing short of a bloodbath. In February 1991, toward the end of the first Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush called upon the citizens of Iraq to oust Saddam themselves. Iraq's Shiite Muslims, who make up more than 60% of Iraq's population, took Bush Sr. up on his challenge; however, the US had second thoughts about what might happen if Hussein was actually toppled by the Shiites. Would this new regime be any better than that of Hussein, or would it in fact be worse? The US backed off its position, and when Hussein sent helicopter gun ships to slaughter his opponents, the US sat back and let it happen.

In 1995, the Iraq National Congress (INC)--the best-known Iraqi opposition group--attempted to coordinate an offensive against the Iraqi army. Their efforts ended in the death or imprisonment of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Iraqis. The INC leader at the time was one Ahmed Chalabi--now reported to be a favorite candidate of Rumsfeld to potentially lead a post-war Iraq. Chalabi accused the CIA of pulling support at the last minute because of the administration's own infighting over whether an opposition dominated by Kurds and Shiites could ever be effective in Sunni-ruled Iraq.

Again in July 1996, the CIA (under Bill Clinton) backed a group of Sunni Muslim defectors associated with the Iraqi military. They promised to deliver Hussein through military insurrection. However, the coup attempt was totally penetrated by double-agents. Iraqi intelligence officials used the CIA's own communications equipment to inform them that the attempt had failed, and that the plotters of the coup would be executed.

Given the recurring theme in the aforementioned examples, is it any wonder Iraqis aren't rising up against Saddam Hussein at the first glimpse of a GI in uniform? No doubt Iraqis want to make sure the US is there to stay--and Saddam Hussein and his regime of terror are long gone--before they even so much as start drawing devils' horns, bin Laden beards, and mullets on all those Saddam posters that have been plastered up around the country. Rummy is no dummy. He knows this. He can't NOT know it. Too bad the media doesn't know it, and that their collective ignorance and/or willful blindness has led their audience deep into the realm of grossly inflated expectations.

The media--our fourth estate--is turning out to be a huge liability in this war. Not only because its ignorance and agenda-pushing is being conveyed to the public and is resulting in the inaccurate coloring and false dissemination of information, but also because some of these media clowns are being permitted to broadcast live from the allied front lines! It shouldn't come as any surprise that these reporters whined when they were asked to turn off their satellite phones to avoid transmitting information about troop location to the enemy. After all, as far they're concerned, the war is secondary to money, ratings, a Peabody Award nomination, and the ability to bring an entertaining show into the living room of each and every American.


Rachel Marsden is a Director of the Free Congress Foundation.

©2003 This column is the property of the Free Congress Foundation and may not be reproduced without their permission. For comments and inquiries, contact Angie Wheeler at awheeler@freecongress.org. Visit our website at www.FreeCongress.org