Thoughts on the War and the Media

The news today that two suicide bombers blew up their cars in markets in Baghdad led me to study the reports as offered on several mainstream media sites. In none of the stories or related commentary was there any mention of the moral depravity required to detonate explosives laden vehicles in crowds of peaceful shoppers, killing and maiming hundreds. There was plenty of commentary on the "failing" American "surge" strategy or the horror of the "violence" in Iraq. But nowhere could I find anything about the nature of an enemy who would use such tactics.

War in the twenty-first century is as much about media reportage as it is about fighting and dying. Our terrorist enemies know this as well or better than we do. And in this environment the United States and the free world have no allies in our own media. On the contrary, the terrorists we fight in Iraq are helped by the US press to the extent that our media hold most of their criticism for the American military and its civilian leadership, while remaining strangely silent about the goals of people who slaughter thousands of innocent civilians. One can't avoid thinking that for the editors, publishers and media executives in New York and Los Angeles, weakening the US effort to free Iraq of terror is a higher priority than saving the lives of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

A prime example of this is CBS's Baghdad correspondent, Lara Logan. An attractive, articulate Brit, Logan reports on the daily carnage in Iraq. Her stories are peppered with negative impressions of the US effort to provide security for the Iraqis. Yet I have never heard her describe the enemy critically, or with any depth or insight. Not once that I have noticed has she colored her reporting with language that would imply that she finds terrorism morally reprehensible. She refers to the enemy much as one would to bad weather, as an inevitable, impersonal and uncontrollable force. She holds her moral outrage only for the American response to these despicable attacks. It is the strange world view of today's media. Ignore the people who commit the horror in order to save your slings and arrows for those trying to stop them.

Further, I find it strange that American television networks feel compelled to use foreigners to report on the War in Iraq. Granted, the British have been our allies in this war. But it is also true that the English people support the war in far fewer numbers than do Americans. The British press is almost uniformly anti-American, and certainly anti-war. Perhaps CBS and others using European correspondents think this is lost on Americans. But it is not lost on me and I think it is a good indication of how our television networks want to shape their message about the war.

The truth of the matter is that the European countries are no longer allies in the sense they were for most of the twentieth century. They are now strategic competitors on the global, media driven stage, much as are the Chinese or Brazilians or Indians. In fact, their interests are probably less aligned with ours than are countries that are striving, via free market capitalism, to reach first world status. In this new world order, I find it discomforting to have European correspondents being the life line to information about our efforts, just as I would if they were Chinese or Brazilian. Their cultural orientations are freely available on the BBC or France 24. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect that my country's television news be delivered by American correspondents, particularly in a war zone.

The American media and the Democrats are now fully employing a "slow bleed" strategy to force the Bush Administration into surrender. That is their right, as reprehensible as it is. If, as Hillary Clinton has said, the Democrats want us out of Iraq in the next three months, and they have the political capital to force such a plan, so be it. They will have to live with the results, which I suspect will leave them in the political wilderness for years to come, much as it did after Vietnam. But as both the press and the Democrats place their fortunes on retreat and failure, a strategy made possible only by actively stifling the motives and tactics of our enemies, I see a strategy void of any moral consciousness. That, I suspect, will not be lost on most Americans when, inevitably, the enemy returns to our shores.