Information Warfare: When News Almost Isn't News

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March 21, 2006: The initial document dump of captured Iraqi materials has already produced one major find. This is a letter reporting a discussion with Taliban leadership shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. This is the second document to emerge that confirms a relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda, the first being a memo recovered by a Toronto Star reporter in April, 2003, shortly after the liberation of Iraq.

These communications are something that has been denied by many who opposed the war. This, in conjunction with a mainstream media that is sympathetic to many in the anti-war movement, has meant that such evidence is often unreported on - or if it is reported, it usually is buried in the back pages - and then more effort is placed into dismissing the evidence. For instance, when ABCNews.com reported on this letter and three other documents, it made a point of minimizing the document's importance by citing Iraqi intelligence's refusal to disclose its source - and the refusal to name the Afghan consul with whom the source talked with. Of course, it fails to compare the Iraqi effort to protect sources with those of other intelligence agencies or even the new media.

This is not the first time the media has taken such great pains - and in a somewhat disingenuous manner. In 2004, three Fedayeen rosters were leaked to the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, which apparently showed that Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi who attended the January 2000 al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, was working for Iraq. The Washington Post tried to make it look like a case of mistaken identity, but did not seem to notice that in Arabic, names can be spelled in a variety of different ways Wikipedia lists over 30 spellings for Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi's name.

In the 1980s, all this would simply have died down - but in the late 1980s, alternatives to the mainstream media began to emerge, starting with talk radio. In the mid-1990s, more alternative media sources began to come into their own, including internet-based sources, and media sources like Fox News Channel and the Weekly Standard. This began to get stories around the mainstream news outlets, a classic case being the debunking of the memos used by CBS in its 2004 report on President Bush's Air National Guard service - often forcing other mainstream media outlets to cover the story. The same will likely be the case with this new memo - as people will check it (and translations) out for themselves. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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