Leadership: The Other Message

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June 18, 2007: Recently, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fired off some personal shots at Generals David Petraeus and Peter Pace. Reid's comments came during briefings with reporters and bloggers who are generally against American policy in Iraq. His shot at Petraeus is particularly noteworthy, since Reid was among those who voted to confirm Petraeus as the commander of Multi-National Force Iraq. Again, it seems that support for the troops takes a strange turn. This time, it seems to include insulting those who are supposed to lead them.

These comments come as the surge has been going on. Even without all the forces, there have been effects. In several parts of Iraq, Sunni tribes have turned on al Qaeda. The efforts in Baghdad have also met with some success as well. There have been higher casualties, but much of this is due to the efforts to engage and clear out insurgents. Among the successes on the part of the coalition is a sharp decline in the number of helicopters shot down. Another is the fact that a number of the major leaders of al Qaeda have been taken out. The mainstream media has not covered many of these successes.

Part of that is a due to a change of tactics on the part of the terrorists. The anti-government forces have now attacked a number of bridges - looking to cause damage to the infrastructure of Iraq. They also paid another visit to the Samarra mosque - in an attempt to re-ignite sectarian strife. In essence, their targets are not so much Coalition troops, but Western newsrooms and politicians. Why?

The reason is simple: They cannot win on the battlefield - and they have turned most of Iraq's population against them with their indiscriminate attacks and thousands of dead women and children. Their only hope is to get the American Congress to pull the funds - and that requires convincing the media in the United States that the war is not winnable. Spectacular attacks tend to draw headlines. After all, if it bleeds, it leads. The editors, who tend to be sympathetic towards the anti-war movement, then proceed to accentuate American casualties.

Al Qaeda has taken note of this - and has sought to exploit that vulnerability. They are also aided by the fact that the American news media tends to take great pride in its independence. In essence, the media has been more than willing to treat the military with skepticism - and also has been willing to repeat the charges of abuse at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. To some extent, al Qaeda has succeeded - the negative media coverage of Iraq was a factor in the Democrats taking control of Congress.

Terrorist groups have also been able to plant phony claims of massacres. In 2002, the phony claims surrounded the aftermath of the battle of Jenin, where it turned out that most of the dead were terrorists. The current controversy over Haditha also seems to have been generated by a media outlet's repetition of claims from a human rights group. Not only do these claims generate more support for the anti-war movement, but they also aid terrorist recruiting.

Senator Reid's comments about Generals Pace and Petraeus reflect the two-faced nature of many anti-war politicians. When they are talking to the general public, they support the troops. Then they proceed to undercut those who lead the troops - and they also will declare the troops' efforts to be a failure, even when they have hardly started. This is support that the troops can do without. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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