The NYTimes Once Again Shapes the Battle Space
The entire article by Lance Fairchok at American Thinker is spot-on excellent, and exactly what I was looking for as an answer to this, which surprisingly seemed to get little media traction. However, I'd like to cite the following passage as a lead-in for a different, if not unrelated topic:
Webster defines propaganda as the "spreading of ideas or information to further or damage a cause," it is also "ideas or allegations spread for such purpose." The popular connotation of the word is false information, or information used to deceive or mislead. The left uses the word as a negative label for information that does not conform to their view, a tool to demean and discredit, regardless of truth. Their purpose is to dominate what the public sees with their messages and to eliminate contradictory information.
In information warfare, this is called shaping the battle space.
Throughout this war, the military has been inundated with negative press. Damaging leaks were rampant, coming from the Democrats in the Senate and the House, from the CIA and the State Department, even from inside the Pentagon. Every setback was exaggerated in an unrelenting information campaign to shape public perception.
Disinformation from our enemies was accepted without critical analysis by much of the media. Papers worldwide splashed every unsubstantiated negative story they could find. Enemy agents posing as stringers were feeding false stories about American atrocities. Terror attacks were timed for the 24-hour news-cycle. The broadcast media's mantra for Iraq was "if it bleeds it leads" writ large.
The enemy knew it, and used it.
This relentless media assault frustrated and confounded the military, for whom the lessons of press malfeasance in Vietnam still rankle. How can you prosecute a war against a vicious enemy when your every action may be portrayed as criminal? How can you show success when failure is all Americans are allowed to see and hear? How do you get your message out when the press ignores or alters it? How can you tell the ground truth if no one is there to listen?
This brings us to today's New York Times piece, written by Scott Shane, which details some of the little known interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. What is shocking (and yet, why shouldn't we be surprised?) is the
Mr. Martinez declined to be interviewed; his role was described by colleagues. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A., and a lawyer representing Mr. Martinez asked that he not be named in this article, saying that the former interrogator believed that the use of his name would invade his privacy and might jeopardize his safety. The New York Times, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked undercover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news articles and books, declined the request. (An editors’ note on this issue has been posted on The Times’s Web site at nytimes.com/world.)
What is it about today's press that has impaired judgment, given aid and comfort to America's enemies, endangered lives, prolonged the conflict, and sabotaged and undermined anti-terror programs by publishing leaks regarding such things as CIA secret prisons, NSA surveillance program, the SWIFT program? Were 32 frontpage stories on abu Ghraib published in the New York Times really warranted? Did the act itself inflame the Arab world and create more terrorists, or was it the media hype about the abuses, which did so? What about Haditha? Who has done more damage to the war effort? Soldiers on the frontlines to win hearts and minds, protesters out on the streets, politicians back in Washington, or perceptions created and driven by the media in its coverage of the war? The Bush Administration is held accountable for its failures in prosecuting the Iraq battle with zero percent casualties; but where is the media accountability?
There's a reason for classified information and government secrets, aside from cynical conspiratorial beliefs that our government is up to no good, to remain secret from the public (and consequently, from our enemies). Is it not obvious?
From the editor's note regarding the NYTimes defending its decision to publish KSM's interrogator's name:
The Central Intelligence Agency asked The New York Times not to publish the name of Deuce Martinez, an interrogator who questioned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other high-level Al Qaeda prisoners, saying that to identify Mr. Martinez would invade his privacy and put him at risk of retaliation from terrorists or harassment from critics of the agency.[sarcasm]
After discussion with agency officials and a lawyer for Mr. Martinez, the newspaper declined the request, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.
The Times’s policy is to withhold the name of a news subject only very rarely, most often in the case of victims of sexual assault or intelligence officers operating under cover.
Yes, if only he were an "undercover" operative like Valerie Plame Wilson. Then the NY Times would have kept him anonymous. [/sarcasm]
Since I opened this post by citing a passage from Michael Yon's book I found relevant, let me bookend the post by closing with this passage from Robert Kaplan's Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts, pg 26-27:
Dekryger showed me the book he was reading, Tarawa: The Story of a Battle by Time-Life correspondent Robert Sherrod. He said that he found the book inspiring. Leafing through it, and reading it carefully at night in the hootch, I discovered that it was like other books popular among marines and soldiers, but which the contemporary media, aside from the military correspondents, were barely aware of. No potboiler, Tarawa was just an old-fashioned sort of book, very much in the tradition of great war reporting as defined by Richard Tregaskis in Guadalcanal Diary, Bing West in The Village, and Harold Moore and Joe Galloway in We Were Soldiers Once...and Young. These books celebrated the sacrifice and heroism of American troops in World War II and Vietnam not because it had been the authors' intention, but because it was true and happened to be all around them.~~~
Sherrod, like other correspondents of the era, keeps using the words "we and "our" when referring to the American side, for although a journalist, he was a fellow American living among the troops. Back in Honolulu a week after the battle, he found the naïveté of the home front toward Tarawa "amazing". The public saw the killing of so many troops in so few days as scandalous. There were rumblings in Congress about an intelligence failure, and vows that such a thing must not happen again. But as Sherrod argues, there was no easy way to win many wars (in fact, eight months later, the first day of fighting on Guam would claim nearly seven hundred marines dead, wounded, or missing). Thus, "to deprecate the Tawara victory was almost to defame the memory of the gallant men who lost their lives achieving it." He concludes that on Tarawa, in 1943, "there was a more realistic approach to war than there was in the United States."
Cross-posted at Flopping Aces
Q & A with David Barstow