Monday, December 13, 2004

As DOD contemplates "information warfare efforts" abroad, having already been caught lying to CNN, here's a brief study in casual propaganda here at home:

I tuned into the local news last night (the ABC affiliate), and saw two brief stories on Iraq presented in quick succession. The first was a report on the current situation of Saddam Hussein, who has apparently taken up gardening while awaiting a trial that no one wants to begin, the report said, until it is clear that it is being conducted by an independant and sovereign Iraqi government. (Don't we already have one of those?) The anchor then switched from Saddam to a very brief report on "the insurgency operating on his behalf", which had just blown up a few more American troops.

My immediate reaction to the second story was, "The insurgency is operating on Saddam's behalf? When did we learn that?" It certainly includes elements of the former Baath security structures, but quite a few of those had pledged their loyalty to us before the shooting started until Bremer -- um -- fired them, and it's far from clear that they'd want Saddam back if they could get him. And it also includes elements, most notably al-Sadr's militia, who went straight from opposing Saddam to opposing us.

The first story is misleading in a subtler, but more pernicious way. It shows a prominent Iraqi prisoner -- Saddam -- and one who has the whole insurgency operating on his behalf, living more like a retired politician than a prisoner of war. To someone who bought the "few bad apples" line about Abu Ghraib, and is ignorant of persistent reports of mistreatment of prisoners elsewhere, this certainly makes it seem, without actually saying so, as if it's our firm policy to treat them all -- even sleazeballs like Saddam with arguable ties to the insurgency -- with the greatest possible respect.

This station has maintained the high standards of their news operation despite a great deal of competition from the blood-and-guts gutter diving on several competing channels now. It has a reputation as one of the best in the country. They're really quite proud of it.

And speaking of casual propaganda, Joseph Mailander has been wondering for a while about a blog by some Iraqi brothers which, unlike most of them, has been echoing the American line with remarkable faith. Now that Dubya has personally met with these guys -- passing over, among others, the first Baghdad blogger, Salam Pax -- he's wondering even more. Via Juan Cole.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"notably al-Sadr's militia, who went straight from opposing Saddam to opposing us"

You did the same thing you found the Media did. al-Sadr never opposed Saddam. We loosed the devil from his cage.

10:18 AM  
Blogger charles said...

Most of Muqtada al-Sadr's followers, including (presumably) the bulk of the militia, were formerly followers of Muqtada's father, once the most prominent Shiite cleric in Iraq and a vocal opponent of the Baath regime, who was assassinated by Saddam's agents in 1999, along with two of Muqtada's brothers. Muqtada then went underground, so he doesn't personally have a record of opposing Saddam, but the people in his militia do, as I pointed out.

12:23 PM  

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