Once again we are confronted with stories about how the Pentagon and its ubiquitous private contractors are undermining free inquiry in Iraq. "Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda," reports the New York Times. Journalists, intellectuals or clerics taking money from Uncle Sam or, in this case, a Washington-based public relations company, is seen as morally troubling and counterproductive. Sensible Muslims obviously would not want to listen to the advice of an American-paid consultant; anti-insurgent Sunni clerics can now all be slurred as corrupt stooges.
There is one big problem with this baleful version of events. Historically, it doesn't make much sense. The United States ran enormous covert and not-so-covert operations known as "CA" activities throughout the Cold War. With the CIA usually in the lead, Washington spent hundreds of millions of dollars on book publishing, magazines, newspapers, radios, union organizing, women's and youth groups, scholarships, academic foundations, intellectual salons and societies, and direct cash payments to individuals (usually scholars, public intellectuals and journalists) who believed in ideas that America thought worthy of support.
"CA" as in "Civil Affairs" operations are not just the pervue of the CIA. We have entire military units, Civil Affairs units, which do the same sort of thing.
What do think the Voice of America and Radio Liberty are for heaven sake?
All countries have propaganda arms. There is nothing inherently wrong with telling your story through propaganda. But propaganda has a very bad name now due to its misuse by certain regimes in WWII and in the post war era.
We must engage in propaganda which tells the story of democratic ideals, ideas and institutions and couch them in such a way that they're relevant and acceptable to Muslims.
Enter "Muslim scholars" paid to do such work. How, I ask, is this some sort of subversion of "freedom of the press"?
Now don't get me wrong about this article I cite. I use it only to highlight my point. The author (Reuel Marc Gerecht) and I actually agree and you'll see that further on. But I'd be interested, given our history and the history of the rest of the world in this regard, not to mention the necessity why anyone would see these sorts of activities as wrong, subversive or immoral.
So, according to leftists, the Saudis are completely free to spend billions on propaganda for a fundamentalist doctrine that supports stoning gays and "honor killings", but if we spend a few percent of that amount on showing the other side, suddenly we’re contemptible and not to be taken seriously?
This kind of moral equivalency is the biggest reason I stopped taking the left seriously twenty or so years ago. No, our operation in Granada was not equivalent to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Sandanistas were not equivalent to our founding fathers.
And it goes on, throughout their thinking. Reduction in rates of social program increase is not the same as being indifferent to putting people on the streets. Wiretapping foreign suspects who call here is not> the same as Hitler’s SS. And - listen carefully now, Kos fans and others out there on the fringe - about all George Bush and Hitler have in common is that they’re in the same species.
It’s as if these people see only a few shades of black, white, and gray, when the real world is in brilliant color. They’re like those poor folks who can’t see the numbers in the color-blindness tests. To them, those color variations don’t exist. And when the rest of us point and say "Of course that’s a different color!", they still can’t see it!
The difference is that color-blind people cannot learn to see those other shades, because it’s a physiological limitation. Leftists have no such excuse. Some finally get past it. So it can clearly be done. I’d recommend those articles to some of those reader/commenters on this site that lean to the moonbat side of the spectrum.
The problem is that after starting a war by overstating the threat of Saddem Hussein, getting caught torturing innocent people in Iraq, and after voiding the Geneva convention its very hard for us to claim the moral high ground that we had during both the cold war and WWII. We have shot our credibility with both our allies and those in the Islamic community that we wish would stay on the sidelines. Rather than admit our mistakes and clean up our mess, the administration has chosen propaganda. It will convince no one who is not already convinced.
The USSR and the US both used propaganda. Ours had credibility, theirs did not. It was a major factor in the end of the cold war. Without credibility. propaganda just sounds like lies. In WWII and the cold war we learned that human dignity and freedom are strong weapons in the fight against dictatorship. As long as we have an administration that endorses torture and secret prison camps it will be hard for Iraqis to believe us when we say that we are offering a better way. That our president doesn’t need judges to tap our phones or lock us up is a clear sign that they are winning the war to make us more like them rather than them like us.
Our propaganda campaign is wrong because it’s a waste of time and money. It also wastes a tool that could be used to rehabilitate ourselves if and when a new administration tries to fix this mess. This country needs to reestablish its credibilty by living up to our ideals. Until then, the world knows that it is just more BS.
You know, when Truman used the military stick to keep the Greek generals in line. And when he helped forge NATO (notice that the Warsaw Pact was founded AFTER NATO). And when he deliberately dropped the atomic bomb on an already defeated-Japan in order to scare Stalin (see Martin Sherwin’s A World Destroyed).
I thought that the US and the USSR were morally equivalent, with them invading Czechoslovakia and us invading Vietnam, or them invading Hungary and us allowing the UK/France to invade Suez, or them invading Afghanistan and us invading Grenada?
I thought that for all the sins of the USSR, they had free health care and minimal disparities between the classes, while we polluted our air and water, courtesy of rapacious capitalism.
Who knew that, in fact, we were on the right side in the Cold War?
cindy, I realize you mean well, and that you really do think there’s evidence for all that nonsense you’re stating about our credibility.
But consider this. There are several hundred guys down at Gitmo, getting three meals a day, and gaining weight. The worst the media has come up with concerning them is a mythical flushing Korans down toilets pseudo-scandal.
Now here’s the deal. How many of those guys do you think were wearing a uniform when caught? You do realize, don’t you, that according to the Geneva Convention, enemy combatants caught not wearing a uniform can be summarily shot?
So we’re torturing innocents? What innocents? And don’t give me panties on the head stuff - what are we doing that comes within light years of beheading, which we know the terrorists are doing because they’re so proud of it they publish the videos.
Whether you understand what you are doing or not, it’s the same old moral equivalence game that the left has played for decades, examples of which I highlighted in my earlier comment. Like it or not, you are no different from the custard-heads that claimed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was perfectly justified because of our operation in Grenada. ("After all, they’re both invasions, right? Of helpless neighbor countries, right? So they’re really just the same!!")
You claimed our propaganda worked in the Cold War because it was based on reality, but that today’s in not. That’s just 20-20 hindsight. Your leftist forerunners were just as sure in the 80s that our propaganda then was not based in reality - just as you are sure today’s is not. And you are just as wrong now as they were then, because of that color-blindness-type affliction that leftists have called "moral equivalency".
McQ I did not even the previous comments. Why? Because you are absolutely correct. America has used propaganda to fight communism with the concepts of democracy. What is wrong with doing the same in a Muslim country. Even more generous to have Muslim clerics actually do the writing, a religion that is so intolerant of non-believing Muslim and have their clerics write for democratic Iraq is a coup.
I would love to see the part of the Geneva Conventions that states "enemy combatants caught not wearing a uniform can be summarily shot." That would be a real treat!
I also noticed you conveniently leave out the fact that several of our guests in Guantanamo have been on hunger strikes and are being force-fed with nasal tubes. I’m certain that has nothing to do with the stellar treatment they have been receiving down there!
Several people have died in US custody in Afghanistan and Iraq as reported by the media. True, they did not have their heads cut-off; they were just beaten to death over several days. What’s the big deal, right?
AND, I almost forgot the little matter of the plus or minus 30,000 Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the beginning of this fiasco. I’m sure their families would be tickled pink with your moral high-ground.
The reason we have been reduced to paying for propaganda (i.e. lying) in Iraq is that the truth of our actions over there has been one long saga of shame and disgrace.
You can call me a “leftist” all you want. The truth is, I’m a realist and can see what is out right in front of me, in plain sight. This war was wrong from the beginning. The mere fact that our government is paying others to lie about it is surely proof of that.
Buzz, the Geneva Conventions, which I at least have read, provide no protections whatsoever for unlawful combatants, into which category AlQaeda personnel must fall, because they are not lawful combatants. That means they can be killed out of hand, and certainly have no recourse to any rights protected by the Geneva Conventions. There may be very limited circumstances where this does pertain, but it is universally the case for all the AlQaeda personnel I have heard of taken in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you can show otherwise, you’re welcome to.
Remember, among combatant powers in the Western scheme of treaties which have created the modern nation state, there existed the Treaty of Westphalia, since superceded by many other treaties, but otherwise addmitted by precedent to be binding on the United States with regard to the rules of war. Look up the origins of the UCMJ and its evolution. The AlQaeda combatants have placed themselves outside of any treaty protections, they are most closely legally related to pirates.
"I also noticed you conveniently leave out the fact that several of our guests in Guantanamo have been on hunger strikes and are being force-fed with nasal tubes."
So? We have a right to kill them, we have a right to interrogate them, we have a right to keep them alive.
To put it another way, oh waaah!
"True, they did not have their heads cut-off; they were just beaten to death over several days."
And those deaths were investigated as homicides as a general rule. You would prefer we took the US personnel and shot them?
"AND, I almost forgot the little matter of the plus or minus 30,000 Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the beginning of this fiasco. I’m sure their families would be tickled pink with your moral high-ground."
I wish not one Iraqi civilian had been killed in freeing Iraq from Saddam Hussein and his weltanschaung. Of course, 30,000dead for a good reason is much better then the reality Madeline Albright admitted to when she said the sanctions were worth killing 500,000 million Iraqi children. I think the Bush policy represents an improvement by at least 30,000 then.
"The reason we have been reduced to paying for propaganda (i.e. lying)"
You’ll have to prove it’s lying, even in part, instead of telling our side of the story. I don’t expect you can.
"the truth of our actions over there has been one long saga of shame and disgrace"
As history of shame and disgrace which came to a halt when we made the immoral and ineffective sanctions obsolete by overthrowing the Hussein regime. I’m sure that’s what you meant to say.
"You can call me a “leftist” all you want."
You may not be a leftist, you are a fool.
"The truth is, I’m a realist and can see what is out right in front of me, in plain sight."
No, you aren’t seeing what’s in plain sight. We are winning.
"This war was wrong from the beginning."
This war is the riskiest but smartest, highest payoff strategy we could have adopted in the overall conflict against wahhabist terror. In overthrowing Hussein, it will produce the most positive improvement in the common human condition of any of our actions on the world stage, comparable with seeing to the end of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Axis powers in WWII.
"The mere fact that our government is paying others to lie about it is surely proof of that."
And even if you could prove lies as opposed to merely a point of view you disagree with, then I’d still wonder why you wouldn’t think propaganda a perfectly fair tool to use in war.
Remember Rosie the Riveter? By your standards, that propaganda meand we were using morally corrupt means to fight WWII.
R. Liberty, VOA, and R.Marti are not properly called propaganda stations, per se’, but rather COUNTER- propaganda stations. In those situations, the statins are attempting to get a message to counter the propaganda already been forced on them in an ostensibly closed envionment.... Cuba, for example. the
At least in terms of news content, the slant heard is not a great deal different from what would be heard on, say, Fox. Voice of America does run it’s own news service, which is available on the web... I’ve cited it as a source in a number of my postings.
This war is the riskiest but smartest, highest payoff strategy we could have adopted in the overall conflict against wahhabist terror.
Doubtful - a superpower fighting a religion proffered by a few third world dictators, cannot claim any high payoff if the war is still in progress five years later. A more high risk/high reward strategy would have been invading Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia (all the Islamofacists) - it would have had the biggest payout of all ending wahhabism at once. The strategy as adopted is limited risk, exposing America only to low and acceptable annual rate of casualties, in a war that will be fought for a long time.
In overthrowing Hussein, it will produce the most positive improvement in the common human condition of any of our actions on the world stage, comparable with seeing to the end of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Axis powers in WWII.
Saddam was just one of a set of islamofacist dictators, several of whom still exist. Destroying his regime has been like capturing Iwo Jima or defeating Mussolini, an important stepping stone, but it hasn’t actually won the war.
"Doubtful - a superpower fighting a religion proffered by a few third world dictators, cannot claim any high payoff if the war is still in progress five years later."
Sure. The source of the problem is a culture 1500 years old, and were in trouble because we haven’t eradicated it in 5 years and may not be done in 50.
"A more high risk/high reward strategy would have been invading Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia (all the Islamofacists) - it would have had the biggest payout of all ending wahhabism at once."
It isn’t high risk to attempt something that can’t be done. Politically, that was not possible. It flat wasn’t happening.
You’re serious aren’t you? You think we should have attempted to take the entire ball of wax? I think its interesting that Pakistan, with its madrassas and nukes, is not on your list. Do you htink their nukes would have stayed out of play? You think several American cities lost in the space of year or so is worth your strategy? You realize we could not hope to pacify such an area unless we simply killed anything that moved? That we could not occupy it. That the rest of the world, in the state its in, would isolate us if we did that.
Sure. The source of the problem is a culture 1500 years old, and were in trouble because we haven’t eradicated it in 5 years and may not be done in 50.
The preferred term is pacify. Eradication is impossible, pacification like is happening to the homegrown insurgency in Iraq is apparently possible.
I think its interesting that Pakistan, with its madrassas and nukes, is not on your list.
Pakistan is not (to best of my knowledge) sending terrorists or arming terrorists in Iraq.
Do you htink their nukes would have stayed out of play?
Yes. They have so far.
You’re serious aren’t you? You think we should have attempted to take the entire ball of wax?
For a long time yes, I saw your size, your military strength and the brilliance of your soldiers. I thought if they wanted to they could do this. But now I see your democracy as too risk sensitive to fight this way.
However even though you did not attack that list of countries you are fighting them in Iraq. You will continue to fight them in Iraq, until they are forced to give up or you give up. They will give if you make them pay a high enough for their actions. And you will give up if they make you pay too high a price for your actions. I think it is required that you take the fight to them, into their territories, otherwise they will wait you out and in the end the losses you sustain will not seem worth it. So eventually you will have to attempt "the entire ball of wax", albeit much more cautiously.