|June 9, 2006|
The Elimination of Zarqawi - A New Episode of the Media War
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
New York, New York June 9, 2006: Timing is everything. To the managers of the Iraq War, perception has always trumped reality. From the beginning it was a war of media stunts—the attempt to assassinate Saddam with 50 cruise missiles before the invasion, the Shock and Awe, the bringing down of the statues, Jessica Lynch, Saddam in the hole, the purple fingered Iraqi voters and many other events staged for media consumption.
The essence of information/media warfare is to seize the advantage, frame the story, and capture the audiences’ imagination. It's been a key part of modern warfare from the set-up flags of Iwo Jima in World War 2 to that not so safe house in Baquba in Iraq.
And now we have the bloodied head of the feared Zarqawi displayed on TV by the very military that will not allow us to see the American dead coming home. He was brought down by not one, but two, 500-pound bombs, in an operation that CNN tells us cost $500,000 and has been underway for months.
What a coup! What a show! And what an event for Iraqi “leaders” to show-off with using terms like he has been “eliminated.” Within hours, the more polished US military spinmeisters were showing the airstrikes at a press conference, declaring a “major victory” and pronouncing another “turning point.”
Think also of the timing. Yes, they think about timing all the time. Timing is, as I have said, everything. A day earlier The NY Times had the defeat of the CIA-backed warlords in Somalia on page one. The day and week before, it was All the Haditha, All The Time, with many commentators like Paul Rogers, to cite one example, arguing that responsibility for the crimes and the cover-up goes way up the chain of command.
At the Pentagon, this was seen as not good. Not good at all. In fact, a very public opinion-conscious administration was aware, had to be aware, that a new AP poll was coming out reporting that well over 50% of the American public was sick of the war.
“The poll, taken Monday through Wednesday before news broke that U.S. forces had killed al-Zarqawi, found that 59 percent of adults say the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq — the highest level yet in AP-Ipsos polling.”
How do you get those folks back on the proverbial reservation? How do you turn around such a public relations disaster?”
The answer: feed the public a very public miracle, something to wave the flag about again.
What better time to pull a rabbit out of the hat and dominate the news cycle by burying the bad news with spectacular good news right out of Mission Impossible? It’s time to trot out the oldest of PR formulas called “change the subject.”
Yesterday morning, they changed it, with AP reporting:
According to Raw Story, the hunt for Zarqawi had been underway for a long time, a fact, of course, disclosed way after the fact.
HMMMM…..Isn’t “Gray Fox” a perfect name in the age of Fox News?
So the military likely new where he was in early May. (“Vee have ways of getting you to talk!”) But rather then reeling him in then, they waited for a more opportune moment in order to maximize the impact. A more opportune time like June 8!
Significantly, the “good guys” moved just as a trifecta of bad news stories was souring the public on the War on Terror.
Their new message of the day quickly became “Gotcha,” recalling L. Paul Bremer’s announcement of the capture of Saddam with an upbeat, “We got him.”
WILL THE TIDE TURN?
The implication, of course, echoed on every major media outlet, is that now the tide will turn.
No one remembered or mentioned an NBC story aired on March 2, 2004, that reported the Administration had three opportunities to kill Zarqawi and didn’t. NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski revealed back then:
The unquestioned assumption in the mainstream is that Zarqawi is Al Qaeda, and since everyone hates Al Qaeda, with him out of the way peace is at hand, the insurgency will be history and Iraqi Freedom will arrive at last.
Not so fast.
Professor Juan Cole who knows more about Iraq than any ten TV journalists was quick to point out:
The key words again: “just a sort of branding,” just another way of saying that show biz has infiltrated news biz with Zarqawi playing the role of the evil pirate that everyone can blame for any crimes they want. In fact, as Mazin Qumsiyeh, a Middle East Human rights activist, points out, the press has distorted his relationship to the resistance:
The Nation’s David Corn also argues the resistance will fight on:
On the right, the news rapidly became grist for talking points in the ditto head echo chamber. Here’s a smirking comment in a blog called Red State:
What about the tipping point argument? Malcolm Kendal Smith in England writes:
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?
These events and the continuing horrors there may not mobilize a war weary country as Bob Herbert noted in The NY Times.
And no facts, no revelations, no exposes will dislodge the hard core pro-war ideologues for whom no crime cannot be excused or ignored. Here’s Gordon Sawyer writing on a website in Georgia excusing the atrocities in Haditha.
Gordon is no doubt happy today with Zarqawi the horrible out of the way.
Unfortunately, whether he likes it or not, the bloodshed and the war will continue, and those who committed crimes there, on all sides, will eventually, Jesus, Moses and Allah willing, be brought to justice.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
News Dissector Danny Schechter is the blogger in chief at Mediachannel.org. His latest book is When News Lies, about the war and media coverage. See www.wmdthefilm.com. Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org
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