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How the Party of Defeat Lost Fallujah By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 17, 2008


A NEW ASSESSMENT PRODUCED BY THE U.S. ARMY HAS FOUND THE MILITARY’S FIERCEST FOES DID NOT RECEIVE THEIR TRAINING from al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, or Hezbollah, but from Harvard University, the Columbia School of Journalism, and the New York Times editorial board.

 

An assessment produced by analysts at the U.S. Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) has found the hardest-fought battle of the Iraq War, the siege of Fallujah in April 2004, was lost not on the battlefield but in the court of public opinion. The authors called media coverage “crucial to building political pressure to halt military operations,” in the Arab world and within Coalition member nations. The report stated:

 

The outcome of a purely military contest in Fallujah was always a foregone conclusion – Coalition victory. But Fallujah was not simply a military action, it was a political and informational battle...The effects of media coverage, enemy information operations, and the fragility of the political environment conspired to force a halt to U.S. military operations.

 

Specifically, the report mentioned false claims of civilian casualties, singling out Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah footage. “Children were shown bespattered with blood; mothers were shown screaming and mourning day after day.” Leaked anonymously on the internet, the United Press International (UPI) news service reports that it has confirmed the Army report’s accuracy. It confirms the thesis of the book David Horowitz and I wrote together, Party of Defeat: that the most effective efforts against the war have emanated from American politicians and journalists.

 

Phony Atrocities, on Al-Jazeera and ABC

 

These false atrocities gave impetus to a new round of recruitment for worldwide jihad. The Supreme Mufti of Saudi Arabia called on his followers to “send hundreds of fighters to participate in the ongoing battle in Fallujah.”

 

Although these stories originated with Middle Eastern media, they spread worldwide. The Knight-Ridder service, for instance, reported:

 

On television, the children are unmoving, dead in the streets, blood pooling and spreading underneath them.

 

On radio, announcers accuse Americans of attacking helpless civilians, not even allowing them to move for treatment of their bullet wounds.

 

In newspapers, the stories ask if the deaths of perhaps hundreds of innocent civilians is not a greater crime than the horrific deaths and mutilations of four Americans… There is no official toll of dead and wounded Iraqis in Fallujah since the U.S. Marines began trying to take control of the town four days ago. Estimates range as high as 450 deaths and more than 1,000 wounded.

 

Code Pink announced that it commissioned a video produced by Iraqi “filmmaker” Homodi Hasim, intended “to record the destruction and death inflicted by the American assault.” It presents imperialist American soldiers occupying an Iraqi school, as mothers wail for their missing toddlers.

 

The left-wing blogosphere amplified the story. Longtime “unbiased” journalist Helen Thomas alleged, “Once the offensive was under way, many Americans were appalled to learn that among our first major targets were the hospitals in Fallujah.”

 

Similarly, left-wing bloggers and the elite media cast contempt upon the four American contractors whose murdered and charred bodies had inspired the U.S. military response. Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of the DailyKos wrote tersely, “Screw them.” Other Democratic commentators fumed:

 

“These swine were MERCENARIES. Paid Hessians. Murderers for hire. They're worse than Al-Queda. [sic.] At least Al-Queda is fighting for a cause.”

 

“The beer is on me.”

 

“[T]hey are thugs and hoodlums, working outside the boundaries of the law. And yesterday the Resistance got even with 4 of them in a barbecue ceremony, that alas pushed the bounds of good taste.”

 

“These men are just serial killers with a good retirement plan. They deserve what they get.” 

 

“Mainstream” reporting was barely distinguishable. Time Magazine’s Tony Karon portrayed the situation thus:

 

Part of the Fallujah incident's impact came from the fact that most of the media chose to describe the four civilian victims as “contractors,” a word that conjured an image of engineers helping to rebuild the shattered country. In reality they were hired guns, former U.S. special forces guys subcontracted by the military to provide security for convoys resupplying a base – testimony, perhaps, to a military personnel shortage in Iraq being addressed through outsourcing.

 

As a result of intense pressure created by erroneous atrocity stories, Coalition forces entered a hasty ceasefire on April 9. Instead of ending the “insurgency” of Saddam loyalists, foreign jihadists, and Iraqi radicals led by Muqtada al-Sadr, the Coalition quietly backed away and allowed the fundamentalists to consolidate their reign of theocratic terror in the city. Violent intimidation of its citizens became de rigeur. During the month-long U.S. siege, Fallujah experienced five bombings; in next two months, under brokered independent rule, it suffered more than 30.

 

No Excuse for Western Media: the Real Abu Ghraib Scandal

 

Some would cite a single sentence in this report to absolve the Western media: “False allegations of non-combatant casualties were made by Arab media in both campaigns [April and November 2004], but in the second case embedded Western reporters offered a rebuttal.” However, the Western media is as guilty, if not more so, than the media in Muslim nations for several reasons. As noted, Western media repeated these tales of American evil in April 2004 – and, despite occasional “rebuttal,” they emphasized atrocities again in November 2004. But the NGIC report did not simply chalk up the loss in Fallujah, and low morale in general during 2004, to reports of atrocities in the Arab media.

 

The NGIC assessment found the publication of the Abu Ghraib “torture” (read: prank) pictures, a major focus of U.S. media coverage of Iraq in April 2004, “further enflamed a politically precarious situation and could not have happened at a worse time.” As David Horowitz and I noted in our book, the overhyped Abu Ghraib story broke on the now-canceled CBS series 60 Minutes II on April 28, 2004. Following this revelation, “The New York Times features the story on its front page for 32 days.” The Times proceeded to make this its all-encompassing narrative: U.S. soldiers cum sadists running wild over Iraq. As we wrote:

 

Comparing the incident to such real atrocities as My Lai and Saddam’s own crimes, the Times ran at least one front-page story about the Abu Ghraib incident every day for thirty-two days in a row, and more than sixty days total. This set the standard for the rest of nation’s press, which was accustomed to following the Times’s lead. It was exactly the kind of psychological-warfare campaign that would normally have been conducted by an enemy propaganda machine. (p. 107.)

 

The Party of Defeat Enters the Fray

 

As we document, leftist politicians then formed a tight echo chamber with the media, each quoting the other as moral authority. Ted Kennedy took the Senate floor to declare, “Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management.” Al Gore soon “stood before another MoveOn.org audience denouncing the prison as 'an American gulag…Bush’s gulag.'” (p. 107). These comments circled the globe via the mass media. Yet the government panel that found these incidents were singular, that no one in the chain of command had authorized such techniques, and that the vast bulk of U.S. soldiers continued to acquit themselves honorably received no megaphone. The Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations, headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, had investigated the Abu Ghraib incident and found, “No approved procedures called for or allowed the kinds of abuse that in fact occurred. There is no evidence of a policy of abuse promulgated by senior officials or military authorities.” As we note in our book, “Two days after the findings were released, [2004 Democratic Party presidential nominee John] Kerry renewed his call for [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld’s resignation ‘for failure to do what he should have done’ at Abu Ghraib” (p. 108).

 

Pro-terrorists reporters announced to the world that Ohio was not the only “battleground” area interested in the 2004 election. According to one BBC and Reuters “journalist” – who defended the butchering of U.S. contractors in Fallujah as “inevitable” because of “repeated American provocation” – the citizens of Fallujah were pulling for Kerry/Edwards ’04. Fadhil Badrani reported, “[A]s far as our city is concerned right now, a Kerry victory would have brought some hope.”

 

However, John Kerry did not win, and with the election behind him, President Bush sent fresh troops back into Fallujah, this time to clear it. In the November campaign, Badrani’s allegations of Americans targeting Fallujah’s hospitals were cited by Nation Magazine. Other stories, other voices, remained without amplification. Many residents did, in fact, greet U.S. troops as liberators. One elderly resident of Fallujah said, “I wish the Americans had come here the very first day and not waited eight months.” Another told Agence France-Presse, “We suffered from the bombings. Innocent people died or were wounded by the bombings. But we were happy you did what you did, because Fallujah had been suffocated by the Mujahadeen. Anyone considered suspicious would be slaughtered. We would see unknown corpses around the city all the time.”

 

These corpses inspired the American Fifth Column – to assist those who produced them. Not content to help with propaganda, after this eventual defeat, some gave direct aid and comfort to the enemy. In late December 2004, members of the far-Left group Code Pink delivered $600,000 in cash and supplies to (in their words)  “the other side” in Fallujah. Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman, a member of the Progressive Caucus, which collaborates with the Democratic Socialists of America, gave the delegation a letter assuring its passage into the recent combat zone. It is inevitable these supplies fell into terrorists’ hands.

 

Media False Prophets on the Fall of Fallujah

 

These Islamic atrocity stories only made headlines when they would depress American fighting morale. In addition to distorting U.S. war policy, the elite media made embarrassing projections about Iraq’s future based on the damage its Fallujah and Abu Ghraib reporting had done. On May 25, 2004, the Associated Press ran a story by Hamza Hendawi headlined, “Fast Resembling an Islamic Mini-State, Fallujah May Be Glimpse of Iraq Future.”

 

Mickey Kaus asked in Slate if America had encountered:

 

The grimmest lesson of Fallujah? Will any democratic government we could conceivably leave behind in Iraq be strong enough to stop Sunni towns like Fallujah--filled with well-armed, well-trained America-hating young men--from becoming ongoing hotbeds of terrorist plotting? The lesson of recent events in Iraq would seem to be a pessimistic one in this regard. (You'd need a strong, non-American military force able to thoroughly police Fallujah and Tikrit. But the Iraqi national forces haven't exactly proven to be a mighty hammer. And the Sunnis, in a loose federal system, seem unlikely to want to crack down on their own.) ... That's true even if the Marines are able to completely clean out the current Fallujah “vipers' nest”--something that also looks increasingly unlikely, given the political pressure for a cease-fire...It means that the Iraq War--even if we basically succeed in nation-building--could result in the creation of a new series of towns that --like the towns on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border--are a terrorist Petri dish. If that's the outcome, then in one respect at least we will have succeeded in replacing one terror threat (Saddam) with another, no? (All emphases in original.)

 

Again, the political Left chimed in. Ted Kennedy cited Fallujah, even after its eventual pacification, in his opposition to President Bush’s surge policy. In the midst of April 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, famously sought after defeat, saying, “The war is lost, and the Surge is not accomplishing anything.” Just months later, the combined leadership of the Democratic Party, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, declared, “the escalation has failed to produce the intended results.”

 

However, the reality is manifest. Fallujah has been cleared of terrorist. This July, a Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in the former terrorist hotbed. U.S. Marines left Fallujah last week, with their military base demolished behind them. They spent much of the early fall removing barbed wire from the city’s streets in a mission they called “Operation Rudy Giuliani.” (No, The Weekly Standard coin the term on its parody page.)

 

America’s military is the most effective fighting force in the world, unable to be contained by anything except civilian mismanagement and media manipulation. However, Operation Rudy Giuliani could have taken place months sooner without the media’s sabotage – the very sabotage David Horowitz and I wrote about in Party of Defeat. All of the intervening set-backs – Americans asking peace terms of al-Sadr with hat-in-hand, the seven-month terror theocracy, the rearmament the Mahdi Army undertook between April and November, and the delivery of supplies to the enemy – could have been alleviated had Americans finished the job in April 2004.

 

We Hate to Say We Told You So: Proof of Our Thesis in Party of Defeat

 

As we wrote in one of our central theses in Party of Defeat:

 

To destroy the credibility of the commander-in-chief while his troops are in battle is to cripple his ability to support them and to win the war they are fighting. For this reason, throughout the history of armed conflict, a united home front has been an indispensable element of victory. For the same reason, a principal aim of psychological-warfare operations has been to target the credibility of the enemy’s leaders and the morality of the enemy cause…

 

This book is about unprecedented attacks on an American president and a war in progress. It is about the impact of a divided national leadership on the prosecution of the war. It is an attempt to understand the defection of leaders from a war they supported and from a national purpose they presumably share. (pp. 8, 12).

 

The NGIC report proves the desperate wrong turns the Western media – and the Democratic Party’s antiwar Left – took in destroying the credibility of the commander-in-chief, the U.S. military, and the American cause while opposing this war. It was our fighting men and women who had to pay the cost, with their blood.


Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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