A jihadi snuff film produced by an Iraqi group called the Islamic Army of Allah, and aired on CNN and on Wednesday in Israel, shows a jihadi sniper knocking off American soldiers one by one.
Being a propaganda flick whose goal is to demoralize Americans and their
allies and recruit new soldiers to the army of jihad, not surprisingly, the
video doesn't show how the US forces reacted to the sniper fire. The
American forces in the film are powerless victims. If they are smart, they
will cut and run before it is too late.
The video is effective because it effectively tells a complete lie. US forces in Iraq are far from helpless. They have won nearly every engagement they have fought with insurgent forces in Iraq. And their capabilities get better all the time.
Today, the public debate in the US revolves around one question: When are we
leaving Iraq? The conventional wisdom has become that that US operations in
Iraq are futile. Due in large part to politically driven press coverage,
Americans have received the impression that the US cannot succeed in Iraq
and that consequently, their leaders ought to be concentrating their efforts
on building an exist strategy. Comparisons between the war in Iraq and the
Vietnam War are legion.
Last Wednesday, President George W. Bush was asked whether it is possible to
make a comparison between the recent sharp rise in violence in Iraq and the
Tet offensive in Vietnam in January 1968. Bush responded by noting that then
as now, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading
into an election."
During the Tet offensive, the North Vietnamese attacked forty South
Vietnamese villages simultaneously with a massive force of 84,000 troops.
The offensive failed utterly. 45,000 North Vietnamese soldiers were killed,
no ground was taken. Yet, when then US president Lyndon Johnson declared
victory, the American people didn't believe him.
Walter Cronkite, the all-powerful anchorman of the CBS evening news had told
them that the US had lost the offensive. Who was the president to argue with
Cronkite? In March 1968 Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection
in the November election.
So when the media wonders if one can compare the battles in Iraq today to
the Tet offensive, what they really want to know is if they have
successfully convinced the American public that its military has lost the
war in Iraq.
Over the past several weeks, Bush has been waging a political offensive to
convince the public that their military is winning the war in Iraq. On
Wednesday, Bush gave a press conference on Iraq and later reinforced his
message in a meeting with conservative columnists.
Bush made four major points in those appearances. First, he explained that
the US is at war and described the nature of the war. Iran, he said stands
at the helm of enemy forces. Iran's senior role was made clear he said,
through its sponsorship of this summer's Hizbullah and Palestinian war
against Israel. One of Iran's central goals shared with Syria and its
terrorist proxies is to destroy the forces of moderation and democracy in
the Middle East.
Secondly, Bush asserted that Iraq is a vital front in this war. In his view,
the only way the US can lose that war is if it leaves, "letting things fall
into chaos and letting al Qaida have a safe haven." Bush argued that if the
US leaves Iraq, Iraq will come to the US, to Iraq's neighbors and indeed to
the entire world.
Thirdly, Bush argued that the US can only win the war if the American public
supports it. The only way to ensure the public's support is by showing that
America is winning. Bush said that showing success is difficult because
while its benchmarks for victory political freedom, economic development
and social progress are amorphous, "the enemy gets to define victory by
Finally, Bush argued that to defeat Iran, Syria and North Korea, the US must
have international support for its efforts. Countries like Russia, China and
France must understand the dangers and agree to isolate these regimes with
effective international sanctions.
While Bush clearly knows what he wants to do, he is hard pressed to succeed.
Not only are the Democrats and the media trying to undercut him, members of
his own administration and particularly Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice and her colleagues at the State Department are subverting the
For example, there is Alberto Fernandez, the Director of Public Diplomacy in
the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Fernandez's job is to defend the US in
the Arabic media. Yet, in an interview with Al Jazeera last week, Fernandez
said that the US had been "arrogant" and "stupid" in Iraq. In September he
reportedly said that Americans and others "are trying intentionally to
encourage hell in the Arab world."
Then there is Rice herself. Rather than promoting US victories in Iraq, Rice
is turning the Iraqi government into a scapegoat for the ongoing jihad. If
the government doesn't get its act together, she intimates, the US will feel
free to wash its hands of the matter. It won't be a US defeat, but an Iraqi
failure. That is, far from extolling American success, she is paving the way
to justify an American defeat.
At the same time, rather than explain Iran's central role in the war, Rice
courts the mullahs. Ignoring Iran's sponsorship of the Palestinians, Rice
waxes poetic comparing the Palestinians who chose Hamas to lead them
to the American founding fathers and to the civil rights movement.
On Wednesday Bush explained that the relative level of violence is not a
determinate of victory or defeat because the enemy can use ceasefires to
rearm. In his words, "If the absence of violence is victory, no one will
ever win, because all that means is you've empowered a bunch of suiciders
and thugs to kill."
Yet contrary to Bush's clear view on the matter, State Department officials
work around the clock negotiating ceasefires. Indeed, one of the capstones
of Rice's diplomatic efforts is the August ceasefire in Lebanon under which
Israel is prevented from defending itself and Hizbullah is moving swiftly to
rebuild its forces.
In Iraq, this dangerous penchant for negotiations is what enabled Muqtada
al-Sadr's pro-Iranian, pro-Hizbullah Mahdi Army to emerge from its April
2004 offensive against Coalition forces intact and free to become the
powerbroker in Shiite politics that it is today. The fact that Iraqi Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki felt it necessary to condemn the joint US-Iraqi
attack against al-Sadr's forces in Baghdad Tuesday is a testament to al-Sadr's
Today the only high-level US diplomat who believes that the purpose of
diplomacy is to advance US national interests and not to achieve agreements
for their own sake is US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. Just this week
Bolton effectively prevented Venezuela from being elected to the Security
Rice does not support Bolton. According to Senate sources, Rice played a
major role in preventing Bolton from receiving Senate confirmation for his
appointment. As a result, he will likely be forced to leave the UN next
Rice's machinations have made her popular with the media. But her popularity
comes at the expense of public and international support for the US's war
goals. Her actions and those of her State Department colleagues have
contributed to the anomalous situation where while US forces improved their
capabilities in Iraq, the American public became convinced that the war is
going badly. Rather than fearing the US, Iran, Syria and North Korea behave
as though the US is a paper tiger. Rather than support America, European
"allies" increasingly see their national interests best served by distancing
themselves from the US as much as possible.
The situation can be reversed. The media is no longer the power it was in
Cronkite's day. Were the administration to challenge the networks, the
networks would be forced to adjust their coverage to reality.
Last week CNN broadcast the Iraqi sniper video. The Chairman of the House
Armed Services Committee, Congressman Duncan Hunter reacted by blasting the
broadcast and calling for the military to bar CNN reporters from embedding
with US forces in Iraq. Hunter said that by showing the film CNN was
collaborating with America's enemies and consequently, CNN reporters should
enjoy no support from US forces in Iraq. His attacks were widely reported
and there can be little doubt that CNN will think long and hard before
broadcasting another enemy propaganda movie.
For Israel, the results of the American debate over the future of the war in
Iraq are of critical importance. A US retreat will place Israel in grave
danger. The eastern front, whose demise the military "experts" were quick to
announce in 2003 to justify slashing the defense budget, will make a
comeback replete with massive quantities of arms and tens of thousands of
trained jihadi soldiers who will believe that they just won their jihad
against the US. Moreover, if the US retreats, the IDF will find itself
facing a US-armed and trained Shiite army. That is, if the US withdraws,
Israel could potentially find itself facing an enemy force better trained
and equipped than the IDF.
The leaders of the Democratic Party today compete amongst themselves to see
who can be more defeatist. If in the November 7 elections the Democrats take
control of both houses of Congress, or even just one of them, the push for a
US retreat will grow stronger.
Whatever the results of the elections, Israel must hope that for his last
two years in office, President Bush will take firm control of his
administration first and foremost by curbing Rice and her State
Department associates and lead a concerted, unabashed diplomatic and
public opinion offensive.
If Bush does this, he will gain wide public support and sufficient support
from the international community to move ahead in the war. If Bush does not
take control of his administration, the Vietnam War analogy will become an
accurate one for Iraq, and Israel will find itself playing the role of