WEEK 43: The yellowed journalism of Iraq paints the Coalition as part of the problem. We should speak up for ourselves lest we cede everything to the politicians.
The Marxist and Me
Saddam kept the society ignorant – The Marxist
The Marxist inhaled on his cigarette. “The image of the American soldier is damaged,” he stated. “The people do not understand why you are still here. I am against America having to be in Iraq, but America must stay in Iraq.”
I have come to a similar conclusion with regards to our message. We do our best to put an Iraqi face on any progress while certain Iraqi leaders we support are stabbing us in the back. This was no sudden revelation.
An Iraqi politician told me our messages are sandwiched in between anti-Coalition Forces news and slander.
This gentleman is the leader of a small party within the Council of Representatives. He advised me to have moderate Iraqi leaders extol the efforts of Coalition Forces.
We have seen indications of Iraqis standing up for the Coalition. During a recent visit to tribes in Taji, Governor Tahan asked the Iraqis what they have done to help themselves instead of asking the Coalition for help. This week a Taji sheik acknowledged the Coalition providing resources and sacrifices. We have also seen the people in Ghaziliya make a banner supporting us. Still, we don’t see or hear it enough.
A reporter, Hadi, told me a few weeks ago that the Coalition has become disconnected from the Iraqi media since the untimely demise of the Baghdad Press Club. The US media had misrepresented the Baghdad Press Club.
While we are improving our coordination with Iraqi media, both sides can do more to ensure we get the moderates to report on our operations. Otherwise, we are left with Iraqiya, the now Sadrist and Dawa infested media outlet the US helped establish, reporting their agenda.
As if to underscore a previous point made to me by an Iraqi politician about anti Coalition news, Al Furat broadcasted a story on Abu Nuwas accusing the Coalition of interfering with progress. The piece said the Coalition didn’t want to open security to Abu Nuwas. It didn’t mention the Coalition funded most of the renovations. Al Furat is sponsored by one of the parties we helped put in power: the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, akaSCIRI.
The politician told me we needed more apolitical outlets to serve as our platform. The Marxist is telling me the same. The Coalition needs an outlet to inform the Iraqi people on all of its efforts. The Iraqi people are not exposed anymore to democratic values. The Marxist wants to reconnect the Iraqi people with reason and logic.
The religious extremism purported by Jaysh al Mahdi and Al Qaeda is sucking the life out of Iraq. “Jaysh al Mahdi is a historical lie,” the Marxist continued, “It is an advanced Iranian project.” The educated, says the Marxist, cannot understand why the US is meeting with Iran if Iran is the most dangerous threat to Iraq. Also, the Iraqis rarely hear of the US arresting anybody. Our detainee policy is obviously affecting our ability to communicate to the Iraqis.
We have to find other ways to communicate.
When I showed him the Coalition activities with security volunteers in Ameriyah and Ghaziliyah, the Marxist remarked on how good the efforts were and how the storyboard was a good way to show our progress.
After commenting last week on how we need to take some of the credit for improvements in essential services and economic revival, I find the Marxist is agreeing with me. The former Mukhabarat lieutenant colonel under Saddam Hussein wants the coalition to speak up for itself. The man, who was given a made up title in the Baath Party, so Saddam could use his skills, wants to help the Coalition.
Of course, he could be lying or exaggerating. I should keep this in mind. Just as we reconcile with former tribal leaders who endorsed attacking us or with former insurgents who did attack us, so must we reconcile with potential political adversaries.
In the past month, I have had three different Iraqis tell me the Coalition needs to communicate better with the Iraqi people. Three years ago, all of the individuals had or were part of a successful media industry. Today, they are virtually out of business but have the same message.
In the interest of reaching the greatest audience, we have stopped funding some of the non-partisan media outlets and instead funded those who we put in power.
Those who we support are undermining us with the information outlets we implicitly support. While we remain fixated on the US reaction to General Petraeus’ report, the most important audience is trying to tell us something.
Perhaps they just want money. Perhaps they are just exercising old fashioned capitalism. But maybe – just maybe, the feet of Al Qaeda and Jaysh al Mahdi have been lifted off the Iraqis throats’ just enough to allow them a brief call.