Shaping the Battle Space


Some journalists sneered at my work. The most common criticism was that I lacked objectivity, because I called enemy fighters “terrorists” for murdering civilians, or I openly admitted that I hoped our side would win and Iraq would be free from dictatorship and terrorists.
-Michael Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq, pg 12

The entire article by Lance Fairchok at American Thinker is spot-on excellent, and exactly what I was looking for as an answer to this, which surprisingly seemed to get little media traction. However, I’d like to cite the following passage as a lead-in for a different, if not unrelated topic:

Webster defines propaganda as the “spreading of ideas or information to further or damage a cause,” it is also “ideas or allegations spread for such purpose.” The popular connotation of the word is false information, or information used to deceive or mislead. The left uses the word as a negative label for information that does not conform to their view, a tool to demean and discredit, regardless of truth. Their purpose is to dominate what the public sees with their messages and to eliminate contradictory information.

In information warfare, this is called shaping the battle space.

Throughout this war, the military has been inundated with negative press. Damaging leaks were rampant, coming from the Democrats in the Senate and the House, from the CIA and the State Department, even from inside the Pentagon. Every setback was exaggerated in an unrelenting information campaign to shape public perception.

Disinformation from our enemies was accepted without critical analysis by much of the media. Papers worldwide splashed every unsubstantiated negative story they could find. Enemy agents posing as stringers were feeding false stories about American atrocities. Terror attacks were timed for the 24-hour news-cycle. The broadcast media’s mantra for Iraq was “if it bleeds it leads” writ large.

The enemy knew it, and used it.

This relentless media assault frustrated and confounded the military, for whom the lessons of press malfeasance in Vietnam still rankle. How can you prosecute a war against a vicious enemy when your every action may be portrayed as criminal? How can you show success when failure is all Americans are allowed to see and hear? How do you get your message out when the press ignores or alters it? How can you tell the ground truth if no one is there to listen?

This brings us to today’s New York Times piece, written by Scott Shane, which details some of the little known interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. What is shocking (and yet, why shouldn’t we be surprised?) is the disclosure outing of the name of the 9/11 Mastermind’s interrogator:

Mr. Martinez declined to be interviewed; his role was described by colleagues. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the C.I.A., and a lawyer representing Mr. Martinez asked that he not be named in this article, saying that the former interrogator believed that the use of his name would invade his privacy and might jeopardize his safety. The New York Times, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked undercover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news articles and books, declined the request. (An editors’ note on this issue has been posted on The Times’s Web site at

What is it about today’s press that has impaired judgment, given aid and comfort to America’s enemies, endangered lives, prolonged the conflict, and sabotaged and undermined anti-terror programs by publishing leaks regarding such things as CIA secret prisons, NSA surveillance program, the SWIFT program? Were 32 frontpage stories on abu Ghraib published in the New York Times really warranted? Did the act itself inflame the Arab world and create more terrorists, or was it the media hype about the abuses, which did so? What about Haditha? Who has done more damage to the war effort? Soldiers on the frontlines to win hearts and minds, protesters out on the streets, politicians back in Washington, or perceptions created and driven by the media in its coverage of the war? The Bush Administration is held accountable for its failures in prosecuting the Iraq battle with zero percent casualties; but where is the media accountability?

There’s a reason for classified information and government secrets, aside from cynical conspiratorial beliefs that our government is up to no good, to remain secret from the public (and consequently, from our enemies). Is it not obvious?

From the editor’s note regarding the NYTimes defending its decision to publish KSM’s interrogator’s name:

The Central Intelligence Agency asked The New York Times not to publish the name of Deuce Martinez, an interrogator who questioned Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other high-level Al Qaeda prisoners, saying that to identify Mr. Martinez would invade his privacy and put him at risk of retaliation from terrorists or harassment from critics of the agency.

After discussion with agency officials and a lawyer for Mr. Martinez, the newspaper declined the request, noting that Mr. Martinez had never worked under cover and that others involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda have been named in news stories and books. The editors judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article.

The Times’s policy is to withhold the name of a news subject only very rarely, most often in the case of victims of sexual assault or intelligence officers operating under cover.

Yes, if only he were an “undercover” operative like Valerie Plame Wilson. Then the NY Times would have kept him anonymous. [/sarcasm]

Since I opened this post by citing a passage from Michael Yon’s book I found relevant, let me bookend the post by closing with this passage from Robert Kaplan’s Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts, pg 26-27:

Dekryger showed me the book he was reading, Tarawa: The Story of a Battle by Time-Life correspondent Robert Sherrod. He said that he found the book inspiring. Leafing through it, and reading it carefully at night in the hootch, I discovered that it was like other books popular among marines and soldiers, but which the contemporary media, aside from the military correspondents, were barely aware of. No potboiler, Tarawa was just an old-fashioned sort of book, very much in the tradition of great war reporting as defined by Richard Tregaskis in Guadalcanal Diary, Bing West in The Village, and Harold Moore and Joe Galloway in We Were Soldiers Once…and Young. These books celebrated the sacrifice and heroism of American troops in World War II and Vietnam not because it had been the authors’ intention, but because it was true and happened to be all around them.


Sherrod, like other correspondents of the era, keeps using the words “we and “our” when referring to the American side, for although a journalist, he was a fellow American living among the troops. Back in Honolulu a week after the battle, he found the naïveté of the home front toward Tarawa “amazing”. The public saw the killing of so many troops in so few days as scandalous. There were rumblings in Congress about an intelligence failure, and vows that such a thing must not happen again. But as Sherrod argues, there was no easy way to win many wars (in fact, eight months later, the first day of fighting on Guam would claim nearly seven hundred marines dead, wounded, or missing). Thus, “to deprecate the Tawara victory was almost to defame the memory of the gallant men who lost their lives achieving it.” He concludes that on Tarawa, in 1943, “there was a more realistic approach to war than there was in the United States.”

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Great cartoon. I hadn’t seen that. There is no doubt in my mind that the press and democrats would have lost the war if they could have to appear right in the political games.

VERY well-written piece! Spot on. Bullseye. And now…I have to step to the Devil’s advocate/faux-open-minded-“liberal” position and ask-nay, DECLARE:

The utter and complete failure of President Bush and the Bush Administration to deter and counter the propaganda from the enemy, from traditional media outlets, and from the new media outlets is easily the greatest failure of the Bush Administration. It’s akin to handing over air supremacy to an enemy with a massive bomber fleet. No one holds them to account for the ineptitude and utter failure to counter the prolific flood of disinformation that subverts America’s war effort, and it’s my greatest hope that the next administration will do a better job.

Propaganda must be countered not only by mentioning the truth, but by screaming it out in greater volume than that which the lies are presented. A guilty man might claim innocence, but an innocent one screams to the heavens until the truth is realized. President Bush and his administration have offered wimpers rather than an adequate defense of their actions and policies let alone in defense of those men and women and the families of those who serve and are too often painted as terrorists themselves rather than soldiers and Marines of the United States of America.

Scott said:

President Bush and his administration have offered wimpers rather than an adequate defense of their actions and policies let alone in defense of those men and women and the families of those who serve and are too often painted as terrorists themselves rather than soldiers and Marines of the United States of America.

Dare I say Scott McClellan could have done a better job at promoting our foriegn policy than the White House in general. I loved the quote heard the other day about McClellan had his “fifteen minutes of fame” testifying to congress about everything he didn’t know.

Although this has been GW’s “style” for most of his tenure to remain silent to his critics, this administration has been the very worst at PR. While the nation of Iraq has overcome major obstacles and seems to be on the path of stability, (violent deaths at all time lows), Bush remains silent——go figure?

Scott McClellan is exactly the kind of ineptitude that typifies and symbolizes the Bush Administration’s counter-propaganda efforts. He is the poster boy for failure on that battlefront.

Valerie Plame wasn’t undercover and the CIA asked that there be an investigation which led to the Fitzgerald prosecution witchhunt. Shouldn’t the same standard be applied to the NYTimes willful and admitted disclosure of a CIA agent performing his duties?

Remember the media firestorm that erupted when Plame as named and yet not a peep that the NYTimes can name Martinez?

Martinez’s life has been put at much greater risk than Plame’s ever was.

But this is just the most obvious example of how the media puts U.S. citizens at greater risk. Trumpeting enemy propaganda and highlighting every bad story in Iraq has surely cost the lives of dozens of our soldiers and hundreds of innocent Iraqis by encouraging the enemy.

Wordsmith asks “where is the media accountability?” It is non existent. There is no media accountablity. None. And as long as there is a political party willing to exploit the deaths of Americans for partisan gain, there will be no media accountability. The two go hand in hand.

I’m sorry to say that your assessment of the Bush Presidency is completely accurate in this respect.

FDR had an Office of War Information.

This conflict could possibly have had a faster, less bloody resolution if the management of information and the effective dissemination of the truth had occurred.


You are absolutely correct about the whole NYT business.

There is no question that they have one agenda, and one agenda only.

The best interests of this country are not on the Old Grey Lady’s mind.

Finally, along the same line of media failures, has anyone been reading the blogs and small media stories that have come out regarding the Democrats and their connections to the Banking Industry?

The sweetheart mortgage deals and interconnected monetary donations should be on the front page of every paper and topic of every Sunday morning show. The only reason they aren’t is the letter “D” behind the names of those involved.

Lies must be refuted instantly. When perception becomes reality, perceptions built on lies can become as strong as steel if they are not torn down immediatlyI. have been told by many people that Bush lied etc. at dinners , parties etc. I have challenged the speakers immediately to find the quote wher they claim Bush said Saddam “had weapons of mass destruction”The only I can find is the speech to the nation the day of the Iraq invasion.” We do not know if Saddam has weapons of mass destruction but we know he is working on them and we will not wait until he does have them.” Can anyone cite a Bush quote where he said what the MSM creatures say he said.?

Sorry to say, this is where I part company.

The press has always been this way, from the Revolutionary War to this very day. When the British forces were encircled at Yorktown, the press wondered whether the Continental Army had the ability to defeat them. Their answer, not likely. In the War of 1812, the press openly questioned our ability to defeat the British a second time. They said it was unlikely. With the federal government forced to flee in advance of the British forces, and with the burning of Washington, it was highly unlikely we would be able to prevail. In the Civil War, Lincoln was described as an inept president, changing his generals as much as he shuffled the papers on his desk.

Nowhere in this analysis, is the question broached, suppose the Administration did manage this better, would it have changed anything? The answer is we don’t know. We won’t know because this all falls into the category of “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve,” better known as second guessing. And, our history is replete with this kind of second guessing.

We’ve seen the video clips of practically every Democrat on the record saying Saddam needs to go for reason X, Y, and Z. (It’s in the Congressional Record as well.) We’ve read the stories from the press saying Saddam has this, he has that. CNN cutting a special deal with Saddam to stay in Baghdad. We found steam cleaned artillery shells next door to a chemical plant. We airlifted all of Iraq’s low grade uranium out of the country. We found dual-use chemical weapon precursors in Iraq. We found chemical weapon precursors. The list is lengthy.

If we need to be told this everyday, shame on us for forgetting.

Lest ye all think thaAmendment 56, added to the Defense Authorization Act FY 2009 by Bill Foster (D-IL), was a critter of the left… it was not. And that’s one of my bones of contention with the American Thinker piece, Wordsmith. Lance rails against the DNC for this handcuff of military news.

Might I point out that the oral vote to approve this amendment was 384 to 23. And unless there’s been a lot of GOP resignations of which I’m unaware, the spineless bastards RINOs (feel free *not* to excuse my language…) are steadily shifting left, and being absorbed by the professive/socialist trend running rampid in this country.

Point being… Lance should have been equally bipartisan in his criticism and disgust.

David, I have to take Wordsmith’s side. The press is different today.

The problem is that the confuse objectivity with neutrality. Being objective means that you report the facts as you sees them. But being neutral is different. Neutrality means not caring who wins or loses.

Imagine you’re assigned the task of writing a paper on the holocaust. Your subject is to determine who some Germans became members of the SS. You approach the subject with objectivity, letting the facts you uncover take you where they will, and you set aside your own preconceived notions. But you are certainly not required to be neutral with regard to the holocaust.

So a journalist can be objective without being neutral. Ever since Vietnam, too many journalists think that objectivity demands neutrality. They are wrong.