Donald Rumsfeld thinks the media is responsible for widespread fears of a civil war in Iraq. Recent polls have shown support for the President and the war in Iraq dwindling, with half of Americans calling for a pullout and eighty percent seeing the sectarian violence leading to civil war. But according to Rumsfeld, polls like these aren’t reliable as long as public opinions is being corrupted by a press that seems “to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.”
Although Rumsfeld did not give specific examples of misreporting, he did hypothesize on the root of the problem: “We do know, of course, that al-Qaeda has media committees. We do know that they teach people exactly how to try to manipulate the media,” he said. “Now I can’t take a string and tie it to a news report and then trace it back to an al-Qaeda media committee meeting. I’m not able to do that at all.”
Actually, this isn’t the first time Rumsfeld has talked about al-Qaeda’s media apparatus. Last month he accused the organization of poisoning Muslim views of the United States through media vehicles like the internet and instant messaging. “Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age, but for the most part we—our country, our government—has not adapted,” he said. “In some cases, military public affairs officials have had little communications training and little, if any, grounding in the importance of timing and rapid response, and the realities of digital and broadcast media.” But if military specialists in public affairs haven’t had training in communications, what is it exactly, that they are trained to do?