The media battle space

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch:


I talk about the Zawahiri letter to the point where you might be tired of me talking about it. But there is something that I have not talked about in the last several press conferences that I want to emphasize. In the letter from Zawahiri, the second in command, if you will, of al Qaeda, he told Zarqawi - he says, "Remember, Zarqawi" - he says, "Half the battle is in the battlefield of the media." Half the battle is in the battlefield of the media. The terrorists will use the media as a combat multiplier to hide their limited capabilities. And let me use an example that you're all very familiar with to highlight that point.

You probably know more about this attack than I do, but it's the attack on the Palestine Hotel - carefully orchestrated, synchronized series of attacks with one purpose in mind: massive destructive and large number of civilian casualties - innocent Iraqis, innocent media journalists, innocent contracts (sic) that live at the Palestine. We have never argued that we weren't fighting a thinking enemy, and this complex attack shows, first, the thought that goes into it and, second, the fact that he's totally ruthless.

That afternoon, first, in a Suburban, a VBIED caused a breach in the outer wall, the one that protects that hotel complex, clearly designed to create a gap so a subsequent vehicle could come through. Second vehicle tried to come through, a Cherokee tried to come through, couldn't get through, diverted, and then blew up by the 14th Ramadan Mosque and killed a large number of civilians. And then the third vehicle, a cement truck loaded with explosives, found its way to the breach, made it through the breach, but before it could get to the hotel was stopped by coalition and contract personnel. The intent is clear. VBIED number one breached the barricade. VBIED number two and VBIED number three go through the barricade and blow up inside the hotel to kill as many civilians as possible.

Now why this hotel? Remember, half the battlefield is the battlefield of the media. Find the target where the majority of journalists are living and staying, find the target that already has security cameras all around it that are trained out there continuously so the event can be captured for the world. And as you all know, that's exactly what happened. First explosion, second explosion, cement truck all captured on video because he targeted the place where it would be captured by international media.

Thanks to the professionalism of coalition forces, the Iraqi security forces and the contract guards there at the complex, his intent of killing lots of innocent civilians didn't happen, but it could have easily happened. He was trying to use the media as a combat multiplier to get the world's attention, the focus on the attacks on Baghdad and away from all the progress that's being made across Iraq, take the focus away from the constitution, take the focus away from the fact that there are 207,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security force members, take the focus away of the fact that 120 battalions, army battalions and police battalions, are in the fight, take the focus away from the fact that 30 percent of those battalions are actually in the lead, take the focus away of the fact that 50 percent of the battalions that are in the lead now were not in existence back in July - major progress in the Iraqi security forces. And these kinds of things detract from the good news. So just be aware of that. He's using the media as a combat multiplier. The attack against the Palestine was for that reason.


...Now remember, those were all suicide VBIEDs. And we talk about this time and time again: 90 percent of the suicide bombers are foreign fighters solicited, recruited, trained and equipped by Zarqawi and the al Qaeda in Iraq network. And that particular mission was a mission to use the media as a combat multiplier.

If the media is a force multiplier, the US needs to do more to get its message out. Weekly 30 minute press briefings that do not get a lot of coverage just seems inadequate. During the first Gulf war, the daily press briefings not only help get the message out but also showed how ignorant much of the media was when it came to warfare. We should see more of that.


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