Monday, August 29, 2005

Misinformation A Key Asset In War Support

Sunday, the Fox News Sunday program featured two mothers who lost their sons in Iraq. This was deeply sad and I feel terribly for both. The mother who opposed the war was quite articulate in her views. But I was greatly concerned about some some of the misinformation that the mother who supported war believed. And on Sunday, on a religious program, John Hagee also presented some information about Iraq, unfortunately much of it was greatly confused and also contradictory.

Americans certainly have the right to their own opinions, or even bad opinions. But in the case of John Hagee, bad information acts as a recruiting tool for his personal politics. This is not intentional, but the net effect.

The mother who supported the war did so because of a mistaken belief that Saddam Hussein had some connection to Al Qaeda, 9/11 or even Osama Bin Laden, wrong, wrong wrong, on all three counts. And John Hagee presented a greatly confused sermon in which the 12,000 members of the Badr Brigade where presented as terrorists to fight America by Iran. This is not quite accurate. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has trained, supplied and paid the salary for these elite militia fighters to work behind the lines of Iraq to battle Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard during the Iran-Iraq War. The Badr Brigade is a militia that supports the goals of Iran, but is not exactly the same as a terrorist army meant to fight Americans in Iraq, as Badr members are elected officials in Iraq, and opponents of the Sunni minority and the mainly Sunni insurgents. The Badr Brigade is not a desirable organization, armed members recently replaced the secular Mayor of Bagdad in an armed coup. This type of violence is hardly democracy.

And John Hagee presented some claims that Saudi Arabia is sponsoring terrorism. There are problems with this as well. The government of Saudi Arabia has sponsored some religious schools in which some teachers have promoted Islamic extremism, but that is the agenda of individual teachers, and not the intent of the government of Saudi Arabia. And of course most the 9/11 attackers were from Saudi Arabia, yet that is where this cell of Al Qaeda fighters were based, and not some project of the Saudi government. The Saudi government has in fact battled terrorists, which is a true fact that John Hagess did identify.

It is highly unfortunate that many supporters of the war seem to share a variety of misinformation about Iraq, and the Iraq war, and misinformation about terrorism. While the Bush Administration never actively promoted this particular misinformation, it has found this to be a key bedrock of much of the support for the war policy of Bush. And it takes support where it can find it, which is unfortunate, as little effort to educate the public about true facts and information have been undertaken.

But the Administration was hardly better informed about Iraq in many ways. The history of three ethnic groups with no connection forced together by Britain after WWI's victory over the Ottoman Empire was ignored. But now these ethnic tensions manifest itself in the Sunni insurency and strong Sunni objections to the constitution will also likely lead to either civil war or the breakup of Iraq. And the 40 year history of British combat against nationalist insurgent fighters was ignored and the illadvised invasion of Iraq by the U.S. began in 2003.

The father of the current president rejected an invasion of Iraq in one of his books because he knew the difficulty of this effort. But overly optimistic estimates by Donald Rumsfeld and others promoted this war with the wrong equipment, and not expecting the long insurgent conflict of which the Humvees have become a major war liability for the troops. Waging a war in a nation with three dissimilar ethnic groups, and a long history of violence from WWI to the present was absolute insanity. It was unfortunate, but the brutality of Saddam Hussein actually kept the ethnic tensions in check. Now this problem is daily present in the insurgency attacks, violence, carbombings, roadside bombs, hostage taking and other acts.

Misinformation about Iraq got America into this war, and misinformation maintains some public support for the war. And nonsense from the President that we're fighting terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here is merely absurd. Iraq has become a magnet for insurgents from nearly all Islamic states, and a majority in many Islamic states are very antiAmerican in their sentiments. With so much antiAmericanism the likelyhood of another 9/11 attack because of the Iraq War is more likely, not less likely. While Al Qaeda was responsible for 9/11, the attacks in Britain were caused by anti war Pakistani radicals who opposed the British role in Iraq. This alone proves that Islamic terrorism related to the war as well as the old threat from Al Qaeda are now both present. This hardly supports the absurd premise that fighting terrorists in Iraq will prevent more terrorism in the U.S. There is no guarantee from terrorists if, when or where they will strike. They are unpredictable.

America knew little about the history of Iraq, yet blindly trusted a policy from the Bush Administration that was hardly knew much more about Iraq's history. And here we are with all the problems. To paraphrase a famous quote: Those that know very little of history are merely doomed to repeat it.