Thursday, May 20, 2004

For the Media, Hopes of Another Tet Offensive In Iraq

The media is at war with the war in Iraq. What began as a small battle involving a few rogue journalists has exploded into a full scale media assault. The media is, of course, most effective at psychological operations. They are able to make the public see victories as losses, the actions of a handful of soldiers as corruption at the core of the entire military and administration, the discovery (and use by terrorists) of WMD as unimportant, and the prospects of a free country in the middle east as impossible and not worth the effort. All of this despite the facts on the ground in Iraq telling a different story. This is particularly impressive considering it is less than three years since the attack that started the war against which the media is currently pitted. However, today's "journalists" were taught by the original members of the media military, those who were able to turn the resounding military victory in the Tet Offensive into the defeat that essentially lost the war in Vietnam. In fact, the events on the ground in Vietnam at the time of the Tet Offensive were very similar in some aspects to the current situation in Iraq. The following summary was taken from Vietnam-war.info:

The Communist forces had taken a series of military defeats. The US/ARVN forces had pacified much of the south by the end of 1967 (222 out of 242 provinces). Operation Junction City (February-March 1967) and other sweeps had seriously disrupted NLF activity in the south and forced the COSVN into Cambodia.

At a July 1967 meeting the Communist Party leadership recognized their failures and decided to re-orientate their operations to target two key political weaknesses. Firstly, the deep gulf between the US public and the US government over support for the war and its actual progress. Secondly, the tensions existing between the US military and their Vietnamese allies.

The leadership decided to concentrate on a few high profile operations, that would take place in the public (and the US media) eye rather than fighting the conflict away from major urban centres. This would bolster Northern moral, possibly inspire uprisings in the South and provide the impression, and hopefully the reality, that the US/ARVN were not winning the war and it was likely to be a long time before they did. The new policy also marked a victory for the 'hawks' over the 'doves' in the Communist Party leadership, in late 1967 around 200 senior officials were purged.


Today in Iraq, both the North and the South of the country are relatively pacified with the strongest resistance in the Sunni triangle. The terrorists have embarked on a new strategy, outlined in Abu Zarqawi's letter to OBL discovered in January. This new strategy closely follows the strategy employed by the Communists in Vietnam, as outlined above. Where the terrorists today in Iraq are conducting public, high profile operations like cutting the head off of Nick Berg on camera and killing the rotational head of the Iraqi Governing Council, the Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive. The Tet Offensive was a resounding military defeat for the Communists:

The NLF and the NVA lost around 35,000 men killed, 60,000 wounded and 6,000 POWs for no military success. The US and ARVN dead totalled around 3,900 (1,100 US). But this was not the conflict as the US public saw it. Without there being an active conspiracy the US media reports were extremely damaging and shocked the American public and politicians. Apparently the depth of the US reaction even surprised the North Vietnamese leadership, as well as delighting them.

But the desired effect was achieved. The media took photos from the battle and turned the American victory into defeat. This is taking place today as illustrated in this OpEd in today's USA Today. Compare that to this
account of the facts on the ground written by Maj. Ben Connable of the 1st Marine Division in the same paper yesterday.

The media military has a good chance of winning, just as they did in Vietnam. The first major step toward victory would be the election of John Kerry as President. John Kerry promised yesterday to pull our troops out of the "Death Zone" of Iraq before the end of his first term, much like we pulled the troops out of Vietnam before the job was finished. After the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, the United States refused even aid to the South Vietnamese when the North broke the Paris accords in 1975 and invaded, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing just as many. Interestingly, at the head of the movement in America to withdraw troops from Vietnam and to refuse aid to the South was John Kerry. It seems that in his entire political career this is the one area in which he has been consistent.