Battle for Hearts and Minds

There seems to be an interesting battle ensuing for the hearts and minds of people both in the Middle East and here in the United States. Given the intense political wrangling here in the US, one might easily overlook the fact that ordinary Jordanians are angry at Abu Musab al-Zarqawi because of the use of suicide bombs to kill innocent Jordanians at a wedding party. The protest against the Jordanian native brought out over 200,000 Jordanians indicating a public relations nightmare for the terrorist. Proportionately, this would be equal to over 10 million Americans participating in a protest. It would seem that this rejection of terrorism is a major milestone in the War on Terror yet is has largely passed by unnoticed and unremarked upon in the US press.

In the United States most of the attention this week has been riveted on John Murtha, a representative from Pennsylvania. The former combat hero in Vietnam proposed that we “…immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of US forces.” The press describes Murtha has a “hawkish” Democrat leaving the impression that here is a guy who support the Iraq War all along and has lately become disenchanted

Though Murtha is hawkish in the sense that he is friendly to military procurement, he cannot rightly be called hawkish with respect to this war. Though he, like Senator John Kerry voted for the war, he soon had second thoughts. Murtha even supported Howard Dean so the notion that he has recently become a disillusioned hawk is at best misleading. However, we cannot blame Murtha for this misrepresentation. It is a consequence of the media always wanting to look at war news from a particular perspective. The story line of a war hawk turning on the President is more provocative than just more opposition from a Democrat who has long been against the war.

Murtha is certainly entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts. He suggests that the Americans have become the focus of the insurgents implying that if we withdrew, violence would subside. Though Americans continue to be target, they are hard targets, and insurgents instead are attacking other Iraqis in mosques and market places. Other Iraqis as opposed to Americans appear to be the target of choice. This tactic is not the hallmark of a popular peoples’ movement, but rather the sign of a minority trying to secure power any way it can.

Murtha believes one of two things. He may believe the war has been largely won and if we withdrew troops quickly the Iraqis could take care of their own security. They just need a little push to venture on their own. However, Murtha’s pessimistic assessment that the

“… war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy…”

confirms that this is not his position.

The second alternative is that Murtha believes the war is not going well and cannot be made to go well by changes in strategy. If it is not going well and we withdraw, it is likely that Al Qaeda would control large areas of Iraq and be able to launch future operations. If Murtha counsels withdrawal, then he must be concluding such an outcome is preferable to the current track. Perhaps it is possible to make such a case, but Murtha has a responsibility to explain the consequences of his recommendations.

There are real questions about the appropriate levels of troops or how much to push the Iraqis into more forward positions. Let there be reasoned debate. However, the vitriol spewed by some Democrats, taking the and Michael Moore line, that Bush’s motives were not honorable are making such a debate less possible.

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