The reported “mini-Tet offensive” in Ramadi has turned out to be less than accurate. In fact, it has been anything but. The Associated Press reported a massive citywide insurgent attack, and Reuters and other news outlets quickly picked up on the story.
Captain Jeffery Pool, Public Affairs Officer for the 2nd Marine Division, disputed the claims in the harshest of terms, and rebuked the media for its mis characterization of events. “Today I witnessed inaccurate reporting, use of unreliable sources, media using other media as sources, an active insurgent propaganda machine, and the pack journalism at its worse.”
The underlying story appears to be this: someone distributed film of a few insurgents of some stripe walking down a road and firing a few mortar rounds, along with a story about how the insurgents had taken back the city of Ramadi. This story ran on the major networks. The problem is that when asked about it, the US military in Ramadi said, basically, "what attacks? We've got some operations of our own running, but that didn't happen." As Cori Dauber points out,
Tonight CBS's new glamour girl, Lara Logan, has a piece centered around (well, actually, exclusively composed of) their exclusive acquisition of combat footage from Ramadi, in Anbar province. The footage is from mid-November, and we're told it's from a date when Congressman Murtha was in Iraq (although whether he was in Ramadi, or ever aware of this particular engagement is left ambiguous.) What we aren't told orally (I don't think, I was writing pretty furiously at the time) but what is quickly flashed on the screen is that the source of the footage is Time magazine's Michael Ware.(Emphasis mine.)
But the other reason the story was of interest to me is that it seemed to me that the introduction to the piece (again, ambiguous) was a reference to the bold action taken by insurgents on the streets of Ramadi today. What makes this particularly ironic is that the story on CBS's web site regarding Ramadi is already updated to account for DOD claims (as reported on Fox, but not on their web site that I can see) that the footage available earlier in the day of insurgents brazenly walking about the city streets, and the reports that went with it that they had successfully attacked government buildings, appear now to have been a hoax.
The usual rant here would be to talk about the apparent seditionist leanings of the legacy media — which I'll leave as an exercise for the interested reader — but instead I want to note something else.
This war has apparently gotten to the point that the insurgents don't need to actually do military operations at all in order to produce the information warfare effects they want. It's infinitely much less taxing if you can get coverage of your "massive assault" by producing some home movies that don't even show combat. Or at least, it's much less taxing if you can depend on someone deciding the footage is "too good to check."
I think truepeer's point is made, once again, by this story: there is an information war going on; for whatever reasons, it looks increasingly like the legacy media is on one side, and the people who hope for victory in Iraq and liberty for the Middle East are on the other.