Loathsome Iraqi TV was not attacked until yesterday – here’s why:
- in this conflict the first strikes against Iraq’s television did not occur until early Wednesday, almost one week into the war and even then forced only a temporary disruption in the government’s programming.
The Bush administration’s decision not to attack Iraq’s television broadcast capabilities at the outset of this war is a telling one. It seems to reflect the calculation that Mr.. Hussein’s regime was so brittle it would quickly fall. Bush planners appear to have left television off the initial target list because they wanted to use it to administer Iraq immediately after the war and to limit the damage to civilian infrastructure.
….There are, in fact, two parallel battles underway. One is the intense assault American forces are mounting to set themselves up for a drive to Baghdad to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime. The other, and equally critical, is the struggle to secure the support of Iraqi citizens. The military has a name for its campaign to win over the Iraq population It is called. “I.O” for “information operations.” The problem is that during the initial days of the war Mr. Hussein’s “I.O.” has been beating the allied “I.O.”
Civilian policy makers in Washington seem to have assumed allied forces would be greeted by cheering Iraqis. Instead, much of Iraq has remained under the thumb of Mr. Hussein’s Special Security Organization, Baath party militia and paramilitary units like the fedayeen. There have been some disturbances in Basra but as yet no mass uprisings in the southern cities as occurred in the wake of the 1991 Gulf war
There are several reasons for this turn of events.
….A third factor, however, was the Bush administration’s decision to leave Iraqi television on the air during the first days of the war. That enabled the regime to get out its message: that Saddam Hussein is in control and defending the people of Iraq against a foreign invader. A telling example occurred this week when Iraqi television portrayed the downing of a United States Army Apache helicopter late Sunday as a valiant defense by Iraqi farmers. In fact, Iraq cleverly used a fusillade of small arms fire to defend against the “deep attack” by the helicopters and will force the Army to rethink its approach. But it was hardly a defensive effort by a group of farmers.
….There may have been some justification in holding off on attacking the television for a day or so to see if Mr. Hussein was still alive or had been killed in the initial cruise missile strike that opened the war. But the wait dragged on. The Tomahawk strikes against Iraq’s television station was a belated effort to stop Mr. Hussein from sending out a competing message.
The medium is the message. And during the early days of the war that medium has been used by Mr. Hussein to send a message to many Iraqis that their absolute ruler is still in charge. [NY Times]