With the rise of enemy attacks in Iraq, President George W. Bush's administration has complained of biased media coverage. According to his officials and military leaders, the media focus too much attention on deadly attacks against U.S. and coalition forces—and not enough on progress and reconstruction throughout the country. Last fall, General John Abizaid, Commanding General of U.S. Central Command, asserted that the media's focus might create the impression that enemy fighters are stronger than they are in actuality.
The issue of strength—and perception of strength—does matter. Almost certainly, the opposition leaders who direct attacks on coalition forces and their Iraqi supporters are not seeking to win battles. Instead, like the Viet Cong in the 1960s, they seek to erode the will of the United States by creating the impression that its efforts are ineffective and doomed to failure. The media, however, are essential to both sides of the conflict. And it appears the Bush administration is not measuring up in terms of information management. This seems to be another case of shooting the messenger to avoid honest appraisal of how we arrived at this critical point.