Information Warfare: Why Obama Hustles for Osama


August 16, 2007: The recent comments by U.S. Senator Barack Obama - in which he claimed that American troops are killing civilians, are not the first time such allegations have been made. Nor is the venue that different, either. It seems that one can count on some politicians, in an effort to reach out to potential supporters opposed to certain aspects of the war on terror, to fire off incendiary charges that are often exaggerations.

Senator Obama's claims that American troops in Afghanistan are only killing civilians and launching air strikes on villages came as he was arguing for a pullout from Iraq. As has been the case with past claims of such misconduct, no proof was offered. In fact, videos released earlier in the effort to liberate Afghanistan have shown American efforts to avoid civilian targets (one AC-130 video released early in the war featured the crew noting the presence of a mosque and noting that it was not to be attacked). Moreover, the rate of civilian casualties in the current Iraq and Afghanistan operations are the lowest in history, due to precision weapons, rules of engagements and highly trained troops. But that never gets reported.

Perhaps the first of these false charges came in 2005, when Senator Richard Durbin used FBI memos as the basis of a comparison of guards at Guantanamo Bay to the Khmer Rouge and Nazi Germany. This is despite the fact that out of over 24,000 interrogations, incidents of abuse were rare (32 involving interrogations - 6 of which were corrected on the spot, with the rest dealt with through normal channels). Of the 10,000 troops at Guantanamo Bay, only ten have been disciplined for not meeting standards - and in many of those cases, the otherwise disciplined soldiers had been provoked by the detainees.

In a 2006 press conference, Congressman Jack Murtha claimed that Marines massacred Iraqi civilians in the wake of a bomb attack near Haditha and that it was being covered up. Subsequent investigations not only showed that there was no cover-up, but that there had been no massacre. Indeed, some of the dead were known to be insurgents. Similar claims of a massacre at Jenin in 2002 also were proven to be false.

However, the claims get far more coverage than the results of the investigations. And it is that coverage that does the real damage. Often, comments like those from Obama, Murtha, and Durbin will be given a lot of play without much context, and often without any follow-up. The results of the inevitable investigations, often get buried, usually because finding out that no massacre happened just doesn't lead well.

Worse, in these past cases, no retraction was made after the claims were largely disproven. Al-Qaeda recruiters will be using the video of the allegations to get new recruits to avenge the atrocities that never happened, giving them a chance to make up for losses suffered in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of the global war on terror. - Harold C. Hutchison (


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