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Is this a Mogadishu moment in Iraq?

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted April 12, 2004

"We have a media determined to find imagery that will define Iraq, in the same way they used pictures of a napalmed girl, and of a street execution, to define Vietnam -- with complete indifference to the larger truth. To put no finer point upon it: How does Western Civilization defend itself against such an enemy within?" - Journalist David Warren, Ottawa Citizen

It was certainly devastating that four American security contractors were ambushed and murdered in Fallujah recently. But with a gleeful mob then desecrating their bodies -- pulling them from their burning vehicle, hacking off body-parts, parading their remains before the cameras and hanging them from a bridge -- it was all too reminiscent of events in Mogadishu, Somalia during the Clinton years.

And if that wasn't enough, the Fallujah rioting has now spawned a two-front battle with both Sunni "Saddam loyalists" and Shiite rabble-rousers perpetrating serious attacks upon coalition forces in a variety of Iraqi locations. Although the1st Marine Expeditionary Force was brought in to clamp-down on the former elements of the Ba'athist regime in Fallujah, the Sunni insurrection quickly spread to al-Ramadi. These Sunnis are reportedly "militarily trained", probably remnants of Saddam Hussein's army, and have killed at least a dozen American soldiers in the past day alone. The radical Shiites are apparently not as well trained, but pose a notable threat nonetheless, given their proclivity to stir-up and incite other Shiites against coalition forces. Under the leadership of a young Shiite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, the "Mahdi militia" is creating civil unrest and striking out against coalition troops in Baghdad's Sadr City, Nasariyah, Najaf, Kufa, Basra and elsewhere in Iraq. Although the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is the well-respected and moderate leader of the Shiites, the 31 year old al-Sadr has a devoted following among young and seemingly disenfranchised young males. And some of this venom is said to come from the Iranian mullahs, who are encouraging al-Sadr and other Iraqi Shiites to revolt against the US-led troops. In view of the transfer of full-authority to the new Iraqi government on June 30th, these orchestrated attacks from both Shiites and Sunnis clearly represent final acts of desperation by those who fiercely oppose democratic reforms.

Well, are we having a "Mogadishu Moment" in Iraq? For instance, do the two terrible atrocities perpetrated in Mogadishu and Fallujah bear similarities? The answer to the questions posed here are both yes and no, both yin and yang, depending upon the focus of consideration. If you zero in on the incredible images of the Mogadishu and Fallujah barbarities, then the answer is clearly yes. Media images can be overwhelming.

The Fallujah incident and the limited insurrection now underway clearly provide the propagandistic media with powerful images to advance their particular agenda, in this case to promulgate the fallacious notions that: a) Americans are largely reviled by Iraqis, and, b) the "Iraq experiment" is headed for utter failure. If you watch CNN, MSNBC, PBS and network news programs, the prevailing subtext is that our efforts in Iraq are trending on a downward spiral that spells doom. In reality, a limited number of thugs operate in Iraq, which represents a tiny percentage of the 25 million populace, and the majority of the terror attacks occur within the Sunni Triangle. Most of the positive news in Iraq is uniformly glossed over, including its percolating economy. What a disgrace that most American media outlets can't be relied upon for proper context and accurate reporting, which then again speaks to the rise of talk radio, cable's Fox News Channel and the Internet as sources of reliable information.

The propagandistic media is more than the Left-leaning elites desperate to pummel President Bush and his Iraq policies. It encompasses various media throughout the globe that spew virulent anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. A significant case in point is the Middle East's al Jazeera television, which is bent on lashing-out against America and Israel for the purpose of inciting the Islamic world at every turn. One of the greatest challenges facing America is developing ways to combat pernicious ideas that poison minds and trigger violence. Expanding the pro-American, pro-democracy endeavors of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and concomitant ventures in the realm of televised transmissions, are absolutely vital at this juncture. Who else is going to reach out to those living in tyranny and ignorance, for the expressed purpose of promoting democratic values and providing accurate news and information?

Again, are we having a "Mogadishu Moment" in Iraq? In one salient aspect, we're not. Unlike the Mogadishu episode, the US is not going to retreat with its tail between its legs. When the heinous acts were inflicted on our soldiers in Mogadishu approximately a decade ago, Americans were horrified, even traumatized as our forces were withdrawn. However, it's a new day, and although Fallujah's barbarism and the ongoing attacks upon our troops engender shock and outrage, they also imbue most Americans with steely support for all military action needed to bring perpetrators to justice and ensure peace in Iraq. If we left Iraq, it would only embolden the terrorists, just as our withdrawal from Mogadishu gave solace and encouragement to Osama bin Laden (by his own admission). In the aftermath of 9/11, the era of "cut and run" is over. 

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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