2004-12-06 17:40:12 UTC
THE Pentagon has admitted that the war on terror and the invasion and
occupation of Iraq have increased support for al-Qaeda, made ordinary
Muslims hate the US and caused a global backlash against America
because of the "self-serving hypocrisy" of George W Bush's
administration over the Middle East.
The mea culpa is contained in a shockingly frank "strategic
communications" report, written this autumn by the Defence Science
Board for Pentagon supremo Donald Rumsfeld.
On "the war of ideas or the struggle for hearts and minds", the
report says, "American efforts have not only failed, they may also
have achieved the opposite of what they intended".
"American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically
elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while
diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab
Referring to the repeated mantra from the White House that those who
oppose the US in the Middle East "hate our freedoms", the report
says: "Muslims do not 'hate our freedoms', but rather, they hate
our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what
they see as one-sided support in favour of Israel and against
Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing support, for
what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi
Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states.
"Thus when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy
to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypo
crisy. Moreover, saying that 'freedom is the future of the Middle
East' is seen as patronising ... in the eyes of Muslims, the American
occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but
only more chaos and suffering. US actions appear in contrast to be
motivated by ulterior motives, and deliberately controlled in order to
best serve American national interests at the expense of truly Muslim
The way America has handled itself since September 11 has played
straight into the hands of al-Qaeda, the report adds. "American
actions have elevated the authority of the jihadi insurgents and tended
to ratify their legitimacy among Muslims." The result is that
al-Qaeda has gone from being a marginal movement to having support
across the entire Muslim world.
"Muslims see Americans as strangely narcissistic," the report goes
on, adding that to the Arab world the war is "no more than an
extension of American domestic politics". The US has zero credibility
among Muslims which means that "whatever Americans do and say only
serves ... the enemy".
The report says that the US is now engaged in a "global and
generational struggle of ideas" which it is rapidly losing. In order
to reverse the trend, the US must make "strategic communication"
- which includes the dissemination of propaganda and the running of
military psychological operations - an integral part of national
security. The document says that "Presidential leadership" is
needed in this "ideas war" and warns against "arrogance,
opportunism and double standards".
"We face a war on terrorism," the report says, "intensified
conflict with Islam, and insurgency in Iraq. Worldwide anger and
discontent are directed at America's tarnished credibility and ways
the US pursues its goals. There is a consensus that America's power
to persuade is in a state of crisis." More than 90% of the
populations of some Muslims countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are
opposed to US policies.
"The war has increased mistrust of America in Europe," the report
adds, "weakened support for the war on terrorism and undermined US
credibility worldwide." This, in turn, poses an increased threat to
US national security.
America's "image problem", the report authors suggest, is
"linked to perceptions of the US as arrogant, hypocritical and
self-indulgent". The White House "has paid little attention" to
The report calls for a huge boost in spending on propaganda efforts as
war policies "will not succeed unless they are communicated to global
domestic audiences in ways that are credible".
American rhetoric which equates the war on terror as a cold-war-style
battle against "totalitarian evil" is also slapped down by the
report. Muslims see what is happening as a "history-shaking movement
of Islamic restoration ... a renewal of the Muslim world ...(which) has
taken form through many variant movements, both moderate and militant,
with many millions of adherents - of which radical fighters are only
a small part".
Rather than supporting tyranny, most Muslim want to overthrow
tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia. "The US finds itself in the
strategically awkward - and potentially dangerous - situation of
being the long-standing prop and alliance partner of these
authoritarian regimes. Without the US, these regimes could not
survive," the report says.
"Thus the US has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle ... US
policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority
of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself ... Americans
have inserted themselves into this intra-Islamic struggle in ways that
have made us an enemy to most Muslims.
"There is no yearning-to- be-liberated-by-the-US groundswell among
Muslim societies ... The perception of intimate US support of
tyr-annies in the Muslim world is perhaps the critical vulnerability in
American strategy. It strongly undercuts our message, while strongly
promoting that of the enemy."
The report says that, in terms of the "information war", "at this
moment it is the enemy that has the advantage". The US propaganda
drive has to focus on "separating the vast majority of non-violent
Muslims from the radical- militant Islamist-Jihadist".
According to the report, "the official take on the target audience
[the Muslim world] has been gloriously simple" and divided the Middle
East into "good" and "bad Muslims".
"Americans are convinced that the US is a benevolent 'superpower'
that elevates values emphasising freedom ... deep down we assume that
everyone should naturally support our policies. Yet the world of Islam
- by overwhelming majorities at this time - sees things
differently. Muslims see American policies as inimical to their values,
American rhetoric about freedom and democracy as hypocritical and
American actions as deeply threatening.
"In two years the jihadi message - that strongly attacks American
values - is being accepted by more moderate and non-violent Muslims.
This in turn implies that negative opinion of the US has not yet
Equally important, the report says, is "to renew European attitudes
towards America" which have also been severely damaged since
September 11, 2001. As "al-Qaeda constantly outflanks the US in the
war of information", American has to adopt more sophisticated
propaganda techniques, such as targeting secularists in the Muslim
world - including writers, artists and singers - and getting US
private sector media and marketing professionals involved in
disseminating messages to Muslims with a pro-US "brand".
The Pentagon report also calls for the establishment of a national
security adviser for strategic communications, and a massive boost in
funding for the "information war" to boost US government TV and
radio stations broadcasting in the Middle East.
The importance of the need to quickly establish a propaganda advantage
is underscored by a document attached to the Pentagon report from Paul
Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, dated May.
It says: "Our military expeditions to Afghanistan and Iraq are
unlikely to be the last such excursion in the global war on terrorism.