The ”’Washington Post”’ staff writer William Branigin’s breathlessly detailed account of 3rd Infantry Division soldiers killing civilians at a check point (‘Fog of war’ leaves 10 Iraqi civilians dead by U.S. hands) as reprinted by the ”’Honolulu Advertiser”’ on Tuesday, April 1, 2003, contains a glaring omission. What omission? The now indisputable fact that Saddam Hussein is attempting to wage asymmetrical warfare by terrorizing his own hapless civilians into fighting a superior military force against their will.

The question that should have been posed by Mr. Branigan (and others) is why would a civilian vehicle containing children be driven by unarmed non combatants at breakneck speed attempting to ram through a heavily armed military checkpoint in spite of numerous warnings? Why would anyone take such a suicidal risk?

From Hussein’s perspective, the answer is clear: to achieve a propaganda edge. Indeed the very propaganda faithfully re-broadcast by Washington Post (and Advertiser). Clearly Hussein is attempting what might be termed the Mogadishu Gambit in hopes we will become dispirited and withdraw our forces from battle like Clinton did during his first year in office in the wake of “Blackhawk down”.

How long will it take Americans to realize our terrorist enemies are trying to play Advertiser and other media outlets like a violin? In the new reality that has emerged since the 9/11 war was declared on us a year and a half ago, we must accept the unpleasant fact there are no front lines. We are all in the impact area. We are all targets. The strategy chosen by terrorists to defeat us is information warfare. Make no mistake: propaganda ”’is”’ a potent weapon, especially when uncritically accepted as truth by one’s adversary and faithfully relayed to the population at large. If you are tempted to doubt it, ask the Hanoi Politburo.

In the rush to meet deadlines and determine how current news is to be formatted for publication, Advertiser now faces an unenviable choice. How does one report accurately the salient details of fast moving events without being sucked into the role of giving aid and comfort to the enemy by uncritically delivering ”’their”’ propaganda? We who support our brave men and women in combat and pray for their early, victorious return home must keep in mind the need to be critical thinkers, both patient and vigilant when reading our newspapers. Mistakes will be made and lessons will be learned. We must not be overly critical when our news media make mistakes, but trust they will learn from their errors and improve the quality of their service.

We here at home must avoid the temptation to take the counsel of fear or discouragement. Our brave troops have courage in abundance. We have a duty to emulate their courage. This is, after all, a war in which we are all combatants, a war that will determine whether we survive as a people and as a nation.

Above all else we must persist in the face of adversity.

”’Thomas E. Stuart is a resident of Kapaau, Hawaii, and can be reached via email at:”’ mailto:Thom1s@aol.com

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards.