Hearts and Minds
In The Battle For Arab Public Opinion, Americans May Be Losing To Saddam
A M M A N, Jordan, March 28 ó A week into the war, Saddam Hussein ó long discredited and even despised in the Arab world ó is gaining the kind of
support many here would never have imagined. And who's helping him? Many Arabs say it's the Americans.
The Arab media argue the Americans are being less truthful than the Iraqis. The sense here is when the Iraqis make claims ó downed helicopters,
captured American soldiers ó reported American denials are then contradicted by visual evidence such as showing the captured soldiers on
The Pentagon waits for soldiers' families to be informed before publicly confirming captures, but that delay is seen in this part of the world as a
stalling tactic or outright deception.
As for Americans' claims ó the surrender of high-ranking Iraqi officers, the capture of cities such as Umm Qasr ó Arab journalists seem to relish
pointing out that these claims are often proved false.
"I believe the Americans lost the propaganda war from day one of this war, simply because they told inaccurate information," said Abdul Bari Atwan,
editor of Al-Quds al-Arabi, an Arab-language newspaper in London.
So despite the fact that coalition forces ó after one of the fastest advances in military history ó are within 50 miles of Baghdad, Ö despite the fact
that the allies have seized Iraq's southern oil fields, Ö despite the fact that they've so far prevented the Iraqis from firing off any Scud
missiles at Israel Ö despite all of this, Ö Saddam may very well be surveying the battlefield tonight with satisfaction.
Resistance ëPlays Wellí to Global Audience
"I think it's going pretty well so far, from the Iraqi perspective," said Jeremy Binnie, Middle East editor for Jane's Sentinel, a periodical that
assesses security and defense.
"From what we can see on the TV screens, [the] Iraqi regime seems to be functioning still, they're still rolling out their ministers to talk in
front of the cameras," added Binnie. "They're giving every impression that they are resisting the coalition invasion, which plays very well to the
international audience, especially those opposed to this military action."
After eight days of fighting against the world's sole superpower, Saddam still appears to be in control of Iraq. His officials are displaying bravado
during bombardments, there have been no major uprisings against his regime, and his fighters have been putting up the sort of fierce resistance that
almost no one expected.