Accessibility links

Rumsfeld 'Frustrated' by Misleading Arab Media Reports on War - 2003-04-10

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says there is no question but that some Arab news media have tried to convey what he considers a "false" impression about the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld says there is no evidence that inaccurate reporting has stirred up greater anti-American sentiment among Muslims, raising the potential terrorist threat to U.S. interests.

But there is no mistaking Mr. Rumsfeld's frustration over Arab reporting he views as misleading.

"There is no question but that there are a number of, particularly television stations, as well as print, in that part of the world [Mideast] that have carried a message that was false," he said. "They have carried a message that tried to lead people in that part of the world to believe that we were fighting Iraq and the Iraqi people, as opposed to a vicious dictator; that we were anti- a [particular] religion, which is totally untrue."

The Defense Secretary says he hopes the images he considers false will be counter-balanced by upbeat images of jubilant Iraqis cheering coalition forces in the streets of Baghdad and elsewhere.

Most importantly, he says he hopes the proof of U.S. intentions will be clear when coalition troops finish their mission and leave Iraq.

"The test is in the tasting. The United States is not going to stay in that country and occupy it," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We have plenty of other things that our people like to do with their lives, and we do not make it a practice of going out and seeking someone else's wealth or real estate. So, we will do our job, we will do it well. And we will leave as that country is set on a path to guide its own future."

Despite reports that many Iraqis are still mistrustful and that many Arabs remain skeptical about Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mr. Rumsfeld believes the truth will eventually come out.

"Truth ultimately finds it way to people's ears and eyes and hearts," he said. "And I don't worry about that over the long term. Does it make me sad to see television saying things that are flat not true, and people printing things in that part of the world that's flat not true, children being taught things that are flat not true? Yes, it bothers me. But what can one do except to tell the truth, behave in a way that's consistent with our values?"

But for many top Pentagon officials, it remains a matter of concern and frustration that there is criticism in the Arab and Muslim world about recent U.S. military operations.

General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces, wonders why people fail to acknowledge coalition efforts aimed at assisting predominantly Muslim populations.

"I think the thing that the folks ought to notice out in the region [Mideast], that it was the United States and our coalition partners who wanted to put our blood and treasure on the line for a couple of large Muslim populations: one in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq," General Myers said.

Although the initial objectives in both countries were different, General Myers says in the long run, the goals are the same: providing a stable and secure environment and a chance for self-governance.

But that will not happen overnight. Even Pentagon officials concede swaying skeptical Arab minds may prove difficult the longer U.S. forces remain there.

In Iraq itself, some help may be provided by the so-called Free Iraqi Forces, Iraqis trained by U.S. troops to assist in civil affairs and humanitarian aid efforts There are only 69 of these soldiers.

"We have not found any distrust at all, really, and what I do and what my civil affairs soldiers have done is put them out in a crowd and let them talk for a while," said their commander, Army Brigadier General John Kern, who said they are receiving a good reception from Iraqis.

General Kern added that he wishes he had a lot more of these Free Iraqi Forces. While up to 3,000 were scheduled for training this year, the program has already been shut down, overtaken by the war.