Fighting an elusive enemy while trying to persuade citizens to cooperate with Iraq's new government has proven difficult for U.S. forces in the region.
"With this going on still, we have to be more aware about how our actions may be perceived," said Maj. Tom Hobbs, executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
Del Gaudio said he made a tough call after a roadside bomb killed four of his men in April. While securing the scene, he was shot at by a machine gun in a follow-up attack. When he aimed his weapon to return fire, he saw that the gunmen had a line of children standing in front of them and two men filming with video cameras. He held fire until the children moved out of the way but was shot in his hand, which was only inches from his face.
"Restraint almost cost me my life," he said.
It appears more and more likely that the terrorists have changed tactics. No longer are they blowing up civilians but are now trying to arrange a My Lai. They now understand the only way America can be defeated is to defeat the American public with images of massacres.
Here is a letter from a soldier in Iraq saying the same thing:
I am currently stationed here in Iraq and have been here for the past 11 months; I am an adviser to the Iraqis and meet them on a daily basis. I have been in many locations in the country and am involved on a daily basis together with the Iraqis fighting the insurgency.
The media manipulation by the insurgents is brilliant and extremely effective. The press has become a puppet for the insurgents; the insurgents know exactly what they are doing with these "massacres" (quoted here because the investigation has not been completed, nor have any charges been filed) and the political nightmare they will cause the current administration. Bodies are produced for film, and there is zero fact-checking by the media–the media eat up this "news" like there is no tomorrow. A couple of hundred bucks paid by the insurgents to a few guys/ladies in the town where this "massacre" occurred to make up some bad news and pine for the BBC's or CBS's or whoever's cameras is a nice month's salary for many and money well spent by the insurgency.
All the Arabs (Sunni and Shia), Kurds and Chaldeans I have come to know well here will tell you that Arabs are emotional people who tend to exaggerate. A lot. Experience has shown that "50 insurgents hiding out in XX location" is five, at most 10. "Three hundred dead" at the morgue is at most 40. "A huge cache with WMD" is 45-50 weapons. It is a cultural norm and is accepted over here as a norm. It is reported in the West as fact. With no fact-checking.
When we convoy, all in the town/village know when and where there is a bomb/IED/VBIED that is targeting coalition forces. This is not so true in Baghdad, but in the outlying towns all know. What is the culpability for those people in the village/town? Would the Marines be guilty in the U.S. under the same circumstances?
I do not know whether or not the Marines are guilty. A Marine's job is to "close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver," and I can guarantee its effectiveness. But the insurgents have the ear of the press. Hopefully the politics will be put aside for the investigation and the facts will be told, whatever they may be.
And all the while our MSM eats it up, furthering the cause of the terrorists.