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[] Independent 22.10.01: US finds military campaign a hard sell,

US finds military campaign a hard sell

By Andrew Gumbel

22 October 2001

Will the Taliban's morale be dented by pictures of New York firefighters raising the Stars and Stripes in the rubble of the World Trade Centre, which American special forces are reported to have distributed in Kandahar over the weekend?

The curious gesture highlights the difficulty the United States appears to be facing as it tries to sell its military campaign to potentially disillusioned Taliban fighters, as well as to a sceptical world audience.

Alongside bombs, American forces have dropped thousands of leaflets over Afghanistan, with pocket-sized radios. The United States has also begun broadcasts from flying radio stations, warning Taliban fighters that they are certain to be defeated.

Phillip Knightley, author of The First Casualty, a history of war reporting and government control of wartime information, said yesterday that Osama bin Laden was winning the propaganda war. Mr bin Laden's statements had been rare but had rallied many people across the Islamic world, Mr Knightley said.

American propaganda efforts, by contrast, have been clumsy and often contradictory. The Pentagon briefings have been painful exercises in extracting dribbles of information from reluctant military chiefs and from Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary. What the bomb targets are has been unclear in a country bereft, in chilling Pentagon terminology, of "first-class targets".

Mr Rumsfeld has attempted to demonise Taliban propaganda on numbers killed and injured without providing any hard data of his own. No American official has apologised outright for any civilian deaths. Mr Rumsfeld used the word "regret" only once, in an interview with the Arabic television station al-Jazeera.

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