How can you defeat an honest enemy with lies?

How can you defeat an honest enemy with lies?
Comment: The Islamic State group tells the truth about its intentions, while the Iraqi government lies. The IS will not be defeated until that changes, says Iyad al-Duleimi.
4 min read
19 May, 2015
Allawi said the IS did not lie about its intentions [Getty]
Iyad Allawi, the vice-president of Iraq, made what I would describe as a dangerous statement while he was attending the Doha Forum last week.

When asked about which party had carried out the raid on al-Khalis prison in northeast Baghdad two weeks earlier, he said that, while it was not possible to identify who was behind the attack, the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis) had claimed responsibility and proclaimed: "The IS does not lie."

The statement highlights a strange and paradoxical reality.

First of all, it was not made by someone sympathetic to the IS, or a political analyst or some other lightweight.

It was made by a senior Iraqi official, who launched a fierce war against the forerunner of the IS, al-Qaeda in Iraq, when he was prime minister in 2004 and 2005. It was said by someone who knows exactly what he is saying.

The 'honest terrorists'

The paradox is that Allawi apparently regards the organisation, designated as a terror group and under attack by the so-called peace-loving so-called civilised world, as honest - while its enemies tell endless lies.

We are not condoning the IS or its actions, only trying to put our finger on the problem. Part of the problem is that those leading the war on IS are liars.
The governments that ruled Iraq after 2003 lied until Iraqis doubted every word their government uttered.

The Iraqi government, which claims to be at the forefront of countries fighting IS terrorism, is a good example of the kind of lies that has led Iraq and Iraqis into one of the most devastating and dismal chapters of their history.

Since the US formed the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) following its invasion of Iraq in 2003, everything that has been said by the top echelons of power in the country is suspect - if not outright disingenuous.

The governments that have ruled Iraq since 2003 have rarely been transparent. Rather, these governments lied until Iraqis doubted every word or statement uttered by their government.

I remember when as many as 20 car bombs were hitting Baghdad every day, and the interior ministry would publish statements that seemed to have been prepared in advance.

Government officials in Baghdad automatically blamed the bombings on Saddamists, Baathists, Takfiris or al-Qaeda - sometimes 15 minutes or less after an attack. The security authorities in Baghdad did not appeat to bother opening an investigation into even one of those car bombs, let alone waiting until the findings emerged before blaming any particular party.

The Iraqis quickly lost their trust in government. But it did not stop there. The Iraqis stopped believing state media too, which quickly lost all credibility after it was established, shortly after the invasion of Iraq.

The Iraqis were yearning for a free media that could shrug off the established practice of praising and glorifying rulers, back when Iraqi media reported directly to the head of the regime. However, what happened to the country's media following the US-led invasion was catastrophic.

The Iraqi media, both state-owned and private, engaged in professional lying.

Consider for example how, a few days ago, the government and the partisan media all carried headlines and breaking news stories "confirming" Izzat al-Duri, former vice-president of the Revolutionary Command Council, had been killed - only for all these reports to be completely discredited a short time later.

Meanwhile, those who follow the progress of the ongoing battles between IS and the Iraqi government know the truth could come from the mouth of IS terrorists, but never from the media of the Baghdad government.

Western complicity

We do not exonerate the Western media and some governments from lying in their war on IS.
The Iraqi media, both state-owned and private, engaged in professional lying.

For example, Western media claimed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi suffered a spinal injury - but Baghdadi recently appeared in an audio recording that did not suggest he was paralysed or even severely wounded, as the Western media said he was.

The Western media also promoted the theory that Baghdadi had a deputy named Abu al-Alaa al-Afri, and proceeded to claim that he was killed in an airstrike, yet no one ever saw a picture of this man.

The first condition for victory over the enemy is to be honest with the people, who should be part of the decision-making, to pull the rug from under the enemy's feet. But no one can fight while cheating their people, and win while falsifying facts.

No one can do this while telling people that their forces are besieging IS in Ramadi - only for this lie to be quickly exposed as the IS broadcast videos showing its fighters in control of the government complex there.

The Islamic State group has won the media battle because it does not lie like the others lie. The IS has won the media battle, not because it has an army of dishonest and sycophant journalists, but because it tries to present information without frills.

You will not defeat IS until you defeat your lies.

Iyad al-Duleimi is an analyst and commentator

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.