US 'losing media war to al-Qaeda'

By Sam Johns

The US is losing the propaganda war against al-Qaeda and other enemies in the war against terrorism, defense chief Donald Rumsfeld has said. But, one thing he forgot to say is that: they are also losing the propaganda war at home.

It must modernize its methods to win the minds of Muslims in the "war on terror", as "enemies had skillfully adapted" to the media age, he said.

Washington and the army must respond faster to events and learn to exploit the Internet and satellite TV, he said.

Separately, President Bush said the US should not be discouraged by setbacks in Iraq and must realize it is at war.

"We shouldn't be discouraged... because we've seen democracy change the world in the past," George W Bush said.

However, he also used his speech in Florida to claim progress in the war on al-Qaeda.

Mr. Bush said that slowly but surely the US was finding terrorists where they hid.

'Newsroom battles'

Correspondents say that in recent months victory in the battle for public opinion has become a new front for the Bush administration.

In a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations, Mr. Rumsfeld said some of the US' most critical battles were now in the "newsrooms".

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but... our country has not," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists were bombarding Muslims with negative images of the West, which had poisoned the public view of the US.

The US must fight back by operating a more effective, 24-hour propaganda machine, or risk a "dangerous deficiency," he said.

Government communications planning must be "a central component of every aspect of this struggle", he added.

"The longer it takes to put a strategic communications framework into place, the more we can be certain that the vacuum will be filled by the enemy."

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