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Cause and Effect

I made a major mistake in a hotel room this week. Not the Eliot Spitzer kind of "mistake" — but with a television remote. While changing for a late dinner, I tried to tune in to FOX News Channel, but the electronic device took me instead to MTV and some kind of "reality show."

For a few minutes as I dressed, I was treated to several attractive young American women discussing their "relationships." The most oft-repeated sound in this "conversation" was "Duh!" — a word that does not appear in my Webster's dictionary. But now I know what it means.

After conferring with several young people at our New York bureau, I was informed that "Duh!" is simply modern shorthand for "No, really?" or "You just figured that out?" Well if that's the case, this week should be giving the masters of the mainstream media plenty of "Duh!" moments about the campaign in Iraq.

On Monday, the potentates of the press finally discovered a study completed last month by Harvard University researchers about what we have been saying for years: There is a direct connection between adverse U.S. news coverage about Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and intensified attacks on civilians and Coalition forces in Iraq.

"Is There an 'Emboldenment' Effect? Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq," shows that negative media coverage — and adverse commentary by U.S. political luminaries — produce a statistically measurable increase in enemy activity.

To produce the study, analysts researched the number of insurgent attacks and fatalities per week from the beginning of OIF in March 2003, to January 2008. They also examined the number of "anti-resolve statements" per week by U.S. politicians from November 2004 to January 2008 and American public opinion polls on the war from November 2004 to January 2008.

The researchers found "a positive correlation" between spikes in war-critical statements in the media and the number of attacks and fatalities. They also showed that attacks increased between 7 to 10 percent following a spate of anti-resolve statements by leading political figures.

The authors of the study, Radha Iyengar and Jonathan Monten, boldly state that, "We find that in periods immediately after a spike in anti-resolve statements, the level of insurgent attacks increases."

Well, duh!

This carefully researched study verifies what many of us who have spent months in the field concluded long ago: The drumbeat of negative "news" coverage about events in Iraq and the careless commentary from the political left in Washington have increased the jeopardy for U.S. troops and our allies.

The riots and murders precipitated by a fictitious May 9, 2005, article in Newsweek magazine — describing how a Koran had been flushed down a toilet in Guantanamo — certainly validated how quickly "bad news" is spread not just in Iraq but throughout the Muslim world.

When a U.S. senator likens American troops to those who served Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot in Cambodia, it not only disheartens our sons and daughters in uniform, but encourages our adversaries as well.

When the senior U.S. commander in Iraq is depicted as "General Betray-Us" in the pages of Yhe New York Times, those who hate us are exultant.

The Harvard study also confirms that our adversary in Iraq is very media savvy. They pay close attention to U.S. news and use it to both exhort attacks and recruit new supporters to their jihad. To believe that they are not paying attention to the current U.S. presidential campaign is to deny reality.

The message in this study is not just a cry for responsible reporting, but a charge for American political elites. It's also very likely that this study is a prediction of the next nine months on the ground in Iraq.

In the aftermath of this study and this week's spike in violence in Iraq, how can there be any doubt that the Iranians and Al Qaeda will do all they can to ensure that the next occupant of the Oval Office is a person pledged to "get us out of Iraq starting on day one."

Duh!

Oliver North hosts "War Stories — Iraq: Five Years in the Fight For Freedom" a chronicle of courage, commitment and sacrifice on the FOX News Channel, Sunday, March 23 at 8:00 pm EDT.

Col. Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series "War Stories with Oliver North." From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government’s counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. North is the founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization providing college scholarships to the children of military personnel killed in the line of duty and author of the new nationwide bestseller, "Counterfeit Lies," a novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North