Thanks to the readers that brought this to our attention. Earlier today, Thomas Ricks, Pentagon reporter for The Washington Post and author of the new book "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq" was interviewed on CNN by Howard Kurtz. According to the official CNN transcript, the following jaw-dropping conversation took place:
KURTZ: All right, Matthew Chance, stand by, thank you for that report. We will come back to you.
And joining us now here Washington Anne Compton who covers the White House for ABC News, and Thomas Ricks, Pentagon reporter for "The Washington Post" and author of the new book "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq."
Tom Ricks, you've covered a number of military conflicts, including Iraq, as I just mentioned. Is civilian casualties increasingly going to be a major media issue? In conflicts where you don't have two standing armies shooting at each other?
THOMAS RICKS, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think it will be. But I think civilian casualties are also part of the battlefield play for both sides here. One of the things that is going on, according to some military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.
KURTZ: Hold on, you're suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of it's fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?
RICKS: Yes, that's what military analysts have told me.
KURTZ: That's an extraordinary testament to the notion that having people on your own side killed actually works to your benefit in that nobody wants to see your own citizens killed but it works to your benefit in terms of the battle of perceptions here.
RICKS: Exactly. It helps you with the moral high ground problem, because you know your operations in Lebanon are going to be killing civilians as well.
KURTZ: Tom Ricks, "The New York Times" reported the other day, quote, "Israel is now fighting to win the battle of perceptions," which to me says the battle of headlines. And, in fact, an Israeli cabinet minister was quoted, not by name, as saying, "That the narrative at the end, is part of the problem." I'm starting to hear echoes of Iraq.
RICKS: Echoes of Iraq, yes. But also the Israelis are very sophisticated in their handling of the media. They consider it part of the battlefield, officially. The word "narrative" always comes up with conversations with Israeli national security officials. They consider shaping the narrative, the battle for the narrative, to be key as part of any war fighting. So they see the media as part of the battlefield. And, in fact, there's some belief from our reporters that they have occasionally targeted the media.