NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 26, 2007

In its ability to reinforce the view that Iraq is a chaotic, violence-prone, ungovernable place, murdering civilians is also a great publicity coup for insurgents, says Neil Munro in National Journal.

The killing of Iraqi comedian Walid Hassan, for example, was more than the cold-blooded murder.  It was advertising, says Munroe:

  • Hassan's killers received a 36-column-inch story in the Washington Post, the space of which could have cost an advertiser about $20,000; the story was also run in other major newspapers.
  • The Post also ran the story on its Web site; if 650,000 people clicked on the Post's site that day, the advertising value would have been about $13,000.
  • It also merited TV time on a few networks, worth about $9,000.
  • In total, it is estimated that insurgents received around $100,000 worth of advertising for the killing.

Now, compare that with the costs:

  • Wages for Iraqi gunmen run about $300 a month, according to people who closely monitor the terror campaign in Iraq.
  • Terrorists must also pay for housing, weapons and ammunition, fuel, and probably a stolen car to mount the raid.
  • Combined, the cost of killing Hassan reached perhaps $2,000; if the gunmen had to get rid of the car they used, the cost might have reached $6,000.

So, for a $6,000 investment, Hassan's killers earned as much as $100,000 in what they would deem to be favorable publicity in the United States.  Obviously, "favorable" does not mean making Americans feel good about terrorists, says Munro.  But it does mean making Iraq look horrible and not worth the cost to America to stay there -- the goal of virtually all of the insurgent groups in the country.

Source: Neil Munro, "The Dollar Value of Murder," National Journal, February 17, 2007.

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