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[infowar.de] BG 1.10.02 Psychological warfare is part of US strategy
Boston Globe October 1, 2002
Psychological warfare is part of US strategy
By Robert Schlesinger
WASHINGTON - US forces possess a variety of defenses against chemical
and biological weapons, from protective gear and new decontamination
equipment to improved early warning capabilities and new-generation
Patriot missiles. But in the event of a war with Iraq, the military's
will consist of a barrage of words, not metal.
Pentagon strategists are mapping out a coordinated message blitz to be
delivered to Iraqi troops in the field: Obeying an order to unleash
will result in your sure destruction.
''There are an awful lot of people who aren't very pleased with the
Saddam Hussein regime, and he has to use some of those people to use
mass destruction,'' Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld told the
Senate Armed Services Committee last month. ''We would have to make very
clear to them that what we are concerned about in Iraq is the Saddam
Hussein regime, and the regime is not all the soldiers and it's not all
The defense secretary added, ''If he says `Go,' the people he says `Go'
to better think carefully about whether that's how they want to handle
US officials believe that Iraq's stockpile of weapons of mass
destruction could include highly toxic VX nerve gas, mustard gas,
and perhaps smallpox. Before the Gulf War in 1991, then-Secretary of
State James Baker bluntly warned the Iraqi government that any use of
weapons would result in a catastrophic response. But that conflict was
aimed at dislodging Iraq from Kuwait, while the next war could threaten
regime's very existence. In such circumstances, a similar threat may not
''If Saddam's regime and very survival are threatened, then his view of
interests may be profoundly altered,'' Senator Edward M. Kennedy,
of Massachusetts, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said in a
speech Friday. ''He may decide he has nothing to lose by using weapons
Military planners are hoping that calculation is not shared by
lower-level Iraqi soldiers and officers who actually pull the trigger.
If they cooperate - by
sitting the war out or surrendering their weapons to allied forces -
they can survive. But if they let loose their deadly weaponry, they will
be singled out
for retaliatory attacks, or hunted down as war criminals should they
Defense Department officials confirm that planning is underway about how
to direct Rumsfeld's message to Iraqis, but they decline to discuss
''We do have the ability to spread the word far and wide,'' said Chet
Justice, spokesman for the Department of Defense's Special Operations
The US Army's Fourth Psychological Operations Group, based at Fort
Bragg, N.C., would take the lead in planning the operation. This group
and helped execute the similar operations during the Gulf War, the
conflict in Kosovo, and the Afghan battles. The military will combine
means like radio broadcasts and pamphlet drops with secret contacts via
Iraqi dissidents in Iraq.
''Whether Iraqi opposition groups would carry the message forward into
the outreaches they have, or whether teams on the ground... no matter
they're from, would have any interaction with Iraqi personnel, those
messages can be conveyed several ways,'' said a defense official,
condition of anonymity. ''You would use every single way possible to try
to blanket and try to stunt behavior.''
There are indications that some contacts have already begun.
''They are working with the Iraqi opposition,'' said Danielle Pletka, a
former staffer with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee currently at
American Enterprise Institute. ''They are working with the contacts the
Iraqi opposition has on the ground in Iraq to make very clear what our
Success will depend not only on conveying the threat of doom brought on
by participation in chemical or biological attacks, specialists say, but
making clear that not every Iraqi soldier would be a specific target of
''If the US government says, `This is my list,' then anyone who is not
on that list is going to assume that they are safe, so why would he risk
said Muhannad Eshaiker of the Iraqi Forum for Democracy, an opposition
group based in California.
The extent to which that message will be heeded remains a critical
''It's a calculation that's impossible to make, frankly,'' said Ian
Cuthbertson, director of the Counter-Terrorism Project at the World
While most military analysts believe that the bulk of the Iraqi armed
forces - ill-equipped, unhappy conscripts - would fold quickly under an
attack, control of the chemical or biological weapons is probably in the
hands of the more loyal, specialized Republican Guard, the elite Special
Republican Guard, or Hussein's private security forces. Their morale is
better, and they are expected to be more willing to put up a fight, but
could still be susceptible to psychological operations.
They might not have a lot of time to make up their minds. A report
released by the British government noted that chemical or biological
be deployed within 45 minutes of an order being given.
Even a few steadfastly loyal cadres in the right places, enforcing
discipline on other units, could make a tragic difference.
''If faced with the choice of either being shot by one of Saddam's guys
right now vs. a lifetime vacation at Guantanamo, they'll fire,'' said
director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense research organization.
During the Gulf War, the United States dropped millions of pamphlets
encouraging Iraqi soldiers to surrender or desert their posts. One
leaflet showed an image of a B-52 bomber dropping bombs with the
inscription, ''The 16th Infantry Division of the Iraqi army will be
tomorrow. Leave this location now and save yourselves.''
Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops surrendered during that conflict, but
it is impossible to say how much they were influenced by the paper, as
to the metal, falling from the sky.
Robert Schlesinger can be reached by e-mail at schlesinger -!
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This story ran on page A22 of the Boston Globe on 10/1/2002.
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