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[infowar.de] BS 11.11.02: U.S. Adds Psychology To Strategy On Iraq
Baltimore Sun November 11, 2002
U.S. Adds Psychology To Strategy On Iraq
Pentagon crafting radio, cell-phone messages for use during attack
By Tom Bowman, Sun National Staff
WASHINGTON -- Sometime after the first of the year, residents of Baghdad
could find some new programming on their FM radio dial: a soothing Arabic
voice urging them to remain in their homes or away from the approaching
U.S. troops who will liberate them from Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, the faxes or cell phones of Iraqi military and security officers
may whir or chirp with more explicit and personal messages: "We know who
you are. Lay down your arms or else."
Top Pentagon officials and members of the Iraqi opposition are now crafting
what could be the most widespread and complex psychological operations
campaign mounted by the American military since the Vietnam War, should
President Bush give the order to invade Iraq, said defense officials and
retired psy-ops officers.
"If you can minimize the conflict by way of information warfare, that's a
significant thing," said a source familiar with recent psy-ops discussions
that have included Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and
Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. "Communicating with them is a very
The ambitious plan includes sending targeted radio messages to the groups
that make up the 5 million residents of Baghdad, a polyglot of urbane Sunni
Muslims, impoverished Shia Muslims and pockets of anti-foreign
nationalists. In addition, though Iraq is a modern and secular country,
there are elements of fundamentalism in both Muslim communities.
Another part of the operation will be to persuade members of Hussein's
military and security forces not to resist the invading allied force.
Keeping the citizens of Baghdad on the sidelines will be an important part
of any U.S. military operation in the Iraqi capital, a city that could
quickly turn into a bloody battlefield should Hussein's forces dig in and
fight and civilians get caught in the mix, officials said.
But some military analysts and retired officers are cautioning that not all
psychological operations employed in past conflicts have had good results.
Moreover, reaching the different groups within Iraq and cutting through
anti-Western feelings or anger over the decade-old U.N. sanctions may be
difficult, they said.
"I think it's going to be a terribly challenging effort. There are all
kinds of different audiences. You've got to somehow figure out how to reach
people," said retired Army Col. Charles P. Borchini, who commanded the 4th
Psychological Operations Group during the U.S.-led bombing campaign against
Serbia. The group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., takes the lead in writing
scripts, beaming radio and TV messages and publishing newspapers aimed at
foreign foes and their civilian counterparts.
William Arkin, a former Army intelligence officer and now a military
analyst, said that if the United States invades Iraq, "bombs are going to
do the talking," rather than any psychological operation that attempts to
influence the entire country. Some elements of Iraqi society might not
trust an American-led campaign to set up a new government, said Arkin, who
also doubted U.S. operatives would be able to reach any Iraqi officers with
the "Gucci methods" of cell-phone calls or faxes.
Still, Iraqi opposition officials and longtime observers of Iraq contend
that after nearly a quarter-century of living under a brutal dictator,
strong support exists within the country for an overthrow of Hussein, even
if it has to be carried out by the United States.
"Nobody wants a continuation of the regime. They want a return to
normalcy," said Phebe Marr, a former professor at the National Defense
University and author of Modern History of Iraq. "I think they want the job
done and over with, and they don't want any long-term American occupation."
Marr said U.S. forces must send a simple and straightforward message: "We
are not occupiers, we are liberators. We are going to help you set up your
own government as rapidly as possible."
Like political campaign
Said an Iraqi opposition official, "These folks don't support Saddam.
What's necessary is to explain to them what's happening and what they can do."
Specific messages to the various civilian groups in Iraq are no different
than an American political race, said the official. "It's like any
campaign, you want to talk to the ironworkers differently than the guy who
works at IBM," he said.
Meanwhile, officials with the Iraqi National Congress are providing the
Pentagon with cell phone numbers, fax numbers and home addresses of key
Iraqi security officials in an effort to drive a wedge between them and
Hussein. The message would be, "We know who you are. ... It's definitely in
your interest to lay low," said the source familiar with the Pentagon
plans. "We are working actively to get that message to them when it counts."
U.S. military plans for city fighting say that "the key to success" might
lie in the ability to "influence the thoughts and opinions of adversaries
and noncombatants," according to "Doctrine for Joint Urban Operations," a
Joint Chiefs of Staff publication that was updated in September. To do
this, U.S. forces must seize what the plan terms "the information environment."
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., who has written extensively on
urban warfare, said it's vital in any conflict to immediately capture and
control the sources of information for civilians. "The images have to be
ours, not [Hussein's]," said Scales. "Mao said the surest way to win a war
is to separate the army from its people."
Radio transmissions are expected to be the most effective way of getting
the message out, officials said, since televisions aren't nearly as
widespread as radios. Moreover, some of the initial targets of U.S.
warplanes would likely include TV transmitters and other communications
facilities, thereby preventing Hussein from contacting the population or
his military once the war starts.
Sophisticated broadcasting planes, known as "Commando Solo," operated by
the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania National Guard,
together with ground transmitters in Kuwait and elsewhere, would be used to
transmit anti-Hussein programming to the Iraqi populace, officials said.
The psychological operation also is expected to include leaflet drops --
some of which started last week over the southern no-fly zone in Iraq with
a warning to Iraqi soldiers not to fire on patrolling allied aircraft. And,
once troops are on the ground, newspapers printed in Arabic by specialized
U.S. Army units are to be distributed.
Most since Vietnam
Daniel T. Kuehl, a professor of information warfare at the National Defense
University, said a psychological operation in Iraq may be the most
extensive effort since the Vietnam War, which included a six-year-long wave
of loudspeaker announcements, radio and TV broadcasts, newspapers and
leafleting by U.S. forces.
Although U.S. psychological operations units were active during the 1991
Persian Gulf war, they did not focus on the civilian population. Instead,
they concentrated on the Iraqi forces in Kuwait with leaflets and radio
Such tactical efforts were effective, said Arkin, the military analyst.
Specific Iraqi army units were named in the leaflets and radio messages,
which urged them to abandon their vehicles or risk being bombed. Iraqi
units fled their armored vehicles and surrendered in droves.
"It was sending a message of omnipotence," said Arkin. "That kind of
message had an enormous impact."
The military's psychological operation also seemed to work well in
Operation Just Cause, the weeklong 1989 military campaign in Panama to
capture the country's leader, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who was wanted
on drug-trafficking and racketeering charges in the United States and had
annulled Panama's presidential election, declaring himself head of state.
Rather than bomb the communications towers and transmitters, Army Special
Forces troops seized the radio and TV stations, broadcasting their own
prepackaged programs. Military-produced leaflets and newspapers carried the
same message: The United States has no quarrel with the Panamanian people
but rather with Noriega -- precisely the kind of message expected to be
used in Iraq.
Before long, Noriega's forces began to surrender and, finally, the
Panamanian dictator did as well. He is now serving a 40-year sentence in
Florida for drug trafficking.
Yet a decade later, the same efforts by U.S. psychological warriors failed
to persuade the Serbian people to abandon their leader, Slobodan Milosevic,
during the 1999 American-led air campaign to oust Serb troops from Kosovo.
Once again the sophisticated C-130 aircraft took to the skies, broadcasting
radio and TV programs, such as The Big Lie, an attack on Milosevic's
policies. E-mails and faxes were sent to Milosevic cronies in Belgrade.
Borchini, the retired Army colonel who commanded the 4th Psychological
Operations Group, said U.S. bombing had more of a psychological effect than
any leaflets or broadcasts.
"The more we bombed, the more people rallied around Milosevic," he said.
Surveys done after the war showed that the American broadcasts fell flat,
said Borchini, adding, "They thought it was propaganda, just like Milosevic
was putting out propaganda."
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