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[] MSNBC 21.03.03: Psyops employed to sap Iraqi spirit,

Psyops employed to sap Iraqi spirit

Unconventional tactics win time, are integral part of U.S. push


By Michael Moran


NEW YORK, March 21  Even as massive airstrikes pummeled downtown Baghdad 
Friday, formally ushering in what the Pentagon termed its "shock and awe" 
campaign, many analysts argued that the enduring legacy of this war may not 
be the use of bombs but the implementation of psychological warfare  or 
psyops  to quickly convince both Saddam Hussein's lieutenants and his army 
that resistance was futile.

INSTEAD OF delivering the quick and devastating blow promised by the 
Pentagon in the days leading up to the actual conflict, the war began with 
a series of careful escalations, laced with feints and deception, all 
intended to obviate the need for protracted airstrikes and ground combat. 
"This is kinetic psyops," said Gen. Michael Short, who commanded the air 
campaign during Kosovo campaign. "It's all designed to break Saddam's 
will." Rumors of Saddam's death and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz's 
defection, leaks about high-level surrender talks with Republican Guard 
units, 17 million leaflets dumped over Iraqi lines that warned Iraqi 
soldiers of certain death if they fight all fed into a broad psychological 
warfare campaign.

"The confusion of Iraqi forces is growing," Defense Secretary Donald 
Rumsfeld said following Friday's bombing, adding that Iraq's deteriorating 
position was causing its military to "change its behavior." U.S. officials 
have carefully cultivated this confusion, understandably reluctant to knock 
down any rumor that might sow confusion inside Saddam's inner circle, and 
thus advance the aim of regime change. "I think that the rumor mill, like 
the overt coverage the military is letting out, is very much being used to 
put the Iraqi regime on edge," says William Arkin, an NBC News analyst and 
authority on information warfare. "Just look at what the Iraqi News Agency 
and Iraqi officials are saying. It is extraordinary that they confirmed 
that one of Saddam's homes was hit in the air raid, and that his wife and 
daughters were safe. When's the last time you remember the Iraqi News 
Agency even mentioning that Saddam has a wife and three daughters?"

Perhaps the most obvious instance of efforts to sow psychological doubt 
throughout the Iraqi leadership was Rumsfeld's opening remarks at his 
Tuesday briefing, during which he appeared to be speaking directly to 
officers of the Iraqi military. "You will have a place in a free Iraq if 
you do the right thing," Rumsfeld said. "But if you follow Saddam Hussein's 
orders, you will share his fate. And the choice is yours." Rumsfeld went on 
to note that the United States was engaged in conversations "with officials 
of the [Iraqi] military at various levels  the regular army, the Special 
Republican, the Republican Guard, the Special Republican Guard  who are 
increasingly aware that it's going to happen: He's going to be gone."

GETTING IRAQ'S ATTENTION Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the retired commander of 
the first Gulf War coalition, says the war so far clearly has been planned 
to maximize the psychological advantage that flows from overwhelming 
military power. He described the first airstrikes as efforts to "get Iraq's 
attention." More intensive airstrikes beginning Friday, he said, would be 
another phase in the same effort. "Now that we've got your attention, 
here's what you're up against," the general said. Indeed, even the 
television images of U.S. and British mechanized troops charging into 
Iraq  toting with them dozens of international news correspondents  serve 
the large war aim. Officials at U.S. Central Command in Qatar, from where 
Gen. Tommy Franks is running the war, understand that the images of this 
massive, unopposed advance through Iraq are playing a role in the thinking 
of every Iraqi division and company commander. White House and CENTCOM 
officials told NBC News that lack of formal briefings so far can be taken 
as an indication that the administration is quite content with what the 
news media's coverage is doing for their war message. "The lack of 
briefings is no mistake, and in fact is causing some friction with the 
Brits," says one military officer, who asked to remain anonymous. "The plan 
is working, and the sense here is, why fix something that is not broken."


Beyond the highly visible efforts to shatter the confidence of the Iraqi 
military and leadership, a more secretive and deliberate effort is underway 
to marry psyops with action on the ground. These operations, officials 
said, are carefully planned and calibrated to shock, if not awe, Iraqi 
forces into realizing their defensive efforts are futile. Neither Pentagon 
officials nor U.S. military officers would discuss such efforts, and few 
outside the highest levels of the U.S. and CENTCOM command structure would 
even know about them. Such joint psyops/special ops mission are run by 
Special Technical Operations cells, or "STOs." These cells are responsible 
for coordinating traditional warfare with newer modes of combat  from 
information warfare to espionage, psychological warfare, sabotage and other 
special weapons. An STO cell now exists in each major combat command, 
including CENTCOM, coordinated by a high-level panel of the U.S. Joint 
Chiefs of Staff. A typical mission might involve U.S. warplanes targeting a 
business or facility that  while of little military value  is of high 
emotional value to Saddam or his family. Another variation might include 
covert operations to snatch relatives, to destroy a getaway aircraft, or to 
heist large caches of Saddam's wealth. "We don't see what the STO and 
covert forces are doing," Arkin said. "What we can see on the surface, 
though, is that clearly this is a very accelerated psyops campaign, and 
that psyops has become an integrated part of the war plan."


If this is true, it marks a departure. Traditionally, regular military 
officers have dismissed psyops as a distraction  "amateur hour," as one 
officer involved in the first Gulf War put it. Much as regular army 
officers were suspicious of elite special operation units, they saw any 
devotion of resources to psychological warfare as little more than a waste 
of time. Further, psyops units carry none of the glamour associated with 
elite SEAL and Green Beret units. Indeed, if anything, psyops is associated 
in the public mind with the largely unsuccessful effort to "win hearts and 
minds" in Vietnam. This began to change during the 1999 Kosovo war. There, 
U.S. psyops warriors ran a series of feints and harassment missions 
designed to shake the resolve of the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

As most U.S. and NATO air units concentrated on hitting military targets 
throughout Serbia and its Kosovo province, a select few missions targeted 
"leadership" facilities to drive home the point that the Milosevic 
family  and the corrupt family business  would not be spared. Still, the 
mission did not, in the end, undermine the Milosevic regime. Leaflets 
designed to convince Serb units to surrender turned out to be laughably 
translated, and by the end of the war, Gen. Wesley Clark, the campaign's 
overall commander, dismissed them as "a joke." No one is laughing now. 
Saddam may still hold his ground, and the Republican Guard may still choose 
to fight. But it is clear that the psyops campaign is woven into the very 
fabric of this war.'s Michael Moran is senior producer of special projects.

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