Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sadr City info-ops

Colonel Stover said it was with the greatest regret and the highest level of professionalism that his gallant men yesterday fired a "200-pound guided rocket that [American] officials said killed 28 militiamen." After all, he said, "It was these militants who initiated the engagement by attacking US soldiers." Iraqi officials said those killed weren't all militiamen, and included nine civilians including women and children, but Stover was not at a loss for words there either: He said, "The enemy shows little regard for the lives of innocent civilians, as they fire their weapons from within houses, alleyways and rooftops upon our soldiers." Just so you know: The American forces show the highest level of professionalism, but when they do fire on houses, alleyways or rooftops, it is because people in those houses and alleyways, and on those roofs, were the aggressors, not the American troops.

Residents said there were also two helicopter airstrikes which heavily damaged four houses, and AFP said it has photos showing several bodies buried under the debris of collapsed houses. Stover denied that. He said the sandstorm made it impossible to conduct airstrikes. Possibly the truth is that sandstorms made it impossible to conduct airstrikes with the usual level of precision-guided professionalism.

The best part of Stover's mental orientation is that he thinks the US forces are actually more loyal to Sadr than the militants who are firing on them. As AFP explains: "The US military says those fighting its troops are not loyal to Sadr, who has frozen the activities of his Mahdi Army militia since last August." The implication being that the US forces in Sadr City are not only merely defending their legitimate positions when fired upon by the aggressors, but also are helping Sadr enforce the freeze!

In fact, when you look at the whole information-picture you will see that the US forces in a sense do not know that they are a reviled army of occupation. They think they are a highly professional peace-keeping force. Which is perhaps not that unusual: Probably any army of occupation, no matter how brutal, is made to believe something like that, though maybe not to this level of hypocrisy.

The truly amazing thing, however, is that the American people, and by and large the American left, seem to believe the same thing. US forces are defending legitimate positions in Sadr City; anyone firing on US forces is defying Sadr; the US only fires when attacked; the aims are either "quelling violence" or "stopping rocket attacks" (or both), and have nothing to do with crushing a major anti-occupation movement. And so on. In other words: This is a peace-keeping operation.

Is this a case of info-ops originally designed for local battlefield morale (the enemy are common criminals, etc) being re-imported into the United States and massively misleading the American electorate? Or was misleading the electorate the original purpose? Who cares? But just because this question of original intent is so irrelevant, it has earned a place in the white-collar policy salons, where the issue of the Big Lie is known to the so-called "public diplomacy practitioners" as "strategic communications" (meaning public-media lying for strategic national aims). As you can see via the following link, there has been something of a discussion about this question whether or not it is possible to keep the lying overseas, and not have it come back and corrupt the purity of the American democracy.

That seems to be at least partly what is happening here. But it is election season, and among the Democratic groupies a big part of the internal policy struggle is to out-maneuver others to the right. Consider this from Marc Lynch:
Unlike many public diplomacy scholars and practitioners, I have no principled objection to strategic communications and agree that they have an important place in national strategy.
His specific examples have to do with demoralizing AlQaeda, which is a very fashionable conversation topic these days. But try this: Think about the Sadr City attacks, and the fact that Lynch himself and the rest of the food-chain under him are completely silent about the war-crimes implications and the long-term political implications of these attacks, and while you are thinking about that, read this:
It's one thing to "fabricate stories" [he's talking specifically about AQ, but think about the Sadr City issue here]... It's another when such information operation stories then filter back into our domestic policy debates or into the policy-making process, (or, worse yet, if shaping the domestic arena is actually the point--but that's a slightly different set of issues).
It's what they call a thumb-sucker, and there apparently are going to be whole seminars on this question of large-scale, public lying for purported national-interest reasons.

Meanwhile the damage in Sadr City is already being done, and it will get worse, if we can't find people with the courage to stand up and say this is a policy that is as damaging to America morally as it is brutal to its direct victims, and the Democrats shouldn't be silently lining up behind it.

3 Comments:

Blogger dancewater said...

yes, those Democrats show their true colors over and over - I am giving up on them.

Interestingly, the locals in the Democratic party try to convince me that I have more in common with them then anyone else. I keep telling them "NOT".

I have been working on/with the NC Democratic Party since 2003.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

speaking of spin, check this out

“The response of the combined ISF force represented an incredible leap forward by Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army to conduct joint operations,” said a U.S. Special Operations Forces advisor. “Iraqi police and Iraqi Army executed a counter attack against a determined enemy and quickly gained control of the situation.”

that is from the US military website describing "Iraqi Security Forces secure Suq Ash Shuyukh after militia attack"

A combined force of more than 300 Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics personnel, advised by U.S. Special Operations Forces, arrested 40 criminal militia members after coming under attack in Suq Ash Shuyukh, southeast of Nasiriyah, Iraq, April 19.

and ..here's the video.

this massacre is called a 'leap forward'.

annie

9:54 AM  
Blogger rmwarnick said...

Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) now have guided rounds, which the Army says limits collateral damage. However, 270mm is still heavy artillery by any definition. The AP reported several buildings destroyed, including a school.

"Parts of the two-floor building had pancaked as the result of the blast. Desks were hanging down from the slanting classrooms where the outer walls were blown out by the blast."

This is an apparent violation of the law of land warfare, which prohibits civilian loss of life and damage to property "excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected to be gained."

10:10 AM  

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