WEEK 20: Fardh Al-Qanooning
“Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”
– Wang Chung / Peter Wolf
We’ve come a long way in a short time. What a difference between Wednesday’s Arab media engagement and the first one back in December. We had twice as many cameras, three times as many media reps and about ten times as many people once I counted all of the strap hangers.
It didn’t hurt that it was a Joint Press Conference with the two Commanders: General Abud and Major General Fil. We had an Iraqi military presence and this certainly helped. In December, we had only the deputy commander, Brigadier General (BG) Brooks. I’m not trying to slight the deputy commander. He handles the media exceptionally well. He hits his key talking points and doesn’t get raffled. Trust me when I say that I’ve seen expert communications handlers go “Ga-Ga” over BG Brooks’ podium persona.
On Wednesday, though, we had something BG Brooks didn’t have: momentum. The home team has been on a communications roll since the start of Fardh al Qanoon and they keep improving. The Joint Press Conference was just another high water mark for the Iraqi Security Forces public information efforts.
In a matter of weeks, the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) has moved to the forefront of the Information War. Brigadier General Qassim Atta has been on TV solo and with his Coalition counterpart Major General Caldwell. Then, the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) opens up a press briefing with the BOC seal behind the speaker. The seal then started proliferating on the Internet.
Last Sunday, I walked into my section workspaces and saw BG Atta briefing the media about the capture of an Al-Qaeda suspect on Palestine Street. The alleged terrorist’s photo was displayed on a screen for the entire world to see. I was ecstatic. Finally, the best information weapon is starting to shoot some bullets!
Jump forward to this Wednesday. BG Atta is handing out Baghdad Operations Command pins for all to wear. I scooped my Public Affairs section and captured a photo of General Abud pinning one on Major General Fil. The BOC has an official seal, an official speaker and novelty items. The kids will love the BOC lickies, stickies, and chewies.
The press conference went fairly well. General Abud made some opening remarks and had slides with information and photos to complement his remarks. MG Fil followed with some short remarks. Both took questions and seemed to handle them well.
One reporter accused the Coalition of a unilateral raid into a mosque. MG Fil denied it and explained the criteria for entry. The reporter seemed satisfied. Once it was over, MG Fil did a stand up interview with Al Hurra. By then, he was in a groove and very comfortable. Overall, the Joint Press Conference had been a success except for the room lighting. Now, we could wait for the media play.
Tall Afar revenge killings dominated that evening’s news and part of the next day’s news. We found some coverage in Al Iraqiya who detailed General Abud’s talking points pretty well. As the government TV station, it was the least they could do. The air is somewhat taken out of our sails, but only temporarily.
For those of us in the information business, we know we can’t always hit a home run. If it bleeds, it leads and Tall Afar was a blood bath after a long time of peace. While the amateurs may be flailing about how we are losing the information war. The pros know this is the way it sometimes goes.
The press conference was still a success because we continue to gain momentum in the information arena. Afterwards, General Abud realized the potential of media engagements. He gave guidance to his subordinate commanders to engage the media. This happened after a long imposed gag order. This is progress. This is momentum. This is success.
We’ll apply the time proven method of reinforcing success. We’ll keep pushing the Iraqi Security Forces and Government of Iraq to take the communications lead. We’ll keep fighting beside our Iraqi brothers. We’ll keep Fardh Al-Qanooning.