Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago – 08 Apr 07: Doom’s Day

WEEK 21:  In some regards, April 2007 was Al Qaeda in Iraq’s high-water mark as it unleashed a torrent of bombings. It was the end of the beginning of its demise which was evident in the progress Fardh Al Qanoon made in many city districts. Still, the Coalition struggled to see progress in its message.

Doom’s Day

“The sky is falling! I must go and tell the king.”

– Chicken Little


“Scott!” I cried out to my Public Affairs Officer, “We are losing the Information War!”  Wow, do I need a near beer. We can’t do anything right.  Peace is breaking out all over Baghdad and all we hear and see in the news is chlorine car bombs and malicious militias’ indirect fire.

I guess it doesn’t matter that the Iraqis prefer us as the security force.  I guess it doesn’t matter that the Iraqis are starting to trust their own forces, but still want us there to maintain oversight.  The Sunnis are in a fight with terrorists as they battle Al Qaeda and the Islamic Army of Iraq.  The Mahdi Army has left town.  Moqtada al Sadr is in Iran and couldn’t muster a serious demonstration in Sadr City.

Operation Iraqi Freedom
1st Cavalry Division finds a weapon cache in Saba Al Boor, Iraq

Speaking of Sadr City, we have been in there for a couple of weeks with much less resistance than expected. We have erected and manned a Joint Security Station and we continue to win respect from the locals with our “soft knock” approach.  So why do we think we are losing the information war?

We cannot handle the reality of bad news. We can accept our casualties as a reality of war, but we cannot handle negative press.  We have a zero casualty, zero defect mentality.  Just like in combat, the enemy gets a vote in the information war.  Meanwhile, it seems we have an expectation that our information should instantly change the observer’s action and opinion.

If you are watching Fox and CNN, you are watching the wrong information war.  Our public affairs office has been doing great work in telling our story.  However, they are supporting the efforts of Force Headquarters.

Our focus should be on the people in front of us:  the Iraqis.  They are the measure of this Division’s success.  American voter confidence is not.

The Iraqis are as skeptical as any other people who have been repeatedly burned. I’ll spare you too much of the history lesson, but we have to acknowledge where the Coalition or Government of Iraq has failed.  We told the Iraqi Army to “go home with honor”.  Many of the soldiers did go home.  Then, we paid the Iraqi Army the honor of firing them.

We said life would be better without Saddam.  A year later, Iraqis had less job opportunities and less public services.  Life was likely not any better.

We encouraged democracy.  The people responded with an unbelievable voter turn out.  The elected government didn’t seem to do anything for its people for a year.  The police have been completely sectarian and as corrupt as Saddam’s.  What words, I ask, will make up for such failures to act?  Not many.

Our professionalism and determination overcame many of our past failures.

Operation Iraqi Freedom
1st Cavalry Division Soldiers speak with City Council Members about ways to better the community at the Joint Security Services, West

Choose whatever cutesy term you like, “Wag the Dog”, “Spin”, “Mind Trick”.  It is all about message to action.  Too many times the actions of the Government and Security Forces have not been enough.   Now, we have to manage our message so it does not over state our actions.

Yes, the enemy can say whatever he wants whenever he wants.  Yes, we can always do better at communicating our message to the Iraqis and the people back home.  We improve at this every day just like we improve at combat operations.  At times, we have to fight through complacency just like the ground pounder.

Take this professional’s advice and pay attention to the Iraqi people first and the Great American Public second.  We must pour most of our information efforts towards the Iraqis.  Otherwise, it won’t matter if the people at home support us because the people here will truly revolt.