WEEK 23: Don’t trust anyone to tell the whole story? Start with yourself.
Do It Yourself Information War
“We don’t need another hero
We don’t need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond the thunderdome”
– Tina Turner
So you wanna be an Information War hero and win with one bold key stroke? I can’t blame you for trying to do it yourself. As I noted last week, we aren’t getting much help from our fellow US citizens in the US owned media.
Yesterday, a reporter from US News and World Report told me, in her opinion, the US media was convinced the surge is a failure and the war is lost. Now, they are just looking for reaffirmation of their preconceived notion. I agreed with her.
I look forward to reading her articles. She was self aware enough of her profession’s attitude to allow for honest journalism. All I can ask of our media is professionalism and give us the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think we should be trying to control them.
One of my peers asked me who was in charge of the strategic information war. He wanted to know who was getting the word back home of the good things we were doing. The strategic fight technically is the domain of higher headquarters. We have a contributing effort. However, the short answer is nobody here is really “in charge” of the strategic information war.
The 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs (PA) office has been terrific in informing the home front of our overall efforts. They have a plan for directing our media embeds toward the human interest stories. Many of our soldiers have been featured in print and television. The PA has also weighted the embeds and our own press releases towards supporting our efforts in priority: security and governance.
Nobody is really “in charge” of information. We have a tough time with the concept, but we cannot control what is reported. We can influence it through media engagements. The Public Affairs office has a plan to do this and each of the Brigades has its own PA office and conduits. The Brigades have the latitude to support when and where they can. They also have the option of going their own way.
For the Iraqi audience, my office is responsible for framing the Communications Campaign Plan. However, we have limited ability to execute it. We have to give the best direction we can while the leaders and units do most of the executing. Ultimately, we do what we can to stay on message and hope the stray voltage isn’t too distracting from our efforts.
With regards to the overall information war back home, we all need to do our part to inform our friends and family. Personally, I write letters to any friend or stranger who writes me or send a care package. Everybody loves the Cavalry Patch stationery. For the past month, I have also sent a photo to family and friends everyday via e-mail.
I also include a bit of history or culture when possible. Most of the recipients are fascinated by the city, especially Mansour and Rashid. They expect a ‘Hell Hole’ and instead see a decent neighborhood with satellites on every roof. One friend thought Hilla looked like a resort. Everybody wants to see more of Mesopotamia. If I had the time, I would do a BLOG.
So what are you doing, Hero, to support the strategic information war? You can do it by snail mail, e-mail or even BLOG. If you have access, you can use Army Knowledge On-Line, My Space or You Tube.
Al Qaeda uses the internet to communicate and recruit. We should use the Internet to communicate. We should be better at it as we probably have more people in Iraq than they do. Every unit should have its own BLOG.
This cartoon is as ironically humorous now as it was ten years ago.
We won’t win the information war with a silver bullet just like we won’t win a counter-insurgency fight with one great surge. It takes time, perseverance and effort. If you are complaining about what the Great American Public sees back home, make an effort to support the fight.
Take a few minutes a day to write an e-mail or send a photo home to the people you know. Use the guidance available so we don’t divulge too much. Tell the folks back home of the repaired schools, the drive by medical examinations, the beanie babies or whatever. They want to see your good works. To them, it is worthy good news. To the media, it is not newsworthy.