“I don’t care if you call it a Zone and Sweep, an Octofoil or Kumquat. Just give me everything you have right where and when I tell you to fire!”
COL Bo Bergeron, CDR 3 BDE, 9th ID circa 1989
We love to give our operations catchy names that will be forever burned in a history book. At the very least, as Jon Stewart of the Daily Show noted, Mr. Tom Clancy could use the name for one of his novels. Coalition Forces operations outside of Baghdad, like Arrowhead Ripper and Marne Torch, are obtaining Arab media coverage. This is good as the enemy is scattered throughout the country. Baghdad is not the only locale of Coalition operations. Still, we need to be cognizant of our messages when dealing with the Arab and Iraqi media.
When this Division assumed the mission last November, we started to assemble our campaign plan. The operation at the time was referred to in English as Operation Together Forward. Because of our cavalry history, we always name our operations “Pegasus Something”. Thus, our new campaign was to be called Operation Pegasus Together Forward II.
The Iraqis, though, took the initiative to develop a plan and convinced the Force Commander to do it their way.
The Baghdad Operations Center named the plan Operation Farhd al Qanoon. In English, it is called Operation Law and Order. We promptly named it Operation Pegasus Law and Order. General Casey, the Force Commander at the time, laid down the law. Henceforth, the Coalition will refer to it as Operation Farhd al Qanoon – and so it goes.
The Farhd al Qanoon name stuck. The Baghdad Operations Center spokesman, Brigadier General Qassim, often refers to Operation Farhd al Qanoon as achieving quantifiable results. If that is the Iraqi’s goal, the name brand may not have caught on throughout the country. The Coalition has not really supported the Farhd al Qanoon branding.
I noted back in week twenty four, the message isn’t always about us and our patch.
We have to tailor our messages for our target audience. If we are speaking to the US media, it may seem perfectly acceptable to refer to Operation Lighting Hammer or Operation Phantom Strike. Really, though, does it even make a difference to the audience back home? Or are we talking to ourselves because we like to promote our unit history?
I believe using these names with the Arab and Iraqi media is counterproductive to our cause. The names promote unilateralism or, at the very least, Coalition in the lead. We are supposed to be promoting partnership and Iraqi self sufficiency. Even if the operation names are catchy with the US public, I’m not sure it is necessary to use a new name all the time.
For all the best reasons, we are all very concerned about our public back home supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom. We want to ensure the folks back home get an accurate picture of the achieved progress as General Petraeus briefs Congress in September. The Public Affairs section has done well to tell our story; however, the US public is not the Division’s main effort. We have several levels above us who should be focusing strategic communications back home.
Many believe we are losing the information war all over but especially at home. I contend the Coalition military and governance never focused on the right target audience: the Iraqis. If we had done this, we might not have fired the entire Army after telling them Sadaam was not worth defending and to go home with honor.
We might not have told the Iraqis life would be better without Sadaam and then not coordinated our efforts to improve Iraqi living conditions after the first year while simultaneously developing an awesome logistics base for ourselves. We might not have had to start from almost scratch when ‘The Surge’ started. I could continue about Iraqi security force corruption and government ineptness.
What has passed is past. Yes, we need to continue to engage the Great American Public, the Pan Arab media and the Iraqi people. Yes, we should tailor our messages to fit the target audience. When it comes to operation names, we can continue to use our own names internally and in command newsletters. This should not continue in the Iraqi and Arab media. Come the end of September, I recommend what I wrote in week twenty. In Baghdad, we’ll just keep Farhd al Qanooning.