Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago – 26 Aug 07

WEEK 41:  The information team tries to squeeze a bit more juice out of available assets.

Terminal Velocity

noun : the constant maximum velocity reached by a body falling through the atmosphere under the attraction of gravity, http://www.Die.Net

 A few weeks ago, I laid out our multitude of programs and efforts in no special priority.  It can be helpful to prioritize especially when you have a lot to complete, but each Mulhalla (neighborhood) or Hayy (district) may have a different priority.  Ultimately, the Battalion or Brigade has to set the priority for its mission most of the time.  This isn’t one of those times.  The current Division priority is to pursue Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Considering our troops are essentially maxed on their tasks, we can make ourselves appear to be more ubiquitous by using information to highlight our successes against Al Qaeda.  The first challenge here comes in an overly bureaucratic policy that deters communicating an accurate, timely and truthful message.  The process won’t improve if we don’t work it.

So, we have to press ahead and take what we can.  We can issue more than one press release for successful capture missions.

Manpack SBCT
PSYOP Soldier operates the manpack speaker off a rooftop

The first should include as much information as we can like the person’s alleged terrorist or criminal involvement and their place in the illegal organization.  The second release can have the actual names.  Nothing stops us from doing a detailed loudspeaker broadcast along the same lines.

Can we move any faster in the information realm?  Yes.  Will we?  If we are persistent, we can make modest improvements.  After ten months of fighting and at least four months remaining, we are on a performance plateau.  Some are moving closer to redeployment and that will consume some efforts and attention.

How will we go faster?

Helicopter is often the fastest and most fun way to travel around Baghdad.  The PAO, LTC Scott Bleichwehl, walks away from the Landing Zone as our ride, two UH-60 Blackhawks, take off from the Forward Operating Base where we had the Joint Press Conference.

We can work the above mentioned processes to improve our efficiency.  We can make subtle improvements to our processes to be more efficient.  For example, we can prep the press release and loudspeaker broadcast prior to the mission.  We can improve our responsiveness by tracking operations via current chat rooms.  Once the mission is successfully executed, we release the information hounds.

The next challenge lies in finding outlets to communicate our message.  We are filling up the outlets.  An Iraqi cannot watch TV, listen to the radio, read a newspaper or even walk down the street without being subject to our message.  The media reports are growing from two pages to three or four pages because the Government of Iraq and we are becoming more effective at communicating our message.

Operation Iraqi Freedom
1st Cavalry Division MP assists in delivering the Baghdad Now newspaper

How do we find more spaces and places for our messages?  We need to look at the digital frontier for text messaging and web pop-ups.  While we will have to seek permission to use these, we won’t know if we don’t ask.  We are asking.  If nothing else, we can at least push a higher headquarters to use it or synchronize our efforts.

The Iraqi media remains a growth industry.  While the Public Affairs folks have continued to improve Iraqi media engagements, I have noted an interesting trend over the last month.  Media outlets and professionals are reaching out to the Coalition for economic investment in media businesses.  We are in negotiations with three media organizations for possible economic support.

These initiatives could bear fruit as at least two of the three have demonstrated a definite inclination to democracy and seem to lack a sectarian motive.  We are discussing options for improving interaction with Iraqi media outlets.  One endeavor, led by Hadi, includes a handful of reporters seeking to start their own independent agency and media outlet.

Hadi is a former member of the ill-fated Baghdad Press.  He said the US media misrepresented the Press Club’s efforts. Since the Press Club’s demise, the coordination amongst the Iraqi media and the Coalition has waned.  I gave him a litmus test and asked him if he wanted us to just send him the story and pay him to publish it.  He responded by telling me that is neither work nor journalism.  He passed the test.

The ultimate challenge lies in integrating successful action to support our message.  Yes, I placed the message first because it is already in place.  The tough part is delivering an action.  If it were up to us, the actions would be complete.  However, the action is not ours to complete.  The action belongs to the Iraqi government.  The actions involve reconciliation and legislation.

Don’t hold your breath.