Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago – 02 SEP 07


WEEK 42:  I stole the title from comedian Rob Riggle’s parody skit about his time in Iraq called Operation Impotent Waffle.  Given my proclivity for Waffles and Ice Cream, I thought it was a fitting name for this week’s essay.

Impotent Waffle

No amount of marketing can make up for a lousy product – old Marketing Axiom

While we eagerly await the Council of Representatives to return for another session, we take pause to absorb the latest Baghdad Poll.  The Iraqi people have again chosen.  Their mandate is clear.  They still believe their government is inept.

Promoting the Governance Line of Operation is easily the most frustrating effort we do.  In the classic approach of tying an accurate, timely and truthful message to a quality action, promoting the government can feel like a waste of time and effort.

adl church
Soldiers from the 313th PSYOP Company on patrol in Adl.   The dome in the background is to a Catholic Church.  Most religions were tolerated during Sadaam’s time.  During the Surge, extremists struck religious leaders and communities to exterminate perceived infidels and to foment civil strife.

I have to ask what the people think as we try to promote support for any level of government.  “The Government of Iraq is the steward of the Iraqi resources.”  I believe the Iraqi government should do this, but I don’t believe the message at all.  I doubt the Iraqi people do.

This reminds me of a recent Armed Forces Network commercial.  I was stretching the other day in my hooch after physical training.  I had the television on and was doing a calf stretch with my back to the TV screen.  The commercial comes on and I hear the beginning, “The Army cares about its Wounded Veterans.”

The commercial goes on to extol the Army’s hard efforts to support wounded servicemen.  Now, I do believe the Army cares about its wounded veterans, but the way the speaker led in the commercial made me give pause to what he was saying.  Maybe it is my sardonic New Jersey attitude or my cynical information business perspective, but I couldn’t help but think the speaker was trying to convince me or himself of his own message. He didn’t have to convince me.

The first time I was in Iraq in April to June 2004, I believed we were still talking about us too much and not enough about the Iraqis. Now, I think we should be talking some about us and what we are doing with the Iraqis.  But, I don’t think we should give credit to a non-functioning government.  Few agree with me.  Promoting Coalition Forces as an objective has evaporated.

I read an article recently where the embedded reported cited a US Army officer in Baghdad as saying the Iraqi don’t want to govern.  I could have cried bloody foul and Information Fratricide, but he was right.  The truth hurts and no amount of spinning, word-smithing or highly nuanced messages are going to change the facts.  Perhaps we should be presenting our government messages in a different light.

For instance, Coalition Forces are upgrading the essential services and in some cases redoing the same projects we did three years ago in coordination with the local area council.  We are providing the money. We are providing the impetus to have the council’s discuss their priorities.  But, the funding line and coordination from the City to the District Councils remains broke.  Perhaps we should be saying Coalition Forces led this project in coordination with your local council.  During separate engagements we can highlight the fact the city or provincial governments did nothing.

I used to think that the local government popularity suffered from the sectarianism, infighting and ineptness of the national government.

adham
Iraqi’s stand around a street corner in Adhamiyah just a few blocks from Sadr City.  The businesses in this neighborhood were not open but the produce market in Shaab-Ur was bustling.  The best way – but not an absolute – to get a quick gauge on neighborhood security was to note if women walked alone and how they dressed.  The woman on the right is not clad in a one piece black abaya like the woman on the left.

Truthfully, most are as equally bad as the national government.  Those councils along the ethnic frictions lines generally ignore the other sect.  The east side had problems with militia infestation and they grudgingly cooperate with us.  What if we were to call out the militias or council members?  We have money.  We want to help fix your problems.  Your city and councils are too damn lazy to do anything about it.

Okay. Bad idea. Way too emotional.

Maybe we should assist in identifying the non-team ball players. When the next election rolls around there will be no surprise as to who cannot support their constituents.  If we are fortunate, some smarts will have returned to Baghdad in time to give the city their own brain surge.

For now, our surge will continue.  We will continue to fight.  We will continue to provide for the people even after the Council of Representatives comes back in session.  We will continue to watch the political environment for signs of reconciliation.  The people want reasons to have confidence in their government.

Or at least a vote for none.

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