WEEK 44: Building more walls in Baghdad. Knocking down walls in the headquarters.
Man in the Middle
During a section update this week, the Battle Captain in the Command Information Center briefed us on a protest of the wall barriers being erected along the Ghaziliyah and Shula neighborhood borders. I directed Chief of Operations (CHOPS) to contact DAGGER Brigade and see if they needed any assistance. CHOPS said that the Brigade Commander had briefed it to the Commanding General during the Commander’s Update. The unit commander said he required no assistance for a peaceful demonstration of a few hundred people.
Of course, the protest made the news just like the protest over the Adhamiyah wall made the news. The protesters do not like the walls for promoting sectarian division between Sunni-Shia neighborhoods. The walls remind them of the Palestinian walls. Surely, their Muslim brothers could see the horrors of the walls.
Al Arabiya, a moderate but pro-Arab news outlet, was one of many media outlets to broadcast the story.
The twenty to thirty second feature showed the protesting and then the wall. Al Arabiya interviewed a US military spokesman who addressed the purpose of the wall showing more footage of the wall. While we did get out our message, most of the feature was dedicated to the protestations over the monolith. Then, the story died.
Later in the week, I was attending an information meeting at higher headquarters and the topic came up again. This protest was a significant event in the eyes of this team and maybe for good reason. An officer asked if we were proactive about getting out our message.
Yes, the unit was proactive about it.
This is how the protesters knew of the wall being erected and were able to stage a protest for a media event. Jaysh al Mahdi or even Al Qaeda may have been behind the protest because the wall prevents them from moving around to intimidate the populace. Even though we got out our message during the news coverage, maybe we should hit it again.
If I were to ask one of the Public Affairs people, I might not have found the right answer. A Public Affairs Major told me this week me their messages were tailored for western audiences. What? After all the harping I have done over engaging the Iraqi and Arab Medias, we still think our Public Affairs messages are tailored for western audiences. Do the Occidentals know something that the rest of the world does not know? Have not we trained some of the Arab and Iraqi media how to be journalists?
If I were to ask the PSYOP people, they would be more than happy to assist.
After all, the PSYOP Major told me, our Public Affairs are focused on US and western audiences. PSYOP focuses on the foreign audiences. Okay. I know what our doctrine says about Public Affairs and PSYOP. Our doctrine has a glaring gap if we ignore the news cycles of our host nation and the neighboring countries.
Psychological Operations, as I previously wrote, is not the news. We do not engage the Iraqi media with PSYOP. We prepare deliberate Public Service Announcements. We place these products in media outlet that appear as advertisements but not as news articles. News articles are far timelier but may only play once or twice.
We can play the Safe Neighborhood radio commercial but will likely have to pull off another commercial to do it.
It is unlikely a radio broadcast or Baghdad Now article would have stopped the protest. The Public Affairs can set up another media event to better present our side, but this likely not needed. The story appears to be dead.
DAGGER Brigade will build the wall in Ghaziliyah-Shula just like FALCON Brigade built the Adhamiyah wall after the protests. Some citizens may not like it, but most will appreciate it when the militia and terrorist incursions go down. Once peace becomes more lasting, the Iraqi government can remove the wall.
Meanwhile, I continue to play PSYOP and Public Affairs referee slash illuminator. Our understanding of doctrine is deficient. The information relationships are inefficient. This keeps us from doing what we need to do with Information Operations which is mess with the bad guys head and send him over the edge.
We stand ready to assist. I’ll be in the back room developing new tricks to play on the bad guys.