Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago – 07 OCT 17

WEEK 47:

Mission Impossible Deuce

“Right now I’ll bet you one of those metaphorical beers that if we polled ten soldiers across the division what the mission is we would get ten different answers.”

– Anonymous BLACKJACK Brigade Sergeant First Class

“The aim is to create a free and democratic Iraq”

– US Embassy statement as reported by Iraqiyah

Whilst licking my wounding over failing to obtain approval for Mission Branding, I was given the task to come up with a motto for us to use with the Iraqi Security Forces.  I was rather cynical as to why, after failing to develop an effective message to communicate our purpose to the Iraqi people, we would want a motto to say when we smack each other on our fourth point of contact.  Nonetheless, I sallied forth to come up with a catchy phrase for us and the Iraqi Security Forces to use as a mighty greeting.

I did some research and came up with a quick motto.  Iltazam Mushtarak is the motto on General Casey’s commander coin.  This means Joint Responsibility. If it is good enough for the previous force commander, is it good enough for me.  Besides, I figured the motto would be known and already have traction. I figured incorrectly.  Very few people had heard of it.

To make matters worst, the cultural advisors, Alex and Nancy, kind of snickered at using Iltizam Mushtarak.  The motto is not manly enough for an Army.  We need something powerful like Yedd bil Yedd.  Hand in hand. What?

Nothing like a couple of near-beers to take the edge off in Baghdad.

No American army soldier is going to think hand in hand is manly enough for them.  Of course, men holding hands in Arabic culture is a sign of a strong friendship.  Guess where this one is going.

I also tossed up ‘Bilal il Itihad Qoowa’ – Unity is Strength for consideration.  I gave these to the boss and never heard of them again.  Then one day out of the blue, General Abud, the Iraqi Commander, told his commanders ‘Haraka Baraka’ – ‘get up and get moving’ and it stuck. The Chief of Staff, COL Ballantyne, later tagged the Public Affairs Office to inform the troopers of the motto through our command newsletter The Daily Charge. Since that first week, I haven’t heard Haraka Baraka again.  When in doubt, ask the target audience if he wants a motto and which one he wants.

I couldn’t help but note the similarity between ‘Yedd bil yedd’ and ‘Haraka Baraka’.  In Arabic, the phrases rhyme and flow.  When I tried to develop the Mission brand I polled the Brigades for input. I got some good feedback.  BLACKJACK or IRONHORSE had something like “Polite, Professional, Prepared to Kill”.  It wasn’t why we were here, but it was still an effective way to describe what you are.  In English, the phrase has symmetry.

Look at the first quote up top. Do our soldiers know why we are here? Have we communicated to them a message that they can pass to our families, our foes and the Iraqis?  Isn’t command information part of the public affairs responsibility? Why aren’t public affairs jumping on Mission Branding?

Check out the second quote.  Department of State is the lead for Strategic Communications. So, our mission brand should be a derivative of a State Department message.  We are considering a few mission brands similar to the cited State Department message.

Coalition Forces are partnered with Iraqis for a free and democratic Iraq.

Coalition Forces remain partnered with Iraqis for a secure and democratic Iraq.

Coalition Forces support Iraqis for a secure and unified Iraq.

But wait, the State Department is echelons above me.  How come nobody in between is articulating why we are here?  How many Iraqis think we are here to steal their oil or divide up their country?  When was the last time we trumpeted our efforts to assist the Iraqis TO the Iraqis?  Why are we leaving our purpose to Iraqi street rumor mill?  Why do I ask so many rhetorical questions I sound like an imam delivering a Friday sermon?

For answers to these questions and more, stay tuned.