Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago – 02 DEC 07

WEEK 55: Redeployment is two weeks away and the 1st Cavalry Division HQ is fading into the background so the 4th ID can take the reins.

Battle Hand Off

“There are no new lessons learned,  There are only old lessons relearned”,

–  Another Military Constant


As the Brigades and Division prepare to transition responsibility to our replacements, we should ensure our weapon systems are finely tuned and ready for battle.  For those of us operating in the information realm, we need to set up our successors to continue building on our advances.  Involved new commanders are the key to continuing our success.

Commanders need to know what is going on in their Area of Operations.  They won’t get the situational awareness they need from CNN or FOX.  They need to see local media assessments before they see the US media results.  We don’t speak or read Arabic so the commander’s need to know what is going on around them.  They need to know how our multi-media efforts are shaping the populace perceptions.

Woe to the newbie who walks in and says, “we need an information campaign” or “we are conducting reactive information operations”.

PSYOP Staff Sergeant from 318th PSYOP conducts a face to face engagement in Ghazaliyah. This is a boots on the ground or grass root extension of public diplomacy. PSYOP and information professionals must understand their audience before informing or even trying to influence. 

The response to such ignorance often hurts someone’s feelings.  We are not reacting to anything. We are exploiting as if to say, “I told you so.”  The militias and extremists are bad for an Iraqis health. We react when we cause unintended damage or some unpredicted event occurs like Jaysh al Mahdi surrounding the Khadamiyah Shrine.

Commander’s should understand which techniques work best and know what assets they control.  Engagements-engagements-engagements!  Face to face work best. We have been very successful in our tribal engagement by causing peace to break out in many former Sunni insurgent strongholds.

The continued engagements with the Iraqi Security Forces are building a more professional and more trusted force.  To a minor extent, the government bureaucracy is starting to flow.  Even the imams have come off of their non-supportive sermons.

Loudspeakers work very well.  While it is harder for us to quantify in numbers who receives the message, the Iraqis will stop what they are doing to listen to the message.  Loudspeakers are like the muezzins call from the minaret.  The Iraqis will give feedback through body language and gestures.

The least effective means at your disposal is print.  The best forms of print are Tip card for the Joint Security Stations, the Baghdad Now newspaper and occasionally Wanted or Reward posters.

If the new team doesn’t have at least the same compliment of information personnel, advise the team to acquire more people.

Dr. Salah, the Baghdad Provincial Council Media Chairman, and the author pose for a photo.  Master Sergeant Craig Coleman provided advice and the State Department provided funding to the Provincial media council until they were able to secure their own funding through the Baghdad Provincial government.

We need robust information teams at Brigades and even Battalion level.  While I am serving advice on personnel, I offer informing our replacements of the policy issues.  They don’t need to relearn old lessons of how policy sometimes limits applying a timely message to our action.

Lastly, I cannot stress the importance of working with the Public Affairs Office to engage the Iraqi media and prominent Arab media outlets.  Public Affairs have been the growth industry for informing the citizens of greater Baghdad.  Scott Bleichwehl and his team have led the way in establishing a new standard for Public Affairs.  He and the Brigade PAOs have broken the mold on the old hang up of only communicating to US and Western audiences.

As for the US and Western media, I have other concerns.  We have to be aggressive in pushing our story especially if peace continues to break out all over Iraq.  We need to remain vigilant upon all media outlets to ensure they are giving us a chance to respond to the issues.  Too often, the US and western media rely upon stringers to give the Jaysh al Mahdi tainted version without asking for our version.

I’ve mentioned in prior weeks how most media tend to give us a very fair shake when they are with us.  Once the media is not with us, however, the coverage becomes more influenced by personal journalist opinion and the bureau office.  Considering how lightly manned some of the Baghdad media bureaus are, the headline and the lead are often dictated from outside the country.

Thus, we, the fighters of Democracy, still find ourselves easily misrepresented in Qatar, Cairo and Paris.  This is not surprising.  However, the standard bearers for Democracy’s fourth estate in Atlanta and New York should know better.

More to follow.

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