The enemy's information operations
If it were not for the other soldiers around me, I would have wept. The images will forever be ingrained in my memory, perhaps as a nightmare or a random thought: it will be there, somewhere, haunting me for the rest of my life. The man dressed in all black was pointing his finger at the camera, shouting Arabic. Then another man walked into the frame. He was also masked and dressed in black. They hugged. Another man, wearing the same black apparel, walked into the shot. This man was probably the leader, as he gave pats on the back, as if he were proud of this young man for whatever he was about to do. Then, a familiar building popped up on the screen – the FOB Marez chow hall. The camera operator said something in Arabic, then in a split second, the lives of countless people were changed forever. You could barely hear the explosion through the speakers of my laptop. The white cloud of smoke hovered over the tent and the video stopped. The person behind the camera was no doubt using a high-tech telephoto lens. He was more than likely a professional, somebody who worked for Saddam’s “Make Me Look Good” television network. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I’d seen his work. Part of our job is to defeat the enemy’s information operations by exploiting the positive news and to handle crisis communications. In order to combat their messages, we must know what they are. Thus, I’ve been subjected to the enemy’s propaganda for work, not pleasure.
The first time I saw the my opposite’s toil was of a local worker’s beheading. The same man stood before the camera pointing and yelling. He pulled out a foot-long Arabic saber and made the soon-to-be beheaded man speak. The man’s final words… “I was wrong about the Jihad. They are every where and much stronger than I thought.” Translation: Our numbers are few, so we will scare people. The masked man with the blade grabbed the worker’s hair, pulled back his head and slowly moved the knife back and forth at the base of his neck, like a dull handsaw on a hickory tree, until his body, headless, fell to the ground.
Most recently, I watched a truck bomb explode outside of a Mosul base. This didn’t have the dramatic ending the enemy anticipated, but we still lost a beloved soldier. My heart is truly with OS and his family. The suicide bomber loaded a dump truck with 1,000 pounds of explosives and attempted to ram the front gate. No doubt, it was the same cameraman with his telephoto lens… I could tell from the angle. This time, they only posted it on their web site and didn’t alert the media of their bomb. One dead soldier is not a big enough victory for them.
Through their external information operations, you can easily gather we face an evil enemy. Fittingly, they tend to dress themselves in all black while our desert uniforms resemble a lighter tan color. My commander said it best when he said “we’re out of the Cold War, my friend. Today, our enemy has no regard for human life. He is truly evil.” Our enemy does not represent a country, religion or race. He simply represents himself and his bank account, but he is extraordinarily successful at making the world believe otherwise. The enemy likes people to think that they are fighting for Islam, for Iraq and to push out those who occupy their country. They attract young, undereducated, poor 20-to-30-something year-old Muslims. They convince these ill-advised Iraqi men they will go to heaven if they die in the fight. The enemy promises large sums of money to the men’s family, if they drive a vehicle born explosive device into a U.S. or Iraqi Security forces convoy. If they fail, they’re sacrifice was not worthy enough for Allah, which means the men behind the masks don’t pay the family as much.
They also spread lies, which we react to. In June, the enemy told news agencies there were floating headless bodies in the Tigris. Of course, the news guys ran with it without confirming the facts. Luckily, we caught the erroneous report in time before the talking heads started analyzing every small detail. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke out, the enemy spammed pseudo photography to Iraqi newspapers – portraying non-Americans molesting prisoners. My colleague met with every Mosul reporter about the photos, pointing out that American soldiers don’t have beards and that we blouse our boots and that we certainly don’t wear white T-shirts under our uniform. Not a single paper ran with the pictures.
The enemy depicts us as infidels, Godless people who will rape your women, kill your children and burn your homes. Banners are posted throughout the city that say “rise against the infidels.” We post banners and billboards too, but these display images of hope and the future, not death. That’s our information operations: to spread the positive news. We don’t ignore the bad news and we don’t spread lies. We simply tell the truth, good or bad.
And the truth is that the enemy commits acts against humanity every day, some of which I wish I had never seen. But I am a public affairs soldier and not about to let the enemy win the information war. Although the bullets I carry will kill a few, the written words of truth, hope and the future will crush the enemy’s back, exposing him for the fraud he really is. If you doubt this, remember, good always prevails.